Movies to Watch Before Traveling to Vietnam

Our trip to Vietnam is less than a month away! As you prepare to visit this beautiful country, there is no better way to prime yourself to travel than to watch some famous movies about Vietnam. Immerse yourself in the history and culture of the country as you follow these incredible tales of exploration and intrigue. With the winter holidays arriving (not to mention the 20-hour flight to Vietnam), you can now find a few spare hours to enjoy one of our favorite picks about your travel destination.

Indochine. Many a traveler to Vietnam has cited this movie as their inspiration. Winner of the 1993 Oscar for Foreign Language Film, Indochine is a French movie that follows Éliane Devries, a French plantation owner, and her adopted Vietnamese daughter, Camille, with the rising Vietnamese nationalist movement set as a backdrop. It is set in 1930, and without spoiling too much: Éliane and Camille both fall in love with a young French navy officer, which will change both their lives significantly. A true lesson in the history of Vietnam, this tale of a cross-cultural romantic triangle will be sure to entertain.

Full Metal Jacket. Watch Stanley Kubrick’s take on the Vietnam War in Full Metal Jacket, a movie that follows smart-aleck Private Davis—quickly christened “Joker” by his foul-mouthed drill sergeant—and pudgy Private Lawrence—nicknamed “Gomer Pyle”—as they endure the rigors of basic training. Though Pyle takes a frightening detour, Joker graduates to the Marine Corps and is sent to Vietnam as a journalist, covering (and eventually participating in) the bloody Battle of Hué. This critically acclaimed, 1987 British-American war film is sure to keep you on your toes as it takes you through the gritty experience of army training.

Quiet American. This 2002 murder mystery revolves around a love triangle set against the French Indochina War in Vietnam, circa 1952. Follow veteran English journalist Thomas Fowler, a young American named Alden Pyle, and the beautiful Vietnamese woman caught between them, Phuong. In the background, the American involvement that led to the full-scale American war in Vietnam grows. Nothing is at it seems in this subtle story of intrigue and betrayal. Politics and love never mix well, and there has never been a better example than in Quiet American.

The Lover. Set in 1920s colonial Indochina, this 1992 movie follows a nameless couple as they begin an illicit relationship. A pretty French teenager meets a handsome Chinese playboy from a respectable family, and, going against the conventions of their respective societies, the pair begins a torrid affair in a seedy Saigon neighborhood. Their intense relationship is met with insurmountable odds, however. Watch this tale of cultural expectation and tension that leaves you rooting for the impossible.

Vietnam War Classics: Platoon (1986) and Apocalypse Now (1979). As two of the highest-rated movies in this or any collection of movies, these two are classics that have stood the test of time. Both follow difficult storylines that do not sugarcoat the truth of the war but instead leave you understanding the depth of loss that the war meant for both soldiers and the Vietnamese people.

In Platoon, we see young Chris Taylor leave his university studies to enlist in combat duty in Vietnam in 1967. Once he’s on the ground in the middle of battle, his idealism fades. Infighting in his unit between Staff Sergeant Barnes, who believes nearby villagers are harboring Viet Cong soldiers, and Sergeant Elias, who has a more sympathetic view of the locals, ends up pitting the soldiers against each other as well as against the enemy.

Apocalypse Now is perhaps the best-known war epic of all time. Winning both the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Picture, it has exerted its influence over countless movies that followed it. This movie is set in Vietnam in 1970, where Captain Willard takes a perilous and increasingly hallucinatory journey upriver to find and terminate Colonel Kurtz, a once-promising officer who has reportedly gone completely mad. In the company of a Navy patrol boat filled with street-smart kids, a surfing-obsessed Air Cavalry officer, and a crazed freelance photographer, Willard travels further and further into the heart of darkness.