Vietnam Veterans as Portrayed in Film

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In 1978, two major Vietnam movies were released: Coming Home and The Deer Hunter. These films came out about three years after the end of the war and were among the first film interpretations of what happened both with the soldiers in Vietnam and back at home with the veterans in the U.S.

Coming Home was a Jane Fonda-led film that became the first movie produced by her company, IPC Films.  Fonda was inspired by antiwar rallies and her friendship with Ron Kovic—a Vietnam war vet whose story would later become both a book and a film called Born on the Fourth of JulyComing Home centers around a relationship that Fonda’s character builds with a Vietnam vet who is paralyzed (Jon Voight) while her Marine Captain husband (Bruce Dern) is overseas.

The Deer Hunter was set amongst steel workers in late 1960s Clairton, PA.  The film follows a trio of men from Western Pennsylvania (Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and John Savage) as they become soldiers in Vietnam and shows if and how they make their ways back home.  The film also featured Meryl Streep’s second movie role and her first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

At the 51st Academy Awards in 1979, the films nearly split most of the major awards.  Coming Home won Best Actress (Jane Fonda), Best Actor (Jon Voight), and Best Original Screenplay (Waldo Salt, Robert C. Jones, and Nancy Dowd).  The Deer Hunter took Best Picture (Barry Spikings, Michael Deeley, Michael Cimino, and John Peverall), Best Director (Michael Cimino ), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Christopher Walken ), Best Film Editing (Peter Zinner ), and Best Sound (Richard Portman, William McCaughey, Aaron Rochin, and Darin Knight).

Coming Home

A woman whose husband is fighting in Vietnam falls in love with another man who suffered a paralyzing combat injury there.

The Deer Hunter

An in-depth examination of the ways in which the U.S. Vietnam War impacts and disrupts the lives of people in a small industrial town in Pennsylvania.