10 Best Performances In War Movies

9. R. Lee Ermey - Full Metal Jacket

Robin Williams Good Morning Vietnam
Warner Bros.

R. Lee Ermey was originally hired by Stanley Kubrick as a technical advisor on his Vietnam classic. A former Marine drill instructor, Ermey was there to help the director achieve a sense of realism. The former army man had branched into acting, but Kubrick’s impression of Ermey the performer was that he wasn’t vicious enough for the part of Sergeant Hartman.

Ermey improvised a fiery drill sergeant diatribe, and Kubrick quickly realised that he was wrong. Ermey is a force of terrifying nature, easily the most memorable part of the classic war movie, a one man catchphrase machine (he improvised or wrote approximately 50% of his own dialogue, a wise decision).

Smartly, Hartman is portrayed as a monster, but an effective one. You wouldn’t want him yelling in your face, but there’s no doubt he transforms his charges into the war machines the U.S military needs them to be. There’s far more to Ermey’s performance than profane yelling - he cares about his job; he’s not just doing this for his own amusement.

Kubrick, one of the most detail oriented auteurs ever, nearly missed a key part of the puzzle in overlooking Ermey. For the sake of the movie, it’s a good job he took a second look.


Yorkshire-based writer of screenplays, essays, and fiction. Big fan of having a laugh. Read more of my stuff @ www.twotownsover.com (if you want!)