We live in a time when war movies based on toys (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) are better received by the public than those that have a basis in truth (The Hurt Locker). G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, out on DVD and Blu-ray today, dances around its origins as military action figures by positioning its heroes as an elite unit, more like well-armed spies than anything resembling common soldiers. The aim appears to be similar, though: provide heroic figures that inspire others to follow in their footsteps.
Back in the 80s, movies that could be mistaken for recruitment propaganda became surprisingly common. The film industry, which had firmly resisted anything related directly to the Vietnam War while it was being waged, became schizophrenic in the 80s, releasing anti-war and pro-war flicks side by side into theaters. Here are seven key films, listed chronologically, that helped shape the public's perception of the military during that decade.
Private Benjamin (1980)
Nancy Meyers began here, co-writing and co-producing the tale of Judy Benjamin (Goldie Hawn), a bride who wears black after her husband (Albert Brooks) dies on their wedding night. A spoiled woman-child, Judy enlists in the armed forces; basic training toughens her up as she realizes she can deal with the rigors of military life. As a budding feminist, she still had miles to go to learn that she didn't need a man or the military to be all she could be; as a poster child for plucky women in the armed forces, Private Benjamin was a positive-reinforcement milestone.