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Apocalypse Now (1979)

R  |   |  Drama, War  |  15 August 1979 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.5/10 from 412,293 users   Metascore: 90/100
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During the Vietnam War, Captain Willard is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade colonel who has set himself up as a god among a local tribe.


(as Francis Coppola)


, (as Francis Coppola) , 2 more credits »
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Top 250 Movies #48 | Won 2 Oscars. Another 20 wins & 30 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Tyrone 'Clean' Miller (as Larry Fishburne)
Jerry Ziesmer ...
Bo Byers ...


It is the height of the war in Vietnam, and U.S. Army Captain Willard is sent by Colonel Lucas and a General to carry out a mission that, officially, 'does not exist - nor will it ever exist'. The mission: To seek out a mysterious Green Beret Colonel, Walter Kurtz, whose army has crossed the border into Cambodia and is conducting hit-and-run missions against the Viet Cong and NVA. The army believes Kurtz has gone completely insane and Willard's job is to eliminate him! Willard, sent up the Nung River on a U.S. Navy patrol boat, discovers that his target is one of the most decorated officers in the U.S. Army. His crew meets up with surfer-type Lt-Colonel Kilgore, head of a U.S Army helicopter cavalry group which eliminates a Viet Cong outpost to provide an entry point into the Nung River. After some hair-raising encounters, in which some of his crew are killed, Willard, Lance and Chef reach Colonel Kurtz's outpost, beyond the Do Lung Bridge. Now, after becoming prisoners of Kurtz, will... Written by Derek O'Cain

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The Horror. . . The Horror. . .


Drama | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for disturbing violent images, language, sexual content and some drug use | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:



| |

Release Date:

15 August 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$31,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$96,992 (USA) (3 August 2001)


£338,493 (UK) (21 December 2001)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (Redux) | (workprint)

Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints)| (Redux version)| (35 mm prints)| (Redux version)



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The iconic opening scene of the palm trees burning under a storm of napalm as involved the destruction of a real forest. Around 1,200 gallons of gasoline were poured over the splendid palm trees and then set alight. Tires were also burned to generate more smoke for the shot, while canisters were dropped onto the area to look like falling napalm. Acres of the forest were destroyed in a matter of seconds. Since the movie was filmed in the Philippines who were in the midst of their own war with rebels, environmental issues were not a big priority. Francis Ford Coppola would later say, "They'd never let you (do it) in the U.S. - the environmentalists would kill you." See more »


Capt Willard's audio narration says this about Lt Col Kilgore's unit: "The First of the Ninth was an old Cavalry division." But in military shorthand, 'First' would indicate the 1st Squadron (Battalion), and 'Ninth' would indicate the 9th Regiment. Neither of these is a division, which is a higher echelon organization. See more »


[first lines]
Willard: [voiceover] Saigon... shit; I'm still only in Saigon... Every time I think I'm gonna wake up back in the jungle.
Willard: When I was home after my first tour, it was worse.
[grabs at flying insect]
Willard: I'd wake up and there'd be nothing. I hardly said a word to my wife, until I said "yes" to a divorce. When I was here, I wanted to be there; when I was there, all I could think of was getting back into the jungle. I'm here a week now... waiting for a mission... getting softer. Every minute I stay ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

There are no opening credits in the film. The title can be seen as graffiti in the Kurtz compound late in the film. See more »


Referenced in StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm (2013) See more »


Excerpts from 'Mnong Gar Music from Vietnam'
Courtesy of OCORA Radio France
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Coppola conveyed the drama and spectacle of this truly outstanding film…
11 December 2008 | by (Mexico) – See all my reviews

After the success of the first two 'Godfather' films in 1972 and 1974 respectively, Francis Ford Coppola embarked on an ambitious attempt to bring home the reality of the war in Vietnam, which had concluded with the fall of Saigon to the Vietcong in 1975… The plot was loosely based on the book 'Heart of Darkness,' a story by Joseph Conrad about Kurtz, a trading company agent in the African jungle who has acquired mysterious powers over the natives…Coppola retains much of this, including such details as the severed heads outside Kurtz's headquarters and his final words, "The horror… the horror…"

In the film, Sheen plays an army captain given the mission to penetrate into Cambodia, and eliminate, with "extreme prejudice," a decorated officer who has become an embarrassment to the authorities… On his journey up the river to the renegade's camp he experiences the demoralization of the US forces, high on dope or drunk with power…

Although, as a result of cuts forced on Coppola, the film was accused of incoherence when first released, it was by the most serious attempt to get to grips with the experience of Vietnam and a victorious reinvention of the war film genre… In 1980 the film won an Oscar for Best Cinematography and Best Sound…

"Apocalypse Now" was re-released in 2001 with fifty minutes restored… As a result, the motion picture can now be seen as the epic masterpiece it is…

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