The tribalism, the raw unpredictable forces of nature. In the cases of Apocalypse Now, Sorcerer, and Fitzcarraldo, you can feel the authentic danger of the set. Some of the wildest behind the scenes stories were born from these movies.
10. The Serpent and the Rainbow
Not a big Wes Craven fan by any stretch. He's made a few films that I genuinely enjoy and out of those film, my favorite is Serpent and the Rainbow. Craven taps into something diabolical here: Haitian voodoo. It offers a refreshing take on the zombie and the hallucination sequences are Craven at his peak.
This film has so many quotable lines from just about every member of the cast. Each cast member is memorable and that stands as a testament to John McTiernan's direction. A boot camp movie just like Platoon a year after, you get a real sense of the jungle as the marines go deeper into it. You also get to see it get torn apart by a minigun and grenade launchers, so there's that.
8. The Thin Red Line
"You volunteered for this shit man?"
Oliver Stone's own personal experiences in the Vietnam War fueled his passion to depict it on the big screen. It begins with a memorable opening. The ants and mosquitos. Falling asleep while on a shift. Stone gets the exhaustion and environment down to a science.
6. Cannibal Holocaust
1 minute in- Wow this looks pretty peaceful. A relaxing score and beautiful panoramas. I don't know what they were talking about. 30 minutes in- What the fuck! Is that? Oh god!
Between all the abhorrent scenes of torture, the impaling of a woman and degradation perpetuated onto villagers by the four main documentarians, it is easy to see why the movie has such a reputation. The difference between this and other movies like A Serbian Film is the way it was shot. CH is ugly, crude, rough. It grips you by the hair and drags you through the jungle. Even among other cannibal movies of that time- Umberto Lenzi would release Cannibal Ferox a year later- it stands above. There is a savagery to the movie that is unmatched.
From the opening scene, Herzog shows how nature dwarfs man. Man and nature has been a reoccuring theme in his works and he really is the guy that first comes to mind when you think about eccentric, will stop at nothing to get that shot kind of directors. Truly fearless. The best thing about watching a Herzog film is not knowing what part of the world he will take you to.
4. Southern Comfort
Walter Hill never really got the appreciation he deserved. He was on a streak with The Driver, The Warriors, but he reached his peak with Southern Comfort. It can be viewed as a metaphor for Vietnam, though Hill denies this. It's got a stand of DNA it shares with Cannibal Holocaust in that the National Guardsmen are as tribal as the backwoodsmen they are fighting. A hidden gem.
3. Fitzcarraldo/Burden of Dreams
How do you convince a tribe to pull a three story, 320-ton steamship over a steep jungle portage? You contact Werner. Fucking. Herzog. That's how you do it. I can't imagine any other director going these lengths. The cinematography by Thomas Mauch, who photographed another Herzog movie in the list, (Agguirre) beautifully captures the jungle and human spirit's quest to make a place in it.
I remember showing my girlfriend this film. 20 minutes in she commented on it being nihilistic, exhausting and utterly dark. This was before the meat of the plot was introduced. It's reactions like that to films like these that signal one thing: the filmmaker succeeded. You feel the sweat, dirt, and grit as these four guys travel through the jungle with nitro glycerin in the back of their trucks. It's as tense a film Friedkin ever made, And he made The Exorcist.This film is top 10 worthy.
1. Apocalypse Now
What more can I say about this movie? A massive influence on my writing and a film that I always learn new things from each time I watch it.