Apocalypse Now (1979) - Rotten Tomatoes

Apocalypse Now (1979)

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Critic Consensus: Francis Ford Coppola's haunting, hallucinatory Vietnam War epic is cinema at its most audacious and visionary.

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One of a cluster of late-1970s films about the Vietnam War, Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now adapts the Joseph Conrad novella Heart of Darkness to depict the war as a descent into primal madness. Capt. Willard (Martin Sheen), already on the edge, is assigned to find and deal with AWOL Col. Kurtz (Marlon Brando), rumored to have set himself up in the Cambodian jungle as a local, lethal godhead. Along the way Willard encounters napalm and Wagner fan Col. Kilgore (Robert Duvall), draftees who prefer to surf and do drugs, a USO Playboy Bunny show turned into a riot by the raucous soldiers, and a jumpy photographer (Dennis Hopper) telling wild, reverent tales about Kurtz. By the time Willard sees the heads mounted on stakes near Kurtz's compound, he knows Kurtz has gone over the deep end, but it is uncertain whether Willard himself now agrees with Kurtz's insane dictum to "Drop the Bomb. Exterminate them all." Coppola himself was not certain either, and he tried several different endings between the film's early rough-cut screenings for the press, the Palme d'Or-winning "work-in-progress" shown at Cannes, and the final 35 mm U.S. release (also the ending on the video cassette). The chaotic production also experienced shut-downs when a typhoon destroyed the set and star Sheen suffered a heart attack; the budget ballooned and Coppola covered the overages himself. These production headaches, which Coppola characterized as being like the Vietnam War itself, have been superbly captured in the documentary, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse. Despite the studio's fears and mixed reviews of the film's ending, Apocalypse Now became a substantial hit and was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for Duvall's psychotic Kilgore, and Best Screenplay. It won Oscars for sound and for Vittorio Storaro's cinematography. This hallucinatory, Wagnerian project has produced admirers and detractors of equal ardor; it resembles no other film ever made, and its nightmarish aura and polarized reception aptly reflect the tensions and confusions of the Vietnam era. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi
Rating:
R (adult situations/language, violence)
Genre:
Action & Adventure , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 wide
On DVD:
Runtime:
Studio:

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Cast

Martin Sheen
as Capt. Benjamin Willard
Marlon Brando
as Col. Kurtz
Robert Duvall
as Lt. Col. Kilgore
Frederic Forrest
as Chef Hicks
Sam Bottoms
as Lance
Dennis Hopper
as Photojournalist
Harrison Ford
as Col. Lucas
Scott Glenn
as Capt. Richard Colby
Albert Hall
as Chief
G.D. Spradlin
as Corman
Cynthia Wood
as Playmate of the Year
Bill Graham
as Agent
Cyndi Wood
as Playmate of the Year
George Canters
as Soldier with Suitcase
Colleen Camp
as Playmate
Linda Carpenter
as Playmate
Jerry Ziesmer
as Civilian
Bo Byers
as 1st MP Sergeant
James Keane
as Kilgore's Gunner
Kerry Rossall
as San Diego Mike
Ron McQueen
as Injured Soldier
Tom Mason
as Supply Sergeant
Jack Thibeau
as Soldier in Trench
Glenn Walken
as Lieutenant Carlsen
George Cantero
as Soldier with Suitcase
Damien Leake
as Machine Gunner
Herb Rice
as Roach
William Upton
as Spotter
Larry Carney
as 2nd MP Sergeant
Marc Coppola
as AFRS Announcer
Daniel Kiewit
as Major from New Jersey
Father Elias
as Catholic Priest
R. Lee Ermey
as Heliocopter Pilot
Jerry Ross
as Malibu Johnny
Dick White
as Helicopter Pilot
Francis Ford Coppola
as Film Director, TV Crew Director
Vittorio Storaro
as Member of TV Crew
Eleanor Coppola
as Photographer
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News & Interviews for Apocalypse Now

Critic Reviews for Apocalypse Now

All Critics (78) | Top Critics (16)

It's the cumulative effect generated by mixing richly portentous imagery with absurdly portentous prose, starkly portentous sound and flatulently portentous music.

Full Review… | December 18, 2015
Washington Post
Top Critic

Certainly, no movie in history has ever presented stronger proof that war is living hell.

Full Review… | August 14, 2015
New York Daily News
Top Critic

A film of pure sensation, dazzling audiences with light and noise, laying bare the stark horror - and unimaginable thrill - of combat.

Full Review… | May 25, 2011
Time Out
Top Critic

Alternately a brilliant and bizarre film, Francis Coppola's four year 'work in progress' offers the definitive validation to the old saw, 'war is hell.'

Full Review… | July 2, 2007
Variety
Top Critic

...it's wonderful to see this hallucinatory folly-cum-near masterpiece again on the big screen.

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Apocalypse Now did help provide me, and many of my generation, with a vision of what film art could achieve, a vision so magnificent it doomed us to spend much of our subsequent moviegoing lives in a funk.

July 21, 2005
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Apocalypse Now

Enjoyed the first two thirds of the movie more than the final third, but it was still very well done and well acted. Fat Brando is always nice, too.

Spencer Macklin
Spencer Macklin

Super Reviewer

½

Coppola's all-time classic is an intense Vietnam War nightmare that sets out to portray with some of the most spectacular visuals the unfathomable horror and madness of war, following a man as he goes further and further in a harrowing descent into the very heart of darkness.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

½

The way the film is shot is as searing as the Vietnamese heat; few films can compare to the intensity and quality of picturesque way it is shot accompanied with its great writing, and legendary direction.

Adriel Lim
Adriel Lim

Super Reviewer

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