The Most Realistic War Movie of the 80s Sits on Rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes

The Most Realistic War Movie of the 80s Sits on Rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes
Image credit: Legion-Media

This one deserves a lot more recognition.


  • Hollywood made a lot of movies post-Vietnam, grappling with America's actions in the war.
  • The most accurate of the Vietnam war movies is also the highest rated.
  • Even the details of the munitions were carefully researched by the creators.

As long as there have been movies, there have been war movies – the first one comes from all the way back in 1898!

But in the years after the Vietnam War, the way Hollywood made war movies started to shift. The United States was grappling with the horrific footage and testimonies that came to light after the conflict. War films could no longer be simply patriotic, as demonstrated by the incredible wealth of complex, horrific Vietnam War movies from the 1980s.

Those include Apocalypse Now (directed by Francis Ford Coppola, 1979), Platoon (Oliver Stone, 1986) and The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino, 1978). Even the comedies about Vietnam were colored by the darkness of that time, including the Robin Williams vehicle Good Morning Vietnam (directed by Barry Levinson, 1987).

Top of the Hill

Of all the movies that came out about the war, one stands out for its accuracy. No, it's not Platoon, even though that movie is famously based on the real life experiences of director Oliver Stone (who was twice wounded in battle when he served in Vietnam).

Instead, the movie heralded as one of the most accurate ever is a little-known flick called Hamburger Hill. Featuring then-unknown actors Don Cheadle ( The Avengers), Dylan McDermott (American Horror Story ), and Courtney B. Vance (Law & Order: Criminal Intent), Hamburger Hill tells the little-known story of a real-life battle.

The True Story

Over ten days in 1969, American infantry squads fought to overtake a very steep and well-fortified hill in Vietnam. The battle was one of attrition, with the army believing that it was worth losing men if they could root out the enemy forces from their position.

When the battle was over, 72 American soldiers were dead and more than 300 were wounded. On the other side, an estimated 600 fighters from the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) died.

Almost immediately after the battle was won, the American army abandoned their position on Hamburger Hill. It did not have any strategic value.

The movie follows the soldiers of one infantry squad as they fight for ten days on Hamburger Hill. In between battles they deal with increasing anxiety, fear, racial tensions, and the news that antiwar sentiment is growing back home.

A Rare Rating

Critics loved Hamburger Hill, and it carries a rare 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It has also been praised by historians for steering clear of war movie cliches and providing a pretty accurate look at the fighting that took place in Vietnam.

Military historian Bill Allison took to YouTube for a look at various war movies in the series 'How Real Is It?', and applauded Hamburger Hill for its depictions of Vietnam battle. The filmmakers got it right, down to the nitty-gritty details of the munitions used by the soldiers. Reviewing a scene with booby traps, Allison confirmed:

'Booby traps are synonymous with Vietnam… One of the most gruesome ones is they dig a hole and they put in two rotors with punji stakes in it. And as your leg, your foot goes down in it, it rolls down and it chews your calf up. Pretty gruesome stuff. The PAVN's got more equipment, so they can do more explosive-type things… So that's kind of why, in [the movie], you've got more of the explosive-type stuff.'

Hamburger Hill is available to rent on Prime Video and Apple TV.

Source: YouTube.