COMING HOME: FURIOUS VIETNAM VET FILMS

The Vietnam War was one of the most disgraceful conflicts America has ever been involved in. The government and the irresponsible politicians who ran it made the worst decisions imaginable. They took young men and women and basically sacrificed them for no reason. The people who served in Vietnam were true victims, pawns in a game that often got mistreated and suffered greatly upon their return from that hellish war.

At Furious Cinema, we hold the veterans of ‘Nam in the highest regard as honorable, selfless heroes. They gave their lives fighting a horrific, deeply traumatic battle they really never had a chance of winning. This new Vietnam Vet Films list is a companion piece to our 20 FURIOUS VIETNAM WAR MOVIES. It will be covering the films which depict the lives of Vietnam Vets after they came home from the war. There’s also some titles about Post War rescue missions, another small subgenre based around the survivors.

vet3Coming Home (1978, Dir: Hal Ashby)

Jon Voight and Jane Fonda give amazing performances in this pivotal film that tells the struggles of wounded veterans returning from the war. It is a very personal story and definitely one that will haunt you. This movie like Born on the 4th of July (also on our list) is based on events in the life of wounded vet Ron Kovic. Co-starring Bruce Dern. (Sebastian)

vet4Rolling Thunder (1977, Dir: John Flynn)

A movie so cool Quentin Tarantino once named a company after it! Maj. Charles Rane (William Devane) returns from the war… and he snaps! Must be seen to be believed! A true cult classic revenge action film. Very minimalist and not at all as artistically elaborate as Taxi Driver. Written by Paul Schrader and Heywood Gould. Co-starring Tommy Lee Jones, Linda Haynes, James Best, Luke Askew. (Sebastian)

vet7Taxi Driver (1976, Dir: Martin Scorsese)

If there’s one character who personified the returned war veteran onscreen, it was Robert DeNiro’s Travis Bickle. This is a man who roamed the streets of New York feeling alienated. He feels an itch, he wants to do something…the result is one of Scorsese’s finest achievements and an immensely rewatchable movie. Co-starring Cybil Shepherd, Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel, Albert Brooks and Peter Boyle. Written by Paul Schrader. (Sebastian)

vet5First Blood (1982, Dir: Ted Kotcheff)

Highly underrated and often treated as just a superficial action movie, First Blood is in fact a highly complex social drama that just happens to turn into a survival movie for the majority of its running time. John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) returns to a not exactly hospitable America and realizes that what he was trained for isn’t exactly what people want to deal with back home. His own personal war still isn’t over. Co-starring Brian Dennehey, Richard Crenna, Jack Starrett and David Caruso. (Sebastian)

vet6Jacob’s Ladder (1990, Dir: Adrian Lyne)

In this mindbending psychological thriller, Tim Robbins is Jacob Singer, a Vietnam Vet who experiences horrifying flashbacks and hallucinations. Jacob assumes he’s experiencing Post Traumatic Stress due to the war but he later discovers that something more diabolical is responsible for his disturbing mental disorder. Co-starring Elizabeth Pena, Danny Aiello, Matt Craven, Jason Alexander, Ving Rhames. (Peter)

nam20Born on the 4th of July (1989, Dir: Oliver Stone)

The 2nd part of Stone’s Vietnam trilogy (which includes Platoon and Heaven and Earth). This one takes place both in the war zone as well as back in the USA. Among the three movies, this is the most overtly political. At the height of the Anti-war protests, Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise) a paralyzed veteran overcomes his personal anxieties and becomes politically active. Cruise shines in this effort. Co-starring Frank Whaley, Kyra Sedgwick, Josh Evans, Jerry Levine. (Sebastian)

nam19Dead Presidents (1995, Dir: The Hughes Bros)

This is one of my personal favorites. It’s a socio-critical drama that mixes heist movie, Boyz ‘n the hood drama, war movie and Vietnam Vet movie all in one. It is an amazing experience with stellar actors, great storytelling and lots of memorable moments. Haven’t heard of it? well that’s possible, but shame on you. Starring Taye Diggs, Chris Tucker, Terrence Howard. (Sebastian)

vet2The War At Home (1996, Dir: Emilio Estevez)

Emilio Estevez stars in and directs this indie drama about a Vietnam Veteran that returns to his family and tries to start a new life after serving in the War. His efforts are thwarted by his own psychological and political issues which slowly begin to tear his close knit, All American family apart. In the tradition of Stone’s Born on The 4th of July. Co-starring Martin Sheen and Kathy Bates. (Peter)

vet8The Exterminator (1980, Dir: James Glickenhaus)

In this exploitation film hybrid of Death Wish and Taxi Driver, Robert Ginty plays Vietnam Vet John Eastland who becomes a vigilante after his good friend is murdered. Eastland goes from ignored victim of circumstance to a judge, jury and executioner on the mean streets of New York City. A very grimy, very violent Grindhouse era cult classic. (Peter)

vet1Missing In Action (1984, Dir: Joseph Zito)

Among the Nam camp classics, this is a front runner. Ex-POW Col. James Braddock (Chuck Norris) roundhouse kicks his way through the jungle to rescue POWs some politicians deny exist. A tad reactionary and political but mostly an action flick with a thick vigilante message. It is quite enjoyable and was so successful it spawned a few sequels. (Sebastian)

vet11Uncommon Valor (1983, Dir: Ted Kotcheff)

Some critics have decried the simplicity of this one but still you gotta see Gene Hackman in camouflage. It’s not a very good movie (FC’s Pete thinks it’s one of the best Nam vet/rescue flicks) but among Missing in Action and some other lesser efforts this at least ranks among the more interesting entries. Co-starring Patrick Swayze, Fred Ward, Reb Brown, Randall “Tex” Cobb. (Sebastian)

vet10Combat Shock (1986, Dir: Buddy Giovinazzo)

An ultra low budget Troma Films black comedy/character study of a battle damaged, mentally unstable Vietnam Vet named Frankie (Ricky Giovinazzo). Violent, sickening and plain horrific. Not for the squeamish but certainly one for those gorehounds that appreciate plenty of splatter! (Peter)

vet9Thou Shalt Not Kill…Except (1985, Dir: Josh Becker)

Sgt. Jack Stryker (Brian Schulz) a Vietnam Vet returns from the war to begin a new life. When a Manson-esque cult (led by Sam Raimi) begins spreading terror in the small town where he and his war buddies reside, they go on a roaring rampage of revenge to get rid of the crazy bastards. A hysterical, over the top, entertaining cult classic that really heightens the Vietnam vet storyline. (Peter)

vets29RAMBO: First Blood Part II (1985, Dir: George P. Cosmatos)

This film was my introduction to Stallone as John Rambo. I wouldn’t see First Blood (1982) until a few years later. All I knew at the time was that this movie was awesome. The story picks up a few years after the first movie. Rambo is in a maximum security prison breaking rocks as his punishment for going crazy on Sheriff Teasel’s redneck town. When Col. Trautman (Richard Crenna) arrives offering him a recon job in Nam for a reprieve, Rambo agrees to do it. Once he’s back in the jungles of Cambodia Rambo finds himself fighting the war all over again. The same government corruption and double dealing is still going on as he tries to save some badly treated POWs secretly being held there. If you want the ultimate Vietnam Vet rescue/middle finger to the fatcat politicians movie, I’d say this one is the best. (Peter)

This furious list is dedicated to all the soldiers that died in Nam and the ones that made it home but whose lives would never be the same again.

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Peter

Editor-In-Chief of The Grindhouse Cinema Database/Furious Cinema contributor. Pete is a rabid movie geek who enjoys everything from wild n’ crazy exploitation/cult flix to big budget mainstream classics. His other interests include: graphic design, cartooning and music.

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2 Responses

  1. CarrieLynn Reinhard says:

    I am looking for Blaxploitation films that features Vietnam vets coming back to right some wrong in their community. Do you know Gordon’s War or others like it?

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