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Apocalypse Now


Key Facts

Main ideas Key Facts

full title · Apocalypse Now

director · Francis Ford Coppola

leading actors · Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando

supporting actors · Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Albert Hall, Frederic Forrest, Laurence Fishburne (credited Larry Fishburne), Sam Bottoms

type of work · Feature film

genre · War film (Vietnam)

language  · English

time and place produced · Shot February 1976 through May 1977 in the Philippines; postproduction took place in California from May 1977 to May 1979


 · 1979 Academy Awards:
 · Winner, Best Cinematography (Vittorio Storaro)
 · Winner, Best Sound (Walter Murch, Mark Berger, Richard Beggs, and Nathan Boxer)
 · Nominated, Best Picture (Francis Ford Coppola, Fred Roos, Gray Frederickson, and Tom Sternberg)
 · Nominated, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Robert Duvall)
 · Nominated, Best Director (Francis Ford Coppola)
 · Nominated, Best Screenplay Based on Another Medium (John Milius and Francis Ford Coppola)
 · Nominated, Best Art Direction (Dean Tavoluaris and Angelo Graham, art direction; Ian Whittaker, set decoration)
 · Nominated, Best Film Editing (Richard Marks, Walter Murch, Gerald B. Greenberg, and Lisa Fruchtman)
 · 1979 Cannes Film Festival
 · Winner, Golden Palm Award
 · Winner, FIPRESCI Prize
 · 1980 American Movie Marquee
 · Winner, Best Supporting Actor (Robert Duvall)
 · 1980 British Academy of Film and Television Award
 · Winner, Best Direction (Francis Ford Coppola)
 · 1980 David Di Donatello Award for Best Director of a Foreign Film (Francis Ford
 · 1980 Golden Globes
 · Winner, Best Director, Motion Picture (Francis Ford Coppola)
 · Winner, Best Motion Picture Actor in a Supporting Role (Robert Duvall)
 · Winner, Best Original Score in a Motion Picture (Carmine Coppola, Francis Ford Coppola)
 · 1980 Germany’s Golden Screen Award
 · 1980 National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor (Frederic Forrest)
 · 1981 London Critics Film Circle award for Film of the Year

date of release · 1979


 · Francis Ford Coppola (credited as Francis Coppola)
 · Coproduced by Fred Roos, Gray Frederickson, and Tom Sternberg

setting (time) · 1968

setting (place) · Vietnam

protagonist · U.S. army captain Benjamin Willard

major conflict · Willard must struggle against the horrors and hypocrisies of war and the darkness within himself to complete his mission and kill Colonel Kurtz.

rising action · As Willard works his way upriver to Kurtz, his target, he faces and participates in several of the war’s atrocities and absurdities, including a preemptive air strike on a Vietnamese village, a seedy USO show, and an attack on innocent Vietnamese peasants in a sampan, leading him to realize fully the futility of war and question whether he will complete his mission and kill Kurtz, a man whom he has come to admire and emulate to a disturbing degree.

climax · Willard’s mud-covered emergence from the river cements his Kurtzlike transformation and signals that he has given in to the dark side of his nature and will murder Kurtz in a ruthless, ritualistic fashion.

falling action · After murdering Kurtz, Willard is given the opportunity to replace the colonel as a godlike figure. In rejecting this opportunity, he rejects the acceptance of human evil as king.

themes · The hypocrisy of Western imperialism; madness as a result of war; the emptiness of American values

motifs · Darkness; escape; home

symbols · Masks; the river; fog

foreshadowing · The film opens with helicopters lurking ominously over the jungle, accompanied by the Doors’ moody song “The End”; Chef and Willard encounter a tiger when they venture off the boat to look for mangoes; Willard murders the Vietnamese peasant woman in the sampan; Lance smears his face with paint like the members of Kurtz’s army