Arts & Life, Movies

Navigating Netflix: Good Morning, Vietnam

Goooooooooood morrrrrrrrrrning, Spectator Tribune! Or whenever you’re reading this.

Movies about war are ubiquitous at this point in American cinema, particularly for the wars they’ve been involved in. Both World War II and the Vietnam War have received a great deal of big screen attention with very different types of movies. And there are more than a few iconic films that have tackled the hugely controversial Vietnam War.

Apocalypse Now.


Full Metal Jacket.

The Vietnam War is difficult topic to discuss, even decades later. It was hotly debated at the time and never fully supported by the American public. Each of these films is a classic, gritty, dark, and violent but Good Morning, Vietnam took a different angle.

Airman First Class Adrian Cronauer is brought in to Vietnam to work as a DJ for the Armed Forces Radio Service during the war. His irreverent attitude and methods immediately draw the support of the troops and some of his peers but also the ire of some of his superiors. Cronauer grows in popularity while confronting the realities of the war off air. It’s a distinctive angle on a brutal and costly conflict.

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Somewhat based on a true story of a radio DJ in Vietnam, the real life version of Adrian Cronauer went through several attempts trying to his story produced. Eventually, Robin Williams was attached to the project and it became a vehicle for his frenetic comedy. In reality, Cronauer was nothing like Williams on the air. He faced little opposition from his superiors at the station and his on air comedy was a lot different than what was on screen. That being said, Williams’ version of Cronauer is both funny and engaging, and is a big part of the reason the film is considered a classic.

Good Morning, Vietnam came out in 1987, at a point in Williams’ career when he was on the rise. He had already made a name for himself as a stand-up comedian as well as appearing in a few films and as Mork in the popular TV series Mork & Mindy. Good Morning, Vietnam presented an interesting opportunity for Williams as it allowed him to showcase his comedic chops and his dramatic abilities. Dead Poets Society, another comedic/dramatic role, came out only a couple of years later. It was the films of this era in his career that pushed him from comedian to actor, though comedy is never too far away from Robin Williams.

Forest Whitaker co-starred with Williams as one of Cronauer’s compatriots, another breakout performance by a respected actor. Having previously appeared in Platoon, Whitaker was no stranger to big screen adaptations of the Vietnam War but Good Morning, Vietnam and Platoon are two completely different takes on the same subject. Still, Whitaker and Williams did amazing work in this film and complemented each other on screen.

Despite how incongruous with the real life person he’s portraying, everyone remembers the over-the-top performance that Williams gives as Adrian Cronauer. Like M.A.S.H. did for the Korean War, hiding underneath the jokes is a unique perspective on a war with repercussions still felt today.