Movies of 1987 Bracket Game: Full Metal Jacket Vs Good Morning Vietnam


America spent the eighties processing the collective experience of the Vietnam conflict.  As a result, Hollywood spent much of the decade making movies about ‘Nam.  Oliver Stone’s Platoon presented combat from the perspective of the young soldiers while Rambo gave America a cathartic fantasy in which one man could single-handedly win the war.  1987 gave us two significant comedic dramas set in Vietnam; Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket and Barry Levinson’s Good Morning Vietnam.

Before we get into today’s match-up, let’s review the results from our first bracket.


Brian DePalma’s gangster flick, The Untouchables, came out to an early lead.  But Elliot Ness and his crusaders couldn’t hold on to it for very long.  Murtaugh and Riggs handily won the match with just over 70% of the final vote.  That means the winner of today’s contest will advance to face Lethal Weapon in round two.

Stanley Kubrick movies defy easy classification.  That’s definitely the case with Full Metal Jacket.  The movie is divided into two acts structurally.  The first half depicts the recruits undergoing training from a hard-nosed drill sergeant played by R. Lee Ermey.  Ermey was originally hired to work on the movie as a technical advisor due to his experience as an actual drill instructor in the marines.  Initially, Kubrick worried that Ermey was not threatening enough to portray Gunnery Sergeant Hartman.  But when Ermey improvised an audition tape, the director was won over.  He encouraged Ermey to improvise his dialogue – especially the insults.

While most reviews at the time were positive, many critics considered Full Metal Jacket to be a lesser effort from Kubrick.  Roger Ebert notoriously gave Benji: The Hunted a better review than he gave Full Metal Jacket leading to one of the more memorable showdowns with Gene Siskel.

Results were even more mixed at the box office.  When Full Metal Jacket went into wide release, it topped out at the #2 spot behind Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise (which somehow didn’t make it into our competition).  It may surprise you to learn that Full Metal Jacket was only nominated for one Academy Award.  Kubrick along with collaborators Gustav Hasford and Michael Herr were nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay which they lost to The Last Emperor.

Barry Levinson’s Good Morning, Vietnam was a more traditional biopic.  Adrian Cronauer originally envisioned his life story as a sitcom about his time as a DJ in Vietnam.  Despite the success of M*A*S*H, networks were wary of a comedic take on the war.  So Cronauer reworked his pitch as a movie which attracted the attention of Robin Williams.  Writer Mitch Markowitz was brought on to rework the material to the point that very little of Cronauer’s work was left in the finished script.

Good Morning, Vietnam was an unqualified success.  Critics raved and Williams was nominated for an Oscar for the first time.  He lost to Michael Douglas who was clearly nominated in the wrong category for Wall Street.)  While Williams would have to wait a few years to take home an Academy Award, he did win a Golden Globe for his performance.  Good Morning, Vietnam also proved popular at the box office where it was the fourth highest-grossing movie of the year.

Which of the year’s two Vietnam-themed comedy-dramas do you prefer?


Posted on January 3, 2017, in bracket game, Movies and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Tough call. Both have equal strengths and weaknesses. The first half of Full Metal Jacket is incredibly strong, while the second half kind of swerves off the rails and just peters out at the end.
    Good Morning Vietnam stands tall with one of Robin Williams’ best performances, but is also laced with sappy sentimentality.
    So I find it hard to decide on what merits I should judge these films. Acting? Both top notch. Directing? Both 50/50. War stories? Very different points of view.
    So I guess ultimately I’ll have to go with my gut feeling, which is that I’m a sucker for Robin Williams – and that’s pretty much the only reasoning behind this choice. 😋


    • I haven’t made up my mind yet. Truth is, it’s been years since I watched either of these movies. Robin Williams in one of the best roles of his career may sway my vote to GMV. Still pondering…


  2. FMJ, all the way. R. Lee Ermey is brilliant. Whatever flaws the second half has are made up for by his performance along with Gomer Pyle.

    GMV has a lot of great points including Robin’s outstanding monologues, but I just can’t help but feel it doesn’t have enough substance to rise above the sentimentality of the scenes outside the radio booth.

    By the way, what were Gene’s basic thoughts on FMJ? I can’t get the sound.


    • Gene liked the movie a lot. Said the first half was brilliant and unlike anything he had ever seen. The majority of their disagreement was over that point. Roger stated he that Full Metal Jacket was derivative of old John Wayne war movies. They spent a lot of time going back and forth over whether or not that was the case. Both agreed the second half was weaker than the first, but for Gene it was still a great movie.


  3. I went with “Full Metal Jacket” as I prefer the more serious approach (excluding a nickname like Joker and that funny hooker) here. I think “Good morning, Vietnam” is an excellent film (perfect casting of Williams, who was energetic and funny, but had a sadness about him) though, and I’m surprised that “Full Metal Jacket” had its doubters (I don’t think it’s that far behind “Platoon”).


    • A lot of people find Kubrick cold and cerebral. To an extent, I see their point but I don’t mind.


      • Yeah, I’ve heard that opinion on Kubrick. I guess his style had a clinical aspect to it, but I enjoyed pretty much all his films (not that big on “The Shining” though), and I liked his style.


        • If I were going to pick a Kubrick film as over-rated, it’s 2001. Looks cool, but seeing it years after its release without the benefit of hallucinogens, it’s a bit of a slog. Most under-rated? Eyes Wide Shut.


        • Yeah, I always really liked “Eyes Wide Shut”, and although I think “2001: A Space Odyssey” is okay, space isn’t always my jam (not even Space Jam), so I won’t really go to the mat to defend it either. It’s one of those films that probably is overrated.


  4. Robin Willians looks like a younger Ed O’Neill on that poster.


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