If you haven't seen the brilliant 1979 film, Apocalypse Now (directed by Francis Ford Coppola, director of The Godfather), you're missing out of one of the best war movies of all time. While it isn't your typical fighting film, like Saving Private Ryan or Dunkirk, this movie tackles the Vietnam war and the total psychological degradation of a man on a mission to murder another military member in the jungle. In fact, the director just released a final cut version so celebrate the film's 40th anniversary. So to celebrate, we thought we'd look at the 10 most powerful war quotes this brilliant film has to offer.
10 War Obscenities
"We train young men to drop fire on people, but their commanders won't allow them to write "f*ck" on their airplanes because it's obscene!"
While Captain Kurtz is supposed to be the mentally unstable one in this film, he sure drops a ton of wisdom. This one is one of our favorites, because it's pretty clear cut and encompasses a lot about the horrors of the military. Clearly, he's calling out the clear-cut rules and restrictions, their reputation and their missions, but that they also are trained to kill. Pretty dark stuff, right?
9 For His Sins
"Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my sins, they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service. It was a real choice mission, and when it was over, I never wanted another."
Willard drops some crazy, incredibly wise thoughts every time he has a voice-over. This one is definitely one of our favorites, for its simplicity and its utterly blunt way of cutting to the chase. He got a mission for his sins, and boy, he would rack up a lot more along the way.
8 Type of Men
"You have to have men who are moral... and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling... without passion... without judgment... without judgment! Because it's judgment that defeats us."
Captain Kurtz liked to explain what kind of men were needed to fight the war.
According to him, it takes a certain kind of men with morals, but ones who are willing to totally disregard their judgment in the time of need. Honestly, that seems pretty above humanity, but it's still incredibly deep.
7 Speeding Tickets
"Shit... charging a man with murder in this place was like handing out speeding tickets in the Indy 500. I took the mission. What the hell else was I gonna do?"
Willard's metaphors are honestly brilliant enough for us to make posters of. And honestly, they are succinct and incredibly, devastatingly accurate. He's tasked with killing a military man for "murder", which, Willard is the first to say how absolutely ridiculous that whole idea sounds. That's war in a nutshell.
"Oh man... the bullsh*t piled up so fast in Vietnam, you needed wings to stay above it."
The Vietnam War was definitely one that will go down as the most brutal and controversial in history (for many reasons), but we're not here to talk politics. This quote, by Willard, encompasses pretty much everything we would say about it, anyways. That crap piles up fast, and as the war keeps moving, so it keeps piling.
5 Murder and Insanity
"If that's how Kilgore fought the war, I began to wonder what they really had against Kurtz. It wasn't just insanity and murder; there was enough of that to go around for everyone."
Willard again is calling out how crazy it seems to be tasked with "eliminating" Kurtz, because he can't quite see what he is doing that no one else is. They are charging him on the accounts of insanity and murder, but Willard is arguing that every human being at war has both of those things, with extra to share.
4 No More Home
"'Someday this war's gonna end'. That'd be just fine with the boys on the boat. They weren't looking for anything more than a way home. Trouble is, I'd been back there, and I knew that it just didn't exist anymore."
This quote probably cuts the deepest in regards to post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans and how difficult it is to cope post-war.
Again, by Willard, he discusses how all these boys want is to go home. Unfortunately, home will never be quite as it was after going to war. This is devastating, but it's honest, and we're dying inside right now.
"It's a way we had over here for living with ourselves. We cut 'em in half with a machine gun and give 'em a Band-Aid. It was a lie. And the more I saw them, the more I hated lies."
Again, Willard discusses the controversial and hypocritical nature of war. In this movie (among many other war movies), you'll often see U.S. soldiers tending to wounded members of the "opposing" side. Willard is suggesting that this is like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound (that you inflicted, we might add), which, it essentially is.
2 With a Whimper
"This is the way the f**king world ends! Look at this f**king sh*t we're in, man! Not with a bang, but with a whimper. And with a whimper, I'm f**king splitting, Jack."
One of our favorite characters in this film is definitely the photojournalist in Kurtz's little village. He is sporadic, and you might not even catch every thing that comes out of his mouth a mile a minute, but if you listen close he's actually pretty impressive. Sure, he's a bit wild and clearly unstable, but this quote is pretty wise. They're all going to go out with a whimper - 'cause there will be no survivors. Deep.
1 Death or Victory
"Charlie didn't get much USO. He was dug in too deep or moving too fast. His idea of great R&R was cold rice and a little rat meat. He had only two ways home: death, or victory."
This final quote definitely discusses the brutal and tragic reality of living in the war. Willard pretty clearly shares it - a "good" thing was cold rice and rat meat, and there were only two ways home (neither of which are very promising). Willard has a lot of stellar (and depressing) wisdom about the war, and everyone should be listening to every word.