Movie Review:
Good Morning Vietnam (1988)


Good Morning Vietnam (1988)

TITLE: Good Morning Vietnam

RELEASE DATE: January 15, 1988 




Set in Saigon during the Vietnam War, the film follows the story of Adrian Cronauer, a radio DJ for the Armed Forces Radio Service, known for his unpredictable and often humorous broadcasts. Cronauer's unconventional methods draw the attention of his superiors while he finds friendship with his fellow soldiers and develops a romantic relationship with a Vietnamese woman.


There’s so much social commentary in this movie. I’m not going to be able to hit it all. I say that having written everything after this and knowing how damn long this section is. LOL

The use of humor to contract the absurdity of war hits the nail on the head for me. The way Adrian’s irreverent and satirical style mocks the military hierarchy, political leaders, the war itself, is all a form of resistance and subversion against authoritarian and oppressive systems. He tries so desperately to inform the troops of the truth of what’s happening rather than giving them the sanitized and misleading news that’s been approved.

His friendship with Tuan demonstrates a willingness to learn about the culture and actually help, but it’s balanced in Adrian’s own misconceptions of how his experiences and his own culture guide everything he does. He never grasps the level of privilege afforded to him in his own life. His desire to be fun and have fun blinds him to how much he is forcing his culture on them. And while not as deadly as an actual war, it does damage in the fact that he is interfering in what they need to no real purpose other than entertaining himself.

His relationship with Tuan shows mutual respect and curiosity, as they share a common interest in music and humor and they bond and cope with the war together. Despite political and ideological differences, there is a real connection and understanding between them, and in turn, could be for each of their countries. However, Tuan’s betrayal also reveals the deep mistrust and hostility that exists and the difficulty of reconciling their conflicting goals and values. There is so much said in simple lines of each of them accusing the other of being “the enemy.”

Their friendship also serves as a contrast to the official propaganda of both sides, particularly of the American side (as that’s the propaganda we are able to see), which shows the Vietnamese as either extremely grateful for liberation or as savages, with no middle ground.

Adrian’s relationship with Trinh morphs from physical attraction to an attempt to begin to understand the culture. However, his “relationship” is hindered by those same cultural and political barriers that exist between the two countries overall. Trinh is reluctant to get involved with him, knowing it cannot end well for either of them.

Adrian’s decision to teach English to a group of Vietnamese students, who are mostly service workers allows him to see the diversity and complexity of the Vietnamese people and to question official narratives, but it is also extremely problematic and insensitive, as he imposes his own cultural values and assumptions on the students, who may not share them/understand them. He ignores any political and historical context of the war, as well as the power imbalance between Americans and Vietnamese. He treats the class as a form of self-entertainment and escapism, as opposed to a serious and respectful exchange of knowledge.

Finally (although again, I could do this way longer than I’m going to), we have the social commentary of Adrian’s radio show. It’s a source of entertainment and comfort for the troops, but he also uses it to try to inform them of the truth about the war, rather than giving them the version he’s told to give them. Still, his show is always monitored and restricted who repeatedly attempt to silence him and get him to conform. This exposes the conflict between the individual, the system, the individual’s placement in that system, and the tension of freedom of expression and authority. It additionally serves as a contrast to all other forms of media available throughout Vietnam, including newspapers, television, etc. Whether it’s the US Military, the Viet Cong, or the South Vietnamese government, all other forms of media would’ve been controlled and distorted, presenting the agenda of each. Adrian tries to be the one form that doesn’t have that control, but no matter how “free” we think we are, we are still met with barriers controlling it.


Holy crap. What is not to love (see the next section)? This movie is fantastic and still hits me just as hard, if not harder than it always has. I love almost every aspect of this. Particularly Adrian’s most problematic parts. Adrian’s desire for Vietnamese women is handled in such a great way of traveling from just wanting to hook up with Vietnamese women to actually beginning to learn about their culture through spending time with Trinh. Even when he’s screaming at her near the end, he’s doing so to help her brother, but I still love that he comes off aggressive and semi-demeaning, instead of being a pure good guy. His ego-trip of taking over the English class is fun, but it’s also imposing his culture and his own experiences upon them all instead of giving them what they are really there for.

I love the moments they rip your heart out. When the bomb goes off at Jimmy’s, the movie’s tone changes in an instant. I love that moment. I really love the moment Adrian confronts Tuan as well. Just beautiful writing.


The main thing I don’t love is that this film glorifies a man who had very little in common with his on-screen counterpart. Adrian Cronauer was a real person. He was a DJ. He did start every show with “Goooooooood Morning, Vietnam!” But he was not a subversive person at all. He considered himself a “Lifelong card-carrying Republican” and took active roles in Bob Dole’s presidential campaign and George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign. He taught English, but in the way that was expected of him, not the way Robin does in the film. He was never in a Jeep that hit a mine.

Screenwriter Mitch Markowitz took many liberties with the script and the influence of his work on M*A*S*H seems to have played a role in this as well.

I guess I just don't see the point of naming the character Adrian Cronauer and using the very light reality while making everything up. They could have named Adrian anything and made him a fictional character instead of making people admire a completely fabricated story that has so little do with the real man.


I literally love almost every moment of this film. To this day I can’t help but talk along with the line, “If you do! If you dooooooooooo!”

Jimmy’s bombing rips me up. I love that moment as much as I hate it.

The scene confronting Tuan never gets old.

I would say the first time Adrian goes on the air, and the last time Adrian goes on the air are two of the absolute highlights… but yeah, there’s very little I don’t consider a great moment in this film.


Screenwriter Mitch Markowitz didn’t want Robin Williams to meet Adrian Cronauer until the movie was made so that Robin wouldn’t copy Adrian’s actual way of speaking… or that’s the story. I can’t help but wonder how much he just didn’t want Robin to know the real Adrian and reconsider the story. ;)