Hollywood doesn’t just lean to the left on most things. It damn-near slants horizontal. The proliferation of anti-gun, anti-military, anti-war themes remains a go-to trope in movie making. Director Stanley Kubrick–his take on the Vietnam War, in its grand design, proved no different. But somewhere along the way, something unique and insane and beautiful happened for Jarheads everywhere. Full Metal Jacket turned into the perfect mix of profanity, madness, despair and complete disregard for most anything non-Marine. Now 35 years later, nothing has changed. Full Metal Jacket lives on in the hearts of Marines in every climb and place.
Making a Classic: The Full Metal Jacket Quotes
A cottage industry of books and films would come after, attempting to recreate the Marine Corps magic that is Full Metal Jacket. From Jarhead to Generation Kill, tomes and feature films clearly borrow and steal from Full Metal Jacket. From drill instructor insanity to life in “the suck,” many even do a good job, taking that spirit of FMJ, repackaged for contemporary times. But none of them capture the Marine Corps DNA quite like Full Metal Jacket.
Full Metal Jacket’s Soul: The Gunny
It’s all starts with R. Lee Ermey. The late, great Gunny created a character that perfectly and masterfully embodies the Marine Corps boot camp experience. Gunnery Sgt. Hartman is one mean son-of-a-bitch. An all-imposing, relentless force of training and bile and ferocity.
Anyone, and I mean anyone, that ever nutted up to put their sneakers on the little yellow footprints experienced–down into their very soul–their own Gunny Hartman. Ermey successfully took his career, his vast experience, and imbued that collective Marine Drill Instructor essence into Gunny Hartman.
Kubrick famously didn’t want Ermey for that role. But after being brought on as a technical advisor, Ermey clearly recognized the opportunity before him. This job represented the role of a lifetime for Ermey. And like any good Marine Staff NCO, he formulated a plan, sprung a trap, and successfully flanked Kubrick, leaving him no other choice. Ermey was Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, plain and simple. And the rest is history. Read Ermey’s own account of how he secured the role.
If Gunny Hartman provides the soul of FMJ, then Pyle surely embodies the dread of any Marine that served. Every Marine that spent any amount of time in Marine Corps boot camp at least suffered a few Pyle-like moments. There’s just no getting around it. Marine Corps boot camp masterfully belittles, hammers and degrades all who enter. They build you down; they break you. Then they build you back up again. Part art, part science, no one does it quite like the evil masterminds of Marine Corps Recruit Training. And Vincent D’Onofrio perfectly captured the brutality of basic training.
D’Onofrio’s Pyle gives us the remarkable view of the poor souls that just can’t hack it. He does everything wrong. He can’t keep up physically or mentally. Ultimately, he draws both the ire, then the full-time attention, of the most wicked, sledgehammer of a drill instructor. And only through sheer madness does he sort of finally push through, before his final metal break and murder-suicide.
Yes, it paints a horrific portrait of boot camp. We pity Pyle. But we Marines, well we’re sick bastards too I suppose. Because in all his struggles, even his torment, we find laughter, often absolute hilarity, in his struggle. Because we’ve been there. Or the guy in the next rack. Or the dude that failed swim qual. Our buddy that couldn’t shoot. On and on it goes, because Marine Corps boot camp breaks everyone in some way. And for those that come out the other side, that laughter of shared experienced is earned. It defines us still. Some 20+ years later, being a Marine, and everything that means, good and bad, still defines a big part of who I am. I am Joker, Pyle–even Hartman. I am he; he is I, my Marine Corps brothers.
Actor Matthew Modine perfectly captured the ridiculous of boot camp, of war, of the drafted Marine who really doesn’t want to be there. He provides plenty of comic relief, angering his drill sergeant with smart-ass remarks. But he also serves bravely at times, providing a well-rounded character within this war film.
Joker serves as sort of an everyman of the time. For me personally, he’s also a combat correspondent, the very job I held in my beloved Corps. So Joker will forever hold a funny, special place in my Jarhead heart.
Full Metal Jacket & the Marine Corps
I earned the title of U.S. Marine on Dec. 4, 1998. Prior to service, I watched FMJ hundreds of times before I ever swore my oath and joined the Corps. Every single Marine I’ve met since, when asked, offered a similar story. While serving, I likely watched, at least in parts, FMJ another thousand times. It played in squad bays across the Corps on a constant loop. Marines kept VHS tapes tucked into VCRs seemingly at all times. We got drunk and watched it. We watched it on downtime. And we watched it before we hit the field. Along with so many of our storied myths, superstitions and traditions, Full Metal Jacket remains an enduring part of the very fabric of the United States Marine Corps. Maybe not in any official capacity, but it lives in the blood and the mud, with every Jarhead out there walking the line.
Of course, Full Metal Jacket is not just the Gunny, Pyle or Joker. The second half of the movie transitions to fighting in Vietnam, and the anti-war theme really looms large. The film paints a disheartening view of combat, of the Vietnam conflict. It further takes a hard look at Marines’ behaviors, and the effects of war on the mental psyche of all forced to endure it. In many ways, Kubrick makes fair points. War, after all, is always hell.
But for the Marines out there that served in harm’s way, hell is what they do. And FMJ endures as a snapshot into the soul of Marines. But more than any cinematic device, it’s the Full Metal Jacket quotes that struck a chord with Marines, making this film a legend.
- The movie sets the tone in the opening scene, with a song, and the image of heads getting buzzed in the barber chair. “Good bye my darling, hello Vietnam …” Welcome to the suck.
- The actual iconic quotes begin right away with the introduction of the movie’s best character, the infamous Gunny Hartman. “I am Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, your senior Drill Instructor. … Do you maggots understand that? … Sound off like you got a pair…”
- Hartman: You will be a weapon, you will be a minister of death, praying for war …”
- Hartman: “Well thank you very much, can I be in charge for a while?”
- Platoon: “This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. it is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my rifle is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless…” This here is pure Corps.
- Hartman and Platoon: “This is my rifle, this is my gun. This is for fighting, this is for fun.”
- Hartman to Pyle: Your ass looks like about 150 pounds of chewed bubble gun.”
- Hartman: “One for the Commandant. One for the Corps. I guess the Corps don’t get theirs’.”
- During training, Hartman to Pyle: You climb obstacles like old people f**k.”
- Hartman to Pyle: “Were you born a fat, slimy, scumbag, puke piece of shit Private Pyle, or did you have to work on it?”
- Hartman to Pyle on a run: “Do you feel dizzy? Do you feel faint? Jesus H. Christ, I think you’ve got a hard on.”
- Hartman: The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle.”
- Hartman: “Holy Jesus, what is that? What the f**k is that/ What is that Private Pyle? Pyle: “Sir, a jelly donut, sir.” Hartman: “A jelly donut?” “Sir, yes sir.” Hartman: “How did it get here?” Pyle: “Sir, I took it from the mess hall, sir.” Hartman: “Is chow allowed in the barracks, Private Pyle? “Sir, no sir.” “Are you allowed to eat jelly donuts, Private Pyle?” “Sir, no sir.” “And why not, Private Pyle?” Because I’m too heavy, sir.” Hartman: Because you are a disgusting fat body, Private Pyle.” Sir, yes sir.”
- Hartman: “Open your mouth, they’re payin’ for it, you eat it.”
- Hartman: “God was here before the Marine Corps, so you can give your heart to Jesus. But your ass belongs to the Corps.”
- Hartman: “Joker!” “Sir, yes sir.” “4212, basic military journalism. You gotta be shittin’ me Joker, you think you’re Mickey Spillane? You think you’re some kind of f**king writer?” “Sir, I wrote for my high school newspaper, sir.”
- Hartman: “Jesus H. Christ, you’re not a writer, you’re a killer!”
- Finally, Pyle’s descent into madness reaches its full conclusion when Joker finds him loading a magazine in the head. Pyle: “7.62 millimeter … full metal jacket.”
- Joker: “If Hartman comes in here and catches us, we’ll both be in a world of shit.” Pyle: “I am .. in a world … of shit”
- Helicopter Gunner: Get some … get some … haha, get some baby. Get some … Get some … Anyone who runs is a VC. Anyone who stands still is a well-disciplined VC.
- Joker: “Any women or children?” Gunner: Sometimes. Joker: How could you shoot women, children? Gunner: Easy, you just don’t lead ’em so much … Ain’t war hell?!”
- Dan Nang Hooker: Hey baby, you got girlfriend Vietnam? Well, baby, me so horny. Me so horny. me love you long time. You party?
- Crazy Earl: These are great days we’re living, bros. We are jolly green giants, walking the Earth, with guns. These people we wasted here today are the finest human beings we will ever know. After we rotate back to the world, we’re gonna miss not having anyone around that’s worth shooting.”
- Mother: What do I think about America’s involvement in the war … Well, I think we should win.”
- Joker: I wanted to see exotic Vietnam, the jewel of Southeast Asia. I wanted to meet interesting and stimulating people of an ancient culture and kill them. I wanted to be the first kid on my block to get a confirmed kill.”
Semper Fi, Marines. And God bless Chesty Puller, wherever you are.
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