On the Marine Corps’ Birthday: Four Memorable Films

In celebration of these veterans and military members, a handful of pop-culture standouts are worth another close viewing

by Melissa Mullins | Updated 09 Nov 2017 at 7:44 PM

Happy birthday to the United States Marine Corps!

There are several times throughout the year that veterans from all branches of the military are remembered — but November 10 is set aside for the United States Marine Corps, first established in 1775. Whether they go by the name of jarheads, devil dogs or leathernecks, one thing is certain — Marines are known for their toughness and brotherhood; their loyalty and ever-faithfulness to country and fellow Marines; and their pride, honor and integrity.

Over the years, Hollywood has used the United States Marine Corps as the main plot or sub-plot in many of its movies — for better or worse.

In celebration of the United States Marine Corps’ birthday, here are four movies that pay tribute to the Marines in all their glory, showing a tight-knit, unique brotherhood and depicting them as they have come to be known: The Few … The Proud … The Marines.

1.) “Full Metal Jacket.” Directed and produced in 1987 by the ever-talented Stanley Kubrick, this is probably one of the best-known movies to show the struggles of boot camp, and the experiences of Marines in the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War. Another reason for the film’s popularity: the many notorious quotes from characters in the film, most notably Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, played by R. Lee Ermey.

Interesting fact: R. Lee Ermey was originally hired by Kubrick as a technical adviser on the movie. A real-life drill instructor at Parris Island, Ermey wanted to play Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, so he made an audition reel of a foul-mouthed rant to a cast of extras that lasted over 15 minutes. Needless to say — Kubrick was impressed.

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2.) “Platoon.” Another movie that focused on Marines during the Vietnam War, this is a bit more political, as it was written and directed by Oliver Stone as an anti-war film. Released in 1986 with an all-star cast that included Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe and Tom Berenger, the movie tells of a soldier who left college to enlist in the Vietnam War — only to witness infighting within his unit. It also shares a sympathizer’s view on the Vietnamese locals.

Interesting fact: Stone wrote the script based on his own experience as a soldier during the Vietnam War. It was the first Hollywood movie both written and directed by a Vietnam veteran.

3.) “Flags of Our Fathers.” Written and directed by Clint Eastwood and based on the best-selling book by James Bradley with Ron Powers, this 2006 film tells the story of the five United States Marines and one Navy corpsman made famous in the photograph taken of their raising the American flag at Iwo Jima — one of the most enduring icons of American history.

The movie also shows the scars that stay forever with those men, long after the war, as they cannot forget those they left behind. This is one of the few films that reflect the aftermath of the lives of these six survivors.

Interesting fact: “Flags of Our Fathers” was Eastwood’s take from the American point of view of the Battle for Iwo Jima, whereas the companion movie, “Letters from Iwo Jima,” was his movie from the viewpoint of the Japanese.

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4.) “Sands of Iwo Jima.” A classic, this 1949 movie stars John Wayne as tough-guy Marine Sgt. John Stryker — whose squad can’t stand him. Although the men don’t care for him, they begin to value and respect Stryker’s rigid viewpoint on the war and his somewhat unconventional training techniques. Stryker’s squad soon begins to realize they’ll need to adapt to his tactics if they want to survive on the battlefield.

Interesting fact: Three of the survivors of the Battle of Iwo Jima make appearances in the movie to recreate the famous flag-raising photo that was taken on Feb. 23, 1945. The flag used in the scene is the same flag raised on Mount Suribachi the day the photo was taken. The U.S. Marine Corps Museum loaned the flag for the film.

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