THE THROWDOWN – “Apocalypse Now” vs. “Platoon”


It wasn’t long ago that movies based on the Vietnam War were all the craze. In the 80s, big budget action movies and cheap POW escape films seem to come out every month. The likes of Chuck Norris and Sylvester Stallone ran through the Vietnam countryside in their respected movies and in numerous sequels that followed. But there were also some much more serious and focused Vietnam war pictures and that’s where we are going today. It’s been a long time since I’ve done a Throwdown but I was itching to pit two highly acclaimed war pictures against each other.

“Apocalypse Now” vs. “Platoon”

APOC“Apocalypse Now” is heralded by many as not only being a great film but being the greatest war movie ever made. I certainly disagree with that last point and honestly I would venture to blaspheme and say it’s a bit overrated. Now don’t get me wrong, “Apocalypse Now” features some incredible sequences. The entire middle is truly intense and compelling stuff laced with some of cinema’s most iconic scenes. Unfortunately it’s bookended by a beginning and end that I found to be hard to endure. To say it derails the film may be a little strong. But it certainly keeps it from being the all-time classic for me that it is for others. Still there’s a lot to love about the film and it has a following that’s firm in their love for it. For many it’s a classic.

PlatoonEven though I’m not the biggest Oliver Stone fan I can still appreciate some of his work. One of his most recognized films is “Platoon”. This 1986 Academy Award winner is one of the most character rich films about the war in Vietnam. Stone throws us in the mix with some brilliantly written and memorable characters brought to life by a great cast. Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger, Johnny Depp, Forest Whitacker, and of course a pre-psychotic Charlie Sheen. The vibrant cinematography by Richard Richardson shines and it features arguably Oliver Stone’s strongest script. Now it does get a little too preachy and I do think Stone dwells on certain personalities for the sake of his message. But “Platoon” still grabs me any time I watch it.

It’s been a while since I’ve done one so here’s a Throwdown refresher course. Be sure to cast your vote in the poll below. Afterwards I would love for you to leave a comment about why you prefer one movie for another. Maybe you don’t like either one. Let everyone know why. It’s Throwdown time. Is it “Apocalypse Now” or “Platoon”?

43 thoughts on “THE THROWDOWN – “Apocalypse Now” vs. “Platoon”

  1. Apocalypse Now, hands down. Better cast, better story, much more dramatic. Sure, a bit stylized, but I have to go with Coppola over Stone each and every day. I remember when I was in school, I watched AN for a film class, and it turned into all of the guys in my hall having a Vietnam movie week. We watched these, Full Metal Jacket, Good Morning Vietnam, and The Deer Hunter all in one week. It was definitely a somber environment those few days…

    • Thanks for the vote and comment Nick. ALWAYS appreciate your input. I think AN may win pretty big. For me its Platoon. The parts in AN that I like I really, really like. But that ending just sucks the life out if it for me. I know I’m one of the few who feel that way though.

      • I remember AN a lot more than Platoon, so I think that’s a big reason behind my decision. I’d have to give the Vietnam War movie though to Good Morning Vietnam. It does what a lot of the other films don’t do, and manages to inject a healthy dose of humor into a very sad time. After watching it for the first time as well, I was surprised how much of it drama it really was.

    • Yep, I am going to be in the minority on this one. If you hacked off the beginning and the end if Apocalypse Now I would be all onboard. But as it is they just turn me off. Now I love everything in between.

  2. Hands down Platoon for me. Not only does it hold memories (being the first DVD I ever bought the afternoon I was taken out of school with a broken nose from playing rugby), but it’s a bloody great movie with amazing performances and a likeable protagonist. Apocalypse Now, while having some epic set pieces, I found to be a bit heady and quite a chore to get through, and Sheen is quite unlikeable. The documentary about the making of AN, Heart of Darkness, is awesome though.

  3. It’s a tough one but you already point out why I have to go with Platoon. It’s more character rich and Apocalypse’s ending threatens to undo the great work that went before. It’s a very close call but I think it’s the appearance of a mumbling, near incomprehensible Brando that seals my decision.

  4. Apocalypse Now. It’s one of my favorite films of all time! True, I haven’t seen it in a while but I got caught up in it on my first viewing in a way that doesn’t happen very often.
    Platoon is very good as well, though for me it’s just not as memorable.

    • I completely respect that. Apocalypse Now really stuck with many people and its classic status has only grown through the years. I just can’t shake my dislike for the beginning and end.

  5. Platoon. It’s more of a simple story of coming-of-age for Sheen’s character. Defoe and Berenger are perfect foils representing good and evil. It was sheer brilliance. It’s my favorite war movie of all time. When Defoe drops to his knees and is massacred, I cry every time. Great question, Keith!

  6. I didn’t think the end of AN soured the film at all. There were a few of our soldiers that took up new strange lives in the jungles of Vietnam. No disrespect of MIA’s, but some soldiers changed/became something different in order to survive or were psychologically changed by the war and violence itself. I think that is the point of the ending, for some, the foriegn land (and the war) invaded them. Nevertheless, it was a hard choice. great topic.

  7. I wish I could participate Keith but I’m not really into war films so haven’t seen either of these. Have a great Fourth my friend!

  8. Both films have weaknesses, AN is overblown philosophical piece that brings Heart of Darkness to life with a cynical view of the military’s strategies in pursuing the war. Platoon is equally cynical in its views of the men who fought the war. The imagery in AN is incredibly memorable. Platoon created immense tension, but the dialogue was sometimes problematic, especially the narration. I bounce back and forth on AN, sometimes I watch in awe and other times in anger. Platoon has not held sway over me for any time. I saw it when it came out and then maybe six months ago. It is fine but left me without a strong emotional connection.

  9. I agree with your opinion about “Apocalypse Now”. It’s more an art-house war movie that happens to be set in Vietnam, than a Vietnam War film which is what “Platoon” is.

    In the end Oliver Stone is a Vietnam Vet who knows what that war is about. Coppola is an auteur filmmaker who crafted a film about what he thought it was about.

  10. (old post but heck, I just watched both for the first time) Platoon for me hands down. I agree very much with VictorsMovieReviews. I like a war movie to feel realistic (I’ve never been to war so I don’t really know what it’s like, but the feeling). Platoon really gave me that feeling of what it was like while Apocalypse Now just had too much weirdness that just didn’t make sense to me (like the surfing while mortars were still dropping).

    • I’m completely with you. I really don’t see Apocalypse Now as the classic that many treat it as. Platoon just has an undeniable honesty about it. Thanks for commenting.

  11. Platoon for me. Like a few other comments here pointed out, Apocalypse Now has some incredible moments… but I’ve watched it repeatedly and it just doesn’t flow all that well from beginning to end. I prefer how Platoon seems more cohesive (at least in my opinion).

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