Choose a movie to watch and then write an essay of at least two full pages, double-spaced. How
historically accurate are popular Hollywood movies? Does popular cinema offer historical lessons?
Compare a film below with your new understandings of United States history. Clearly state the concepts
and the movie event, character action(s), events, etc. that relate to the concept in your paper � prove to
me that you�ve watch the whole film.
Find out when the film was produced. In what ways do you think the time in which the film was made?
Explain the context or background of the film. What is the film�s time period? Do the film�s characters
represent real historical persons or are they fictional? Are the events portrayed in the film real or made
Cold War Culture
Salt of the Earth (1954)
On the Waterfront (1954)
Pillow Talk (1959)
Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
Touch of Evil (1958)
War and Memory
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
First Blood (1982)
Race in America
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Sweet Sweetback�s Baad Asssss Song (1971)
Gone With the Wind (1939)
Native Son (1951)
Mississippi Burning (1988)
Full Metal Jacket
The following exercise is a brief comparison of the film “Full Metal Jacket” and how it compares
to actual events in the history of America. The film was produced in 1987 but it was set during
the Vietnam War which ended 12 years before. This was a war in which the United States
participated in, joining sides with the South Vietnamese government in an effort to stop the
Northern government backed by Communists from taking over. While the film uses the Vietnam
War as a background, it has over time come to be generally accepted to have two parts that take
place in succession in the film. The first part of the film is focused on the boot camp where new
marines that have been drafted are undergoing their military training.
To achieve the required time period relevant for filming, the director had to ensure that the
elements of fashion used corresponded to the time period. At the same time, some scenes had to
be shot in location while others needed to be improvised. In some cases archive footage was
likely used where there was no need to focus on specific characters.
The movie is centered on a platoon that has just joined boot camp as marines. They have an
unusually harsh drill sergeant who takes them through the paces of becoming a disciplined
officer. In the course of their training one of them experiences a mental breakdown and he ends
up shooting a friend then killing himself. The buildup to this is however mostly comical. The
second part of the film focuses on their deployment to war with each key character being
assigned a specific profession. Joker is the protagonist in this part of the film and many of the
horrors of war are portrayed from his perspective.
While the film portrays fictional characters, the story that took place was real though
controversial hence making it difficult to draw the line between the reference to actual events
that took place and exaggeration for entertainment purposes. The basic facts about the war such
as the American soldiers engaging the Viet-Kong in battle is an accurate description of the war.
The large scale loss of lives depicted in the film on both the Vietnamese and American side is
also true (Havens and Thomas, 2014). Part of the story is also representative of the attitude that
was carried by the anti-war protestors who saw it as an engagement in futility whose victims
were innocent Vietnamese civilians and American soldiers. The war portion of the film looks at
things from Joker’s point of view and this compels the viewer to consider the ethical issues of
war and possible war crimes that were committed by American soldiers. At the same time, his
point of view exposes the audience to the senseless deaths that took place combined with the fact
that military training completely ruined some individuals beyond the point they would be helped.
The characters in the film were undoubtedly made up since there is no reference to the film being
a portrayal of actual events. The comic elements present in the film coupled with the fact this
film won entertainment accolades and not journalistic ones helps to affirm this point. The use of
made up characters however really helps the story since the author is able to tell the story from
the perspective of an analytical individual who didn’t really fit in. Joker’s not fitting in made him
the ideal character to notice the barbaric nature of war.
Full Metal Jacket film, 1987
Havens, Thomas RH. Fire Across the Sea: The Vietnam War and Japan 1965-1975. Princeton
University Press, 2014.