Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Apocalypse Now (1979)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Apocalypse Now (1979)

In director Francis Ford Coppola's hallucinatory and apocalyptic Vietnam War epic:

  • the opening credits sequence with the thumping sound of the choppers - and the billowing napalm flames coinciding with the music of The Doors, while drunken Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) was in his Saigon hotel room with a spinning ceiling fan (and his opening line: "Saigon. Shit. I'm still only in Saigon")
  • the compelling depiction of the horrors of war in the symbolic and surrealistic Navy patrol boat journey taking Captain Willard on an assassination mission
  • Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore's (Robert Duvall) choreographed Air Cavalry and its visual/audio swarming and swooping Huey helicopters dawn attack on a coastal Vietnamese village with Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries blaring over loudspeakers, and the napalm bombing of the jungle
Air Cavalry - Dawn Attack
"I love the smell of napalm in the morning..."
  • surf-loving, flamboyant and gung-ho fearless Lieutenant Kilgore's famous speech amidst blowing yellow smoke while others surfed in celebration: "I love the smell of napalm in the morning...smelled like...victory," (and "Charlie don't surf")
  • the arrival at an isolated US base supply depot at Hau Phat in a surreal nighttime scene brilliantly lit by floodlights
  • the Playboy Bunnies USO-style show for sex-starved soldiers
  • the scene in which the panicky crew senselessly massacred all the innocent Vietnamese peasants in a sampan with machine-gun fire
  • the bizarre night battle for the besieged, psychedically-lit, temporary Do Lung bridge
  • their arrival at the mad renegade Colonel Kurtz's (Marlon Brando) compound surrounded by mutilated bodies, dead enemies hanging on trees, and heads on poles
  • the dark, shadowy confrontation between Willard and an incoherently-mumbling and deranged Kurtz (weighing hundreds of pounds with head shaven) with his words about the 'horrors' he had experienced: "I've seen the horrors, horrors that you've seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me - you have a right to do that - but you have no right to judge me"
  • the emergence of Willard from the jungle water, and the concluding execution of Kurtz ("the Horror, the Horror!") interspersed with the ritualistic killing of a water buffalo/caribou (outraging animal activists)

Captain Willard Still in Saigon

Pre-Execution of Col. Kurtz

Death of Colonel Kurtz


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