Apocalypse Now is a 1979 epic war film that follows Captain Willard on a dangerous mission to assassinate a renegade Green Beret who has set himself up as a god of a band of brutal guerrillas in the jungles of Cambodia. It is a very loose adaptation of the 1899 novella Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.
- I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That's my dream. That's my nightmare: crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight razor and surviving.
- Have you ever considered any real freedoms? Freedoms from the opinion of others... even the opinions of yourself?
- As long as cold beer, hot food, rock 'n' roll, and all the other amenities remain expected norm, our conduct of the war will only gain impotence.
- I've seen horrors, horrors that you've seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that, but you have no right to judge me. It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror! Horror has a face, and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies.
- I remember when I was with Special Forces. Seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate the children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile: a pile of little arms. And I remember I...I...I cried. I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn't know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget. And then I realized, like I was shot — like I was shot with a diamond...a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought: My God, the genius of that. The genius! The will to do that: perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we, because they could stand it. These were not monsters. These were men, trained cadres — these men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who have children, who are filled with love — but they had the strength — the strength! — to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling, without passion, without judgement. Without judgement! Because it's judgement that defeats us.
- We train young men to drop fire on people, but their commanders won't allow them to write "fuck" on their airplanes because it's obscene!
- I worry that my son might not understand what I've tried to be. And if I were to be killed, Willard, I would want someone to go to my home and tell my son everything – everything I did, everything you saw – because there's nothing that I detest more than the stench of lies. And if you understand me, Willard, you will do this for me.?
- The horror! The horror! [These are Kurtz's last words, and parallel those of the novella's Mr. Kurtz character.]
Captain Benjamin L. Willard
- Saigon... shit; I'm still only in Saigon... Every time I think I'm gonna wake up back in the jungle. When I was home after my first tour, it was worse. I'd wake up and there'd be nothing. I hardly said a word to my wife, until I said "yes" to a divorce. When I was here, I wanted to be there; when I was there, all I could think of was getting back into the jungle. I'm here a week now... waiting for a mission... getting softer. Every minute I stay in this room, I get weaker, and every minute Charlie squats in the bush, he gets stronger. Each time I looked around the walls moved in a little tighter.
- [voiceover] I was going to the worst place in the world and I didn't even know it yet. Weeks away and hundreds of miles up a river that snaked through the war like a main circuit cable plugged straight into Kurtz. It was no accident that I got to be the caretaker of Colonel Walter E. Kurtz's memory any more than being back in Saigon was an accident. There is no way to tell his story without telling my own. And if his story really is a confession, then so is mine.
- [voiceover] It's a way we had over here with living with ourselves. We cut 'em in half with a machine gun and give 'em a Band-Aid. It was a lie. And the more I saw them, the more I hated lies.
- [voiceover] Oh man... the bullshit piled up so fast in Vietnam, you needed wings to stay above it.
- [reading a letter Kurtz has sent to his son]
I'm afraid that both you and your mother will have been worried at not hearing from me during the past weeks, but my situation here has become a difficult one. I've been officially accused of murder by the Army. The alleged victims were four Vietnamese double agents. We spent months uncovering them and accumulating evidence. When absolute proof was completed, we acted. We acted like soldiers. The charges are unjustified. They are in fact, and in the circumstances of this conflict, quite completely insane. In a war, there are many moments for compassion and tender action. There are many moments for ruthless action — what is often called ruthless, what may in many circumstances be only clarity — seeing clearly what there is to be done and doing it directly, quickly, awake, looking at it. I will trust you to tell your mother what you choose about this letter. As for the charges against me, I am unconcerned. I am beyond their timid, lying morality, and so I am beyond caring.
You have all my faith.
Your loving father."
- 'Never get out of the boat.' Absolutely goddamn right! Unless you were goin' all the way... Kurtz got off the boat. He split from the whole fuckin' program.
- Part of me was afraid of what I would find and what I would do when I got there. I knew the risks, or imagined I knew. But the thing I felt the most, much stronger than fear, was the desire to confront him.
- [voiceover] They were gonna make me a major for this, and I wasn't even in their fuckin' army anymore. Everybody wanted me to do it, him most of all. I felt like he was up there, waiting for me to take the pain away. He just wanted to go out like a soldier, standing up, not like some poor, wasted, rag-assed renegade. Even the jungle wanted him dead, and that's who he really took his orders from anyway.
- [voiceover] Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my sins, they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service. It was a real choice mission, and when it was over, I never wanted another.
Lieutenant Colonel William "Bill" Kilgore
- You smell that? Do you smell that? Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn't find one of 'em, not one stinkin' dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like...victory. Someday this war's gonna end.
- Note: bolded line is ranked #12 in the American Film Institute's list of the top 100 movie quotations in American cinema, and has replaced the full reference in popular culture.
- Charlie don't surf!
- If I say it’s safe to surf this beach, Captain, it’s safe to surf this beach!
Engineman 3rd Class Jay "Chef" Hicks
- [after being given a "tour" of Kurtz's camp, which contained rows of human heads impaled on spikes and displayed around ancient temples, Chef is horrified]
"This Colonel guy? He's wacko, man! He's far worse than crazy - he's evil! I mean that's what the man's got set up here. It's fuckin' pagan idolatry! Look around you. Shit! He's loco... I ain't afraid of all them fuckin' skulls and altars and shit. I used to think if I died in an evil place, then my soul wouldn't be able to make it to Heaven. But now? Fuck! I mean, I don't care where it goes, as long as it ain't here! So whaddya wanna do? I'll kill the fuck..."
- This is dialectics. It's very simple dialectics: one through nine, no maybes, no supposes, no fractions. You can't travel in space, you can't go out into space, you know, without like, you know, with fractions! What are you going to land on: one quarter, three eighths? What are you going to do when you go from here to Venus or something? That's dialectic physics, okay?
- This is the way the world ends. Look at this shit we're in man. Not with a bang, but with a whimper, and with a whimper, I'm splitting, Jack. [Note: This is a variation on T.S. Eliot's The Hollow Men – "This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper".]
- [talking to Willard about Kurtz] Why? Why would a nice guy like you want to kill a genius? Going down pretty good, huh? Why? Do you know that the man really likes you? He likes you. He really likes you. But he's got something in mind for you. Aren't you curious about that? I'm curious. I'm very curious. Are you curious? There's something happening out here, man. You know something, man? I know something you that you don't know. That's right, Jack. The man is clear in his mind, but his soul is mad. Oh, yeah. He's dying, I think. He hates all this. He hates it! But the man's a... He reads poetry out loud, all right? And a voice... He likes you because you're still alive. He's got plans for you. No, I'm not gonna help you. You're gonna help him, man. You're gonna help him. I mean, what are they gonna say, man, when he's gone? 'Cause he dies when it dies, man! When it dies, he dies! What are they gonna say about him? What? Are they gonna say he was a kind man? He was a wise man? He had plans? He had wisdom? Bullshit, man! And am I gonna be the one that's gonna set them straight? Look at me! Wrong! [points to Willard] You!
Lieutenant General Corman
- Well, you see Willard, in this war, things get confused out there: power, ideals, the old morality, practical military necessity. But out there with these natives, it must be a temptation to be god, because there's a conflict in every human heart, between the rational and the irrational, between good and evil, and good does not always triumph. Sometimes, the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. Every man has got a breaking point. You and I have one. Walter Kurtz has reached his, and very obviously, he has gone insane.
- Colonel G. Lucas: Your mission is to proceed up the Nung River in a Navy patrol boat. Pick up Colonel Kurtz's path at Nu Mung Ba, follow it, and learn what you can along the way. When you find the Colonel, infiltrate his team by whatever means available and terminate the Colonel's command.
- Captain Benjamin L. Willard: Terminate the Colonel?
- General Corman: He's out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct. And he is still in the field commanding troops.
- Jerry: Terminate with extreme prejudice.
- Lucas: You understand, Captain, that this mission does not exist, nor will it ever exist.
- Engineman 3rd Class Jay "Chef" Hicks: How come all you guys sit on your helmets?
- Soldier: So we don't get our balls blown off.
- [Chef laughs a little, then sits on his helmet.]
- Captain Benjamin L. Willard: Are you crazy, God damn it? Don't you think its a little risky for some R&R?
- Lieutenant Colonel William "Bill" Kilgore: If I say it's safe to surf this beach, Captain, then it's safe to surf this beach. I mean, I'm not afraid to surf this place. I'll surf this whole fucking place!
- Captain Benjamin L. Willard: Who's the commanding officer here, soldier?
- Infantryman: Ain't you?
- Captain Benjamin L. Willard: Soldier, do you know who's in command here?
- The Roach: Yeah.
- [He turns away.]
- Lt. Carlsen: I'm Lt. Carlsen. I was sent from Nha Trang with this message for you three days ago, sir. They expected you here a little sooner. This is mail for the boat's crew. You don't know how happy this makes me in delivering all this.
- Captain Benjamin L. Willard: Why?
- Lt. Carlsen: Because now I can get out of here... if I can find a way. [an enemy artillery shell lands dangerously close by as Lt. Carlsen runs away] You're in the asshole of the world, Captain!
- Captain Benjamin L. Willard: My mission is to make it up into Cambodia. There's a Green Beret Colonel up there who's gone insane. I'm supposed to kill him.
- Engineman 3rd Class Jay "Chef" Hicks: That's fucking typical! Shit. Fuckin' Vietnam mission! I'm short, and we gotta go up there so you can kill one of our own guys? That's fuckin' great! That's just fuckin' great, man. Shit. That's fuckin'... crazy! I thought you were going in there to blow up a bridge, or, some fucking railroad tracks or somethin'.
- Captain Benjamin L. Willard: I'm sorry. Look, I'll cut you loose here and you can turn around and...
- Engineman 3rd Class Jay "Chef" Hicks: [interrupting] No, no, we go together... on the boat! We came this far, so we go together. All the way! We'll take you up there, we'll go with you... but on the boat! Okay?
- Captain Benjamin L. Willard: Could we, uh, talk to Colonel Kurtz?
- Photojournalist: Hey, man, you don't talk to the Colonel. You listen to him. The man's enlarged my mind. He's a poet-warrior in the classic sense. I mean, sometimes he'll, uh, well, you'll say hello to him, right? And he'll just walk right by you, and he won't even notice you. And suddenly he'll grab you, and he'll throw you in a corner, and he'll say "Do you know that 'if' is the middle word in life? 'If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you'" I mean, I'm no — I can't — I'm a little man. I'm a little man. He's, he's a great man. I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across floors of silent seas. [Note: The last sentences here reference first Rudyard Kipling's poem If— and then T.S. Eliot's poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.]
- Colonel Walter E. Kurtz: Did they say why, Willard, why they want to terminate my command?
- Captain Benjamin L. Willard: I was sent on a classified mission, sir.
- Kurtz: It's no longer classified, is it? Did they tell you?
- Willard: They told me that you had gone totally insane, and that your methods were unsound.
- Kurtz: Are my methods unsound?
- Willard: I don't see any method at all, sir.
- Kurtz: I expected someone like you. What did you expect? Are you an assassin?
- Willard: I'm a soldier.
- Kurtz: You're neither. You're an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill.
- Marlon Brando - Colonel Walter E. Kurtz
- Robert Duvall - Lieutenant Colonel William "Bill" Kilgore
- Martin Sheen - Captain Benjamin L. Willard
- Frederic Forrest - Engineman Third Class Jay "Chef" Hicks
- Albert Hall - Quartermaster George "Chief" Phillips
- Sam Bottoms - Lance B. Johnson
- Laurence Fishburne - Gunner's Mate 3rd Class Tyrone "Mr. Clean" Miller
- Dennis Hopper - Photojournalist
- Harrison Ford - Colonel G. Lucas
- G.D. Spradlin - Lieutenant General Corman
- Jerry Ziesmer - Jerry
- Scott Glenn - Lieutenant Richard M. Colby
- Aurore Clement - Roxanne Sarrault
- Cynthia Wood - Playmate of the year
- The Horror. . . The Horror. . .
- THIS IS THE END!
- To the victims go the spoils.
- MORNING SMELLS Some People Like Coffee. Some People Like Napalm.
- It is impossible to describe what is necessary, to those who do not know what horror means. You must make a friend of horror.
- CHARLIE DON'T SURF!