Full Metal Jacket

Movie review by
Sarah Wenk, Common Sense Media
Full Metal Jacket Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Extremely graphic, violent Vietnam War film.
  • R
  • 1987
  • 117 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 33 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

As an attempt to convey the harsh realities of Marine life during the Vietnam War, and the mental and emotional toll it took on those who fought it, there are no real positive messages in this movie. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

No positive role models. 

Violence

Frequent war violence. A recruit in Marines boot camp shoots his drill sergeant with a rifle before turning the rifle on himself, sticking it in his mouth and pulling the trigger; the suicide is graphically shown. Soldiers killed in battle, graphically shown dying. An American soldier in a helicopter shoots his machine gun at Vietnamese civilians. Boot camp recruits stage a "blanket party" in the middle of the night, an act in which they pin down a soldier in his bunk, cover his face, then hit him repeatedly in the chest and arms with a bar of soap wrapped in a blanket. 

Sex

A Vietnamese prostitute propositions two servicemen, using the phrase "me so horny" while talking of what sex acts the servicemen will get if they make a deal with her. While on the battlefield, a soldier in the South Vietnamese Army brings a prostitute to American soldiers. When an African-American soldier pays for her, she refuses to have sex with him, claiming his penis will be too large for her. While talking of upcoming stories in the military newspaper Stars and Stripes, the editor discusses how the actress Ann Margaret will be making an appearance, and tells the photographer to find a way to take a picture of her "fur and early morning dew." A drill sergeant talks graphically of gay sex acts as a method to belittle the recruits he's training. Recruits make jokes about having sex with each other's sisters. 

Language

Frequent profanity throughout, covering pretty much every expletive in the English language, including regular use of the f-word. The drill sergeant uses racial slurs in reference to African Americans, Jews, and Italians. He also makes homophobic remarks intended to belittle the manhood of the recruits he's training. The Vietnamese are called "gooks" by American soldiers. A Vietnamese prostitute propositions two American servicemen with the phrase "me so horny" while saying what sex acts they would receive for money given. A racist joke about African Americans told amongst soldiers. Talk of a dead soldier who was about to be sent home due to compulsive masturbation. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cigarette smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Full Metal Jacket is a 1987 Stanley Kubrick-directed movie following a Marine's journey into darkness during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. The movie is unsparing in its portrayal of wartime violence -- soldiers get into fire fights, are shot by snipers, and are shown dying slowly on the battlefield. In one of the most disturbing scenes of the movie, a Marine recruit shown constantly making mistakes during boot camp and arousing the intense fury of his drill sergeant becomes mentally and emotionally unstable, sitting on a toilet, putting a rifle into his mouth and pulling the trigger -- head shown exploding into a splatter of blood from the bullet. Right before this, he shoots and kills his drill sergeant. Pretty much every expletive in the English language is used, including frequent use of "f--k," as well as racial slurs directed at African Americans, Jews, and Italians, as well as quips by the drill sergeant in which he calls his recruits gay. In two scenes, Vietnamese prostitutes proposition American servicemen and haggle over prices for sex acts. 

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byDavid M. October 24, 2019

Amazing Drama!

FMJ is one of the best war movies ever, most teens will be able to handle it. There is violence and some sexual talk.
Adult Written byscottb80 October 10, 2019

Military age teens might get something out of it

Yeah, it's violent, full of foul language, and intense scenes. But some parents might consider watching this with their teens approaching military age 15-1... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byGryfferinblake1917 April 20, 2020

Really good

It’s honestly not that bad in terms of graphicness. It’s not 18+. It’s really not. It’s nothing a 12 year old hasn’t heard/seen before. The only reason I said 1... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byClorox bleach January 30, 2020

Oh please

csm really rated this 18+. It wasn't really graphic. So apparently they rate clockwork orange 17+ that has rape very graphic violence. But they rate this m... Continue reading

What's the story?

The opening sequence of FULL METAL JACKET is a long series of scenes of Marine Corps basic training at Parris Island. It shows both the ways soldiers bond together and how they're driven apart by the brutal treatment they receive. Lee Emery is the drill sergeant to end all drill sergeants, and the soldiers under his command, who are soon known only by their nicknames -- Joker (Matthew Modine), Pyle (Vincent D'Onofrio), Cowboy (Arliss Howard) -- each react differently to the intense and often cruel training regime. Once in Vietnam, they are thrown into an unpopular war that they don't really understand, fighting an enemy who refuses to play by the rules.

Is it any good?

Although this is a film about the Vietnam War, it could just as easily be about current events. The ugly realities of war, and what soldiers have to go through before they even get there, are a timeless theme, and Full Metal Jacket looks at the whole picture.

There isn't a lot of plot -- the soldiers go from training to war and they fight for their lives -- but the relationships among the men and the extremity of the situation they're in are riveting. The film captures both the excitement and the tedium of war, but ultimately loses something by not having a stronger storyline and a stronger leading man. Modine is a good actor, but he is something of a cipher here. We don't know enough about him to care deeply for him, but he's the moral center of the film. It's a well-made film that is powerful and still relevant, but it somehow doesn't quite deliver what it seems it could. Also, it's way too violent for kids, so share this one with older teens only.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about movies centered on the Vietnam War. How is this one similar to and different from other Vietnam War movies?

  • How was profanity used to heighten the realities of soldiers going through boot camp and the rigors of warfare? What would have been lost in the movie without the profanity? 

  • Were the graphic depictions of violence necessary for the movie, or could the story have been told just as effectively without the graphic violence? How did the graphic violence fit in with the overall themes of the movie? 

Movie details

For kids who love history

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