Apocalypse Now

1979

Apocalypse Now

Critics Consensus

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

97%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 88

94%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 285,739
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Movie Info

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

Cast

Martin Sheen
as Capt. Benjamin Willard
Marlon Brando
as Col. Kurtz
Robert Duvall
as Lt. Col. Kilgore
Frederic Forrest
as Chef Hicks
Dennis Hopper
as Photojournalist
Harrison Ford
as Col. Lucas
Scott Glenn
as Capt. Richard Colby
Cynthia Wood
as Playmate of the Year
Cyndi Wood
as Playmate of the Year
Colleen Camp
as Playmate
George Canters
as Soldier with Suitcase
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
Larry Carney
as 2nd MP Sergeant
Marc Coppola
as AFRS Announcer
Daniel Kiewit
as Major from New Jersey
R. Lee Ermey
as Heliocopter Pilot
Father Elias
as Catholic Priest
Jerry Ross
as Malibu Johnny
Dick White
as Helicopter Pilot
Francis Ford Coppola
as TV Crew Director, Film 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 (88) | Top Critics (23) | Fresh (85) | Rotten (3)

  • Apocalypse has the expressive extravagance of a Wagner opera-and not merely because the swooping helicopter scene is set to the "Ride of the Valkyries."

    Oct 8, 2019 | Full Review…
  • It has coherence, truthfulness, and conviction-up to a point.

    Sep 6, 2018 | Full Review…
  • It's the cumulative effect generated by mixing richly portentous imagery with absurdly portentous prose, starkly portentous sound and flatulently portentous music.

    Dec 18, 2015 | Full Review…
  • Certainly, no movie in history has ever presented stronger proof that war is living hell.

    Aug 14, 2015 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Apocalypse Now is not merely the greatest film to come out of the Vietnam experience but one of the great works about the madness of our times.

    May 28, 2011 | Full Review…

    Philip French

    Guardian
    Top Critic
  • Undoubtedly it is one of the best films about war ever made.

    May 27, 2011 | Rating: 5/5

Audience Reviews for Apocalypse Now

  • Jan 27, 2018
    A disturbing film, but a poignant character study and a brilliant depiction of the horrors of the Vietnam War... I loved it!
    Serge E Super Reviewer
  • Jun 26, 2017
    In the 1970s Francis Ford Coppola directed four of the best films of the 20th century: The first two Godfather movies, The Conversation and Apocalypse Now. From this canon of work my favorite is Apocalypse Now. This is a collision of sound, image, and obsession. The horror of war and the need to commit to that horror is the theme. After it's over it will echo in your mind... forever and ever.
    Aldo G Super Reviewer
  • Aug 25, 2016
    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 M Super Reviewer
  • Apr 17, 2016
    Excellent camera work, an impeccably chosen sound track and legendary performances make for one of the greatest war epics of all time. Apocalypse Now captures the madness and terror of war and the darker elements of our existence, perhaps most perfectly in any scene not directly dealing with combat. The simple hunt for a surfing spot or the bizarre USO show scenes are more rattling than the movie's visceral gory moments. A viewer is inescapably left with a deep sense of unease and confusion throughout this film. The excellent Marlon Brando delivers a captivating and, evidently, mostly unscripted performance. He steals the final third of the movie. At every moment there is an engrossing sense of confusion, angst and simmering anger, all the essential ingredients of insanity. Col Kurtz crossed a line somewhere in his journey through combat from which he cannot return. War provides the canvass and catalyst for Col Kurtz to see the remarkable humbling reality of how precariously close we all sit to falling into the "horror". Seldom is a film so brilliant it cannot really be adequately summarized in words, Apocalypse Now is such a film. When you walk away after your first viewing, you cannot help but feel that you witnessed a crowning artistic achievement. Perhaps the subject matter of madness in war is what keeps this film so illusory and mystifying, yet, make no mistake, it is truly excellent.
    Shane S Super Reviewer

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