Harrison Ford has a massive body of work over the last many decades, playing iconic role after iconic role and becoming one of the true legends of the industry. But now, one of the first films he was ever in is blowing up on streaming. No, it’s not Star Wars, that would be much too obvious. Instead, it’s Apocalypse Now, the Francis Ford Coppola classic which is streaming on Netflix. It’s currently sitting at 9th in the United States on the platform and if you haven’t seen it, oh the horror, the horror.
Harrison Ford doesn’t have a major role in Apocalypse Now considering this movie was at the onset of his career. He plays a young information chief who helps to set the events of the movie in action. Apocalypse Now takes place amidst the horror and dysfunction of the Vietnam War. It is set at a time when the morality of the troops has been put to the ultimate test and the situation has devolved into a relative nightmare for everyone involved. It follows the story of Captain Benjamin Willard who is tasked with a near-impossible mission. He’s to take a boat upriver in Cambodia to dispatch a Special Forces Colonel who has gone off the proverbial reservation.
At the beginning of the film, it is Harrison Ford’s Colonel Lucas who passes along the mission and from there we are basically taken through a slow burn into madness. Willard and his crew head upriver to find their mark, Colonel Walter Kurtz, and along the way we are essentially taken on a nightmare tour of the Vietnam war, replete with the savagery, atrocities, mental anguish, torture, sadness, and death that came with it. It’s a war movie, the Ride of the Valkyries scene among many others hammers this home, but it’s more of a psychological study than anything else. Eventually, Willard and his crew make it to their destination, but there are no real winners with Apocalypse Now.
Describing the movie is a bit folly because it’s, in some ways, more than a film. Generally considered among the very best films ever made, Apocalypse Now is viewed as one of the greats though its brutality is what sets it apart from some of the other flicks that would make the list. Francis Ford Coppola adapted a script from John Milius who loosely based the central themes and ideas on Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness. He brought in an amazing cast after original director George Lucas exited the film. Harrison Ford being named Colonel Lucas was a hat tip to the Star Wars legend.
And the cast for Apocalypse Now is about as good as it gets. Of course, there is a young Harrison Ford in a relatively minor role. In the leads we have Martin Sheen as Willard and Robert Duvall as Kilgore, a crazy surfing lieutenant he meets along the way. In an iconic turn, there’s also Marlon Brando as the fanatical but deeply philosophical Kurtz. Others include Laurence Fishburne, Albert Hall, Dennis Hopper, and Scott Glenn.
For Harrison Ford, while this movie technically came out after Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope it was actually filmed a couple of years before. In the interim, while Francis Ford Coppola would spend years editing and creating the ultimate final cut of the film, Ford went on to become one of the most recognizable stars around after crushing the role of Han Solo. If the situation were reversed, he would have no doubt had a bigger role in the Coppola movie. He had just yet to come on the Hollywood scene in a meaningful way.
Obviously, Apocalypse Now was just the jumping-off point for Harrison Ford. In the next couple of years he would finish off the first part of the Star Wars trilogy and would also be cast in another iconic role, this one as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark He is about to take his final turn as that character all of these decades later when the final movie in the franchise comes out. It’s currently filming. In the meantime, check out Apocalypse Now on Netflix and join the throngs that are moving it up the streaming charts.