Apocalypse Now is a 1979 American epic war film set during the Vietnam War, directed and produced by Francis Ford Coppola. The central character is US Army special operations officer Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen), of MACV-SOG, an assassin sent to kill the renegade and presumed insane Special Forces Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando).
The screenplay by John Milius and Coppola came from Milius’s idea of adapting Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness into the Vietnam War era. It also draws from Michael Herr’s Dispatches, the film version of Conrad’s Lord Jim (which shares the same character of Marlow with Heart of Darkness), and Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972). The film drew attention for its lengthy and troubled production. Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse documented Brando’s showing up on the set overweight, Sheen’s heart attack, and extreme weather destroying several expensive sets. The film’s release was postponed several times while Coppola edited millions of feet of footage.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Apocalypse Now has a 99% “Certified Fresh” rating and was received with critical acclaim. Its cultural impact and its philosophical themes have been extensively discussed. Honored with the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama, the film was also deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” and selected for preservation by the National Film Registry in 2001.