Full Metal Jacket (1987)



Critic Consensus: Intense, tightly constructed, and darkly comic at times, Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket may not boast the most original of themes, but it is exceedingly effective at communicating them.

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Movie Info

Stanley Kubrick's return to filmmaking after a seven-year hiatus, this film crystallizes the experience of the Vietnam War by concentrating on a group of raw Marine volunteers. Based on Gustav Hasford's novel The Short Timers, the film's first half details the volunteers' harrowing boot-camp training under the profane, power-saw guidance of drill instructor Sgt. Hartman (R. Lee Ermey, a real-life drill instructor whose performance is one of the most terrifyingly realistic on record). Part two … More

Rating: R (adult situations/language, violence)
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure
Directed By: ,
Written By: Gustav Hasford, Stanley Kubrick, Michael Herr
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jun 29, 1999
Warner Bros.


as Pvt. J.T. 'Joker' Da...

as Hartman

as Pvt. Cowboy

as Doc Jay

as Lt. Lockhart

as Rafterman

as Lt. Cleves

as Animal Mother

as Eightball

as Touchdown

as Payback

as Da Nang Hooker

as TV Journalist

as Crazy Earl

as Crazy Earl

as V.C. Sniper

as Motorbike Hooker

as Motorbike Hooker

as Stork

as Daytona Dave

as Poge Colonel

as Doorgunner

as T.H.E. Rock

as Daddy Da

as Daddy Da

as Camera Thief

as Dead NVA

as Marine

as Marine

as Marine

as Dying Soldier (uncre...

as Marine

as Marine
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for Full Metal Jacket

All Critics (73) | Top Critics (14)

If his considerable achievement in this long- awaited film falls short of his Olympian standards, there is a reason that ought to give Kubrick some satisfaction. The world has caught up with Kubrick and what he has to say.

Full Review… | June 21, 2013
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic

It may seem too spare, too clinical, its moments of war even too familiar for some. But, aiming for minds as well as hearts, Kubrick hits his target squarely.

Full Review… | June 21, 2013
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

What gives this story its power is not really its originality, but the relentlessness of Kubrick's black-comic vision and the tightness of his focus.

Full Review… | June 21, 2013
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

There is a real fear at the heart of this monstrously armored, desperately defensive film.

Full Review… | June 21, 2013
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

It's a great piece of filmmaking, diminished only by a second act that fails to live up to the first act of the Marines in training.

Full Review… | June 21, 2013
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

Full Metal Jacket is not a realistic film -- it is horror-comic superrealism, from a God's-eye view -- but it should fully engage the ordinary movie grunt.

Full Review… | August 24, 2008
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Full Metal Jacket

Dark humor, sharp dialogue and R. Lee Ermey's terrifyingly excellent performance. Full Metal Jacket is a gripping portrayal of the dehumanization and transformation of the US soldier in the midst of the Vietnam War. Kubrick's tactical direction and nasty-good production on this film is one of his best. 5/5

Eugene Bernabe
Eugene Bernabe

Super Reviewer

Stanley Kubrick turns his attention to Vietnam in this bleak and emotionally draining representation of a conflict that was the perfect subject for which to turn the accepted war movie cliches on their heads. It throws you in the deep end of marine boot camp where conscripts are stripped of all sense of individuality to be turned into killing machines, a process ferociously undertaken by one of the most evil and hateful characters you're ever likely to see on screen. You do not grow to admire and respect this man as you do in most militaristic flag wavers; he is a ruthless sadist who punishes every tiny error with the kind of physical and emotional abuse that would be deemed unconscionable in any other environment. He even holds up a mass murder and assassin as figures to be admired and only considers private Pile, the subject of his systematic humiliation, worthy AFTER he has reached psychological breaking point. Once the action shifts to Vietnam, Kubrick's unsentimental documentary style places you in the thick of the battlefield where the slightest hesitation, act of compassion or humanity is punished by death and he makes no attempt to emotionally manipulate or preach simplistic anti-war messages. In his inimitable style he exposes the ugly truth about war; without their monstrous drill sergeant's brutal teachings they wouldn't have lasted 5 minutes in this environment so within the context of war, cruelty is RIGHT. Cruelty WORKS. And any society that was built on militarism has this fact as its foundation; even one whose figurehead is a lovable cartoon mouse.

xGary Xx

Super Reviewer


Kubrick surprisingly only made two films in the 80s . His follow up to The Shining, well-made as it is, is not without certain flaws and is by no means top-drawer Kubrick. However, it is punctuated with incredible moments in spite of its shortcomings, including a grueling opening-act which details marine training at Parris Island and ends with a hair-raising showdown between a grunt and a gunnery sergeant. Also, the film's bloody climax, with its inconclusive clash between the American forces and an enemy sniper, is simultaneously tense, frightening, ironic and meaningless.

The story (taken from Gustav Hasford's novel The Short-Timers) opens with a bunch of green marine recruits undergoing military training at Parris Island. The drill instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey) is a ruthless, motor-mouthed loony who relentlessly humiliates and desensitizes his boys, so that when he has finally stripped them of their humanity he can rebuild them as single-minded killing machines. Among the bunch is happy-go-lucky Private Joker (Matthew Modine), and the vaguely ridiculous (and ridiculed) Private Pyle (Vincent D'Onofrio). As the recruits near the end of their grueling training regime, Pyle finally cracks under the strain and kills the gunnery sergeant, before turning his gun on himself. The action jumps forward to find Joker on a tour of duty in Vietnam. He is by this point a military journalist who has seen some pretty unpleasant sights during his time in 'Nam (and is divided by his experiences - notice his Born To Kill helmet and his Peace buttoned jacket). The platoon he is part of becomes involved in a street battle in the ruins of Hue City near the film's climax, where they find themselves pinned down and picked off by a female Vietcong sniper. Finally, after much panic and bloodshed, darkness falls and the marines retreat into the night singing the Mickey Mouse March.

Where Kubrick really hits his target is in his depiction of the emotional change within Modine's character, and in his cold and cynical (and authentic) view of the dehumanization that results from being subjected to warfare. Women and children become acceptable targets for the gun-toting soldiers; fear of death gives way to callous indifference; violence becomes normal; horrific deaths and injuries become commonplace to the point of disinterest. No-one in the film can remember the cause they're fighting for or, if they can, they never refer to it. It's just one side versus the other, locked in a costly, savage stalemate, as they enter into violent engagements simply because it's expected of them. The lack of real location work is a problem - Kubrick wouldn't film outside England, so the final gun exchange in Hue City was actually shot in a disused London factory yard, complete with imported palm trees. Also, the film is so intentionally detached from compassion that it becomes hard to relate to anyone in the film. While we're supposed to be shocked by the utter indifference with which people are killed or injured during warfare, the total refusal to present a glimmer of feeling or sympathy makes the film's second half as icily distant as it is bloodthirsty.

Full Metal Jacket is certainly powerful and potent, but it really is a tale of two halves. Kubrick's specificity in examining the psychology of the solider is so unrelenting and, dare I say militant; the second half doesn't have the same urgency, which leaves the viewer with a sense of deflation.

Jonathan Hutchings

Super Reviewer

Full Metal Jacket Quotes

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