Ultimately, all of this research comes down to the question of “so what?” What is the point of this movie and whether or not it is historically accurate – why does it matter? The short answer is that this is a very popular movie, if anything, simply because of Robin William’s leading role, but through watching, it is shaping viewers’ understanding of the Vietnam War. The film is quite funny, though by today’s standards a great deal of the humor has not aged well, particularly the film’s treatment of homosexuality. That being said, it also provides important and moving commentary on the atrocities of the Vietnam War, colonizing attitudes of American forces, cultural differences, and better establishing the complexities of the conflict, including exploring some of the motivations of the Vietcong through the character Tuan and his friendship with Adrian. While it may not be 100% accurate, it may show the capital building in Thailand in the background of what is supposed to be a Vietnamese road, some cars in the film may be anachronistic by a few years, the overall feeling and atmosphere is there. The horrors of war, the dense jungle, the rice paddies, some exploration of Vietnamese food and markets, and more. Additionally, its message on censorship and that what we see in the news doesn’t always line up with the reality of the actual war or situation are increasingly relevant in today’s age of social media and polarization of news media. This film is significant alongside other movies about Vietnam because of its unique approach of blending comedy and tragedy, and its exploration of the complexities of the Vietnam War along with where the United States went wrong in this conflict.
This is a real image from a photographer in Vietnam during the war. It alongside a clip of the bombing of the GI bar in the movie below helps to better show how the movie accurately portrayed the violence and carnage of the war.