Up 3,903 this week

A Bright Shining Lie (1998)

TV Movie  |  R  |   |  Drama, War  |  30 May 1998 (USA)
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 6.5/10 from 1,153 users  
Reviews: 22 user | 6 critic

True story of Army man John Paul Vann, whose military success provided him the fulfillment he never found in his personal life.



(book), (teleplay)
Watch Trailer
0Check in

On Disc

at Amazon

Celebrate IMDb's 25th Anniversary with Photos We Love

IMDb turns 25 on October 17! To celebrate, we put together a gallery of some of our favorite movie, TV, and event photos from the last 25 years.

See the Photos We Love

User Lists

Related lists from IMDb users

a list of 40 titles
created 28 Jan 2011
a list of 31 titles
created 08 Mar 2011
a list of 47 titles
created 04 Jan 2013
a list of 41 titles
created 02 Apr 2013
a list of 44 titles
created 27 Jun 2013

Related Items

Connect with IMDb

Share this Rating

Title: A Bright Shining Lie (TV Movie 1998)

A Bright Shining Lie (TV Movie 1998) on IMDb 6.5/10

Want to share IMDb's rating on your own site? Use the HTML below.

Take The Quiz!

Test your knowledge of A Bright Shining Lie.
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 3 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Action | Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A tough sergeant and his sidekick roll into a demoralized firebase and proceed to rebuild morale and fortifications in advance of the climactic battle with the VietCong.

Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Stars: Wings Hauser, R. Lee Ermey, Robert Arevalo
A Rumor of War (TV Movie 1980)
Biography | Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

The memories of a US private in Vietnam who slowly gets disillusioned as the war progresses.

Director: Richard T. Heffron
Stars: Brad Davis, Keith Carradine, Michael O'Keefe
Drama | War | Action
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

A very realistic interpretation of one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War.

Director: John Irvin
Stars: Anthony Barrile, Michael Boatman, Don Cheadle
Action | Romance | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  

In the Vietnam War, a bereaved US Navy A-6 Intruder tactical bomber pilot schemes with a hardened veteran to make an unauthorized air strike on Hanoi itself.

Director: John Milius
Stars: Danny Glover, Willem Dafoe, Brad Johnson
84C MoPic (1989)
Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Impressive performance by unknown actors in this low-budget Vietnam drama. The story is being told in the form of a documentary; a camera team follows an Army unit in pursuit of 'Charlie'. ... See full summary »

Director: Patrick Sheane Duncan
Stars: Jonathan Emerson, Nicholas Cascone, Jason Tomlins
Bat*21 (1988)
Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

During the Vietnam War, Colonel Hambleton's aircraft is shot down over enemy territory and a frantic rescue operation ensues.

Director: Peter Markle
Stars: Gene Hackman, Danny Glover, Jerry Reed
Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Follows a group of men as they prepare for the Vietnam war and their eventual tour of Vietnam.

Director: Sidney J. Furie
Stars: Stan Shaw, Andrew Stevens, James Canning
Action | Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

During the early 1960s, U.S. military advisers in South Vietnam discover the same challenges that plagued the French army in Indochina ten years prior.

Director: Ted Post
Stars: Burt Lancaster, Craig Wasson, Jonathan Goldsmith
Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Based on the true story of the 1981 hunger strike in a British prison, in which IRA prisoner Bobby Sands led a protest against the treatment of IRA prisoners as criminals rather than as ... See full summary »

Director: Terry George
Stars: Helen Mirren, Fionnula Flanagan, Aidan Gillen
When Trumpets Fade (TV Movie 1998)
Action | Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A private in the latter days of WWII on the German front struggles between his will to survive and what his superiors perceive as a battlefield instinct.

Director: John Irvin
Stars: Ron Eldard, Zak Orth, Frank Whaley
Action | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

Ten years after his son went MIA in Vietnam, U.S.Marine retired Colonel Jason Rhodes assembles a private rescue team to find Americans held in POW camps in Laos.

Director: Ted Kotcheff
Stars: Gene Hackman, Patrick Swayze, Robert Stack
War | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.3/10 X  

A young officer, just out of West Point is sent to Vietnam, where the men don't respect him until he gets wounded and returns to be a wiser soldier and a better commander

Director: Aaron Norris
Stars: Tony Pierce, Robert F. Lyons, Michael Dudikoff


Cast overview, first billed only:
Bo Eason ...
William L. Mansey ...
Robert L. Hull ...
'Josh' Somsak Orajan ...
Vann's ARVN Driver
Bill Whelan ...
Kay Tong Lim ...
Seng Kawee ...
VC Leader (as Kawee 'Seng' Sirikhanerut)
Kajie Khan ...
Madame Nhu (as Kajie Kahn)


Something in his past keeps career Army man John Paul Vann from advancing past colonel. He views being sent to Vietnam as part of the US military advisory force a stepping stone to promotion. However, he disagrees vocally (and on the record) with the way the war is being run and is forced to leave the military. Returning to Vietnam as a civilian working with the Army, he comes to despise some South Vietnamese officers while he takes charge of some of the U.S. forces and continues his liaisons with Vietnamese women. Written by Ron Kerrigan <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


In war as in life the difference between truth and deception is what a man allows himself to believe.


Drama | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for war violence and some language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

30 May 1998 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Mentiras de guerra  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


John: It is not true that we are here to solve problems, sir. WE are the problem.
See more »


Featured in The 56th Annual Golden Globe Awards (1999) See more »


Somebody to Love
Written by Darby Slick
Performed by Jefferson Airplane
Courtesy of The RCA Records Label of BMG Entertainment
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Not the Usual Suspects
11 April 2002 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

The ordinary trajectory in a film like this during times like these is for Vann, like Philip Caputo, Ron Kowalsky and numerous other figures before him, to enter the service on the verge of exploding with patriotism, idealism, and gung-ho-ness, then to learn that the Vietnamese war was a big mistake as he is turned around by the events he witnesses. Kind of like what happens to David Janssen in "The Green Berets," only in reverse. Not so here. This is a complex and admirable story of a complex and not entirely admirable man. He is sent to Vietnam as a Lt. Colonel, bursting with enthusiasm and with his eye on promotions, true, but he does not undergo an epiphany in which God or the Buddha appears shaking a finger at him. He wants to win the war but feels it's being fought inefficiently. We need to coopt the communist revolution by getting rid of the corrupt and cowardly Vietnamese officers and giving the rice back to the peasants or something like that. He makes his views known to the press and is more or less forced to resign his commission. (The story is a bit murky on this point.) After a few years' dry spell at home he is called back to Vietnam as some sort of civilian advisor who now wears the two stars of a general and issues military orders. He has not lost his enthusiasm or his idealism and comes to believe that we can now win the war by conventional means, even after Tet. He orchestrates a heroic victory over the North Vietnamese army, then his career ends, as does his life. That's not what I would call the usual ten-cent trajectory in character development. It isn't nearly linear enough. And in that nonlinearity it resembles life more than it does fiction. Is Vann a hero? Undoubtedly. Is he a good man? Well -- yes and no. After his marriage (to the character played by Amy Madigan) he sleeps with the 15-year-old babysitter. In Vietnam he evidently lies to a beautiful young woman he seduces and tells her he's separated from his wife. On his return to Vietnam he looks up the girl again. She seems just as gorgeous, at least to these eyes, but she's changed her hair or something so he avoids her. Instead he takes up with a schoolgirl and gets her pregnant. When confronted with his self-evident guilt by the girl's father, he marries her. On the other hand, he doesn't smoke or drink. There is an attempt to account for his misbehavior by means of some half-hearted palaver about how his mother was a whore. He was an illegitimate child and blames this status for keeping him out of West Point and getting him booted out of the army. The film betrays itself here if the writers and producers really meant to put forward this information as a pat explanation of his various failures, but if they meant it mainly as the way the protagonist attempts to justify God's ways to Vann, they hit the nail on the head. (Sure I'm flawed. Wouldn't you be, with a mother like mine?) The combat scenes are pretty effective, and so is Ed Lauter, playing a sympathetic guy for a change. Too bad the leads aren't. Whatever "charisma" means, Bill Paxton as Vann doesn't have it, though he looks the part; and the reporter from the New York Times, with whom Vann has a falling out, generates a rather large hole whenever he is on screen. The girls are indescribably delicious. Neil Sheehan, on whose book this story was based, has a tendency to stretch for drama and characters that aren't there. His earlier book could not turn the Captain of the USS Vance into Queeg. But judging from this film, he has presented a more complicated picture of a man here, a more adult portrait, warts and all. All together, the time spent watching this movie is well spent. I'm not sure how close I would like to get to a man who didn't smoke or drink and who called down artillery fire on his own position but it's fascinating to know something about him at this remove.

12 of 14 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Anyone want to argue about Vietnam . . . again? phenkle
musical piece from film iwasspamed
JFK's speech after intro balazs-lodi
Discuss A Bright Shining Lie (1998) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: