It goes without saying that there are some brilliantly made war movies out there. Some of my favourites include Full Metal Jacket, Born on The Fourth of July, The Boys in Company C, The Thin Red Line, Come and See, All Quiet On The Western Front, The Longest Day and Paths of Glory. All these movies are special in their own way and tell amazing stories about what motivates men to fight in wars. However, while all the movies I mentioned above are classics, none of them come close in matching the intensity and realism that is in Platoon.

To give you some background on why I think Platoon is the greatest war movie ever made, I’ll need to give some basics. Platoon was released in theaters on the 19th of December in 1986. Written and directed by Oliver Stone, Platoon is a semi-autobiographical account of Stone’s life as he served as an infantryman in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. Serving in the 1st Cavalry Division and the 25th Infantry Division, Stone served two tours in the jungles of Vietnam from 1967 to 1968. If that wasn’t enough, Platoon won 1986’s Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Sound. Platoon received many other awards including the second ever Best Picture Award at the Independent Spirit Awards and the Golden Globe for Best Picture.

There are many reasons why I believe Platoon is the best war movie ever made but I’ve compiled a list down to 5 important ones and they are:


5 Reasons Why Platoon Is The Greatest War Movie Of All Time…

1) Platoon is fervently anti-war. I mentioned Robert Altman and his famous saying in my last post about American Sniper. Altman believed that all good war movies were anti-war movies and Platoon is no exception to this. Stone doesn’t shy away from his claims that the first causality of war is innocence. In fact, that was the tagline of the film and it appeared on the film’s poster in cinemas around the world. Seen through the eyes of a young college drop-out who thinks it’s unfair that poor men to go off to war while rich people get away with it. As promised, what is the first thing Charlie’s character looses in the dense jungles of Vietnam? His innocence. The anti-war themes are strong in Platoon and it’s one of the reasons Platoon is such an incredible movie.

2) There’s no glitz, no glory and no glamour in Platoon. War is hell and it’s dirty. In fact, there are many times in Platoon when the soldiers try to get out of combat explicitly and even harming themselves in the process. Whether it was Junior spraying mosquito repellent on his feet, Francis stabbing himself in the thigh or Big Harold trying to get circumcised, we see at least 3 characters in Platoon (and there are more) who try to get out of combat out-right. But are they shown as cowards? Absolutely not. After the film is over, I dare you to say that you wouldn’t have stabbed yourself like Francis did. Platoon is also one of the earliest examples of not showing soldiers who refused to fight as cowards. Since soldiers are just people too, I give so much respect to Stone for showing these men as human beings with hearts, minds and souls.

3) The objectives and moral lines are blurred. Before Platoon, many war movies in Hollywood were about a group of brave, valiant soldiers storming a beach, raiding a bunker, taking a hill or rescuing an important military/political figure. In Platoon, ask yourself, “Where are they going?” especially during the opening credits when the troops out on patrol. In fact, ask yourself, “Where are they going?”, “What are they doing?”, “Why are they there?” and “What’s the significance of the area they’re taking?” Since Platoon is a character-driven war film, the object is not to take something from the enemy. It’s to survive and that’s all the characters in the movie are motivated to do. In fact, most of them don’t want to be in combat and just want to go home.

4) There are some very strong performances in Platoon. If you’re like me, you saw Charlie Sheen in movies like Hot Shots, Hot Shots: Part Deux, Major League and Major League 2 when you were a kid. In each of these films, Charlie plays the comedic lead and as a 13 year old boy when I first saw Platoon, I didn’t know that Charlie had ever performed in dramatic films. While Charlie plays a character that loses his innocence, the performance to look out for is Tom from Berenger, who plays Staff Sergeant Barnes. Tom plays a deeply sadistic man who has been in the bush for too long and will do anything to stay there. Despite seeing him venerable, Barnes is an evil man who does an evil thing just so he can stay in the jungle. However, all of the performances in Platoon are great too. Whether it’s the compassionate Sergeant Elias played by Willem Dafoe or the cowardly Sergeant O’Neil played by John C. McGinley, each actor brings something unique to the table. Also look out for early performances by Johnny Depp, Forrest Whitaker and Kevin Dillon.

5) Individuality plays an important role in Platoon. If you look at old war movies, particularly from John Wayne, you’ll find that the soldiers in many war movies blend into the scenery and are hardly memorable. In Platoon, this is hardy the case. While you might not remember everyone’s name in the 35 member platoon, I guarantee that you will remember their appearances. Oliver Stone worked directly with the costume crew to make each solider stand out from one another. During rehearsals, Stone encouraged the actors to write sayings and/or pictures on their helmets and uniforms. Some wore peace signs or coal miner’s bracelets, while others placed packs of cigarettes or small bottles of ‘bug juice’ on their helmets. The first thing that stands out is just how individualized each solider really is. They aren’t just names and we care about them despite the fact that they aren’t the lead actors in the film. While this might have been harder to do in older films, Stone claims that each solider he served with in Vietnam did similar things in the field and did so in order to stand out. To me, the most important thing we have as people is our individuality. We are not all the same. We have different tastes and styles and this is reflected heavily in Platoon. This is also reflected in the social cliques within the platoon, whether it was the contrasts between the black soldiers and the white soldiers or the beer drinkers and the potheads.

For all of the reasons I wrote above, including the humanistic anti-war theme, the fact that Platoon doesn’t glamourize war, the objectives of war being unclear, how strong the acting in the film is and for making each solider into an individual rather than a drone, I feel that Platoon is THE SINGLE GREATEST WAR MOVIE EVER MADE.

Also, one of the best ending voice-over/monologues in film history and one that still gets me to this day.