Full Metal Jacket

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"What is your major malfunction, numbnuts? Didn't mommy and daddy show you enough attention when you were a child?"
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman

Full Metal Jacket is the story of the Vietnam War seen through the eyes of a US Marine known to the audience as "Joker". The movie, directed by Stanley Kubrick, is split into two parts. The first part follows Joker alongside his fellow Marine recruits through Boot Camp as they suffer under the colorful Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (played by R. Lee Ermey in his most famous role), and the second part follows Joker's struggle to keep his humanity while he covers the Vietnam War as a combat correspondent.

The film is based on the semi-autobiographical novel "The Short-Timers" by former Marine Gustav Hasford published in 1979. The novel is split into three sections (the film merges the second and third into a single part) and features more complex writing as the story progresses. The book was the first in a planned trilogy. A sequel came in 1990 called "The Phantom Blooper". The reason for the gap between publishing being that Hasford began writing for other publications as well as serving three months of a six month sentence for theft in 1988. Hasford died in 1993 of heart failure before the third book could be completed. The first two books are currently out of print but text copies are available on the author's site.

The title refers to the type of ammunition used by military rifles. A full metal jacket is a copper coating on the outside of a bullet that prevents it from deforming or breaking apart on impact (as well as keeping it from slowly filling the rifling with lead), as is required per the Hague Convention. According to the highest moral authority on the planet, it is acceptable to shoot people with these bullets (as opposed to bullets which are designed to deform or splinter when they hit their targets, which generally makes for a much nastier wound).

Tropes used in Full Metal Jacket include:
  • Acoustic License: The scene in the helicopter where the gunner is getting interviewed while firing his gun. I know aircraft have headsets and microphones, but i can't really think of many examples where they USE them as intended, instead they act as though they're protective in nature (IE gun range earmuffs) rather than communication devices - instead electing to raise their voice or shout over the DIN.
  • Adam Westing: Almost every role R. Lee Ermey has played is an Expy of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman.
    • That's because Gunny Hartman was him just playing himself. Most of his dialogue was ad libbed.
  • All Part of the Show: When their base comes under attack by NVA, the Marines at first think it's part of the fireworks that are being shot off.
  • Armchair Military / Marines at the Rear Lt. Lockhart, Joker's "Stars and Stripes" CO.

Joker: Maybe you should go out on some ops yourself, sir. I'm sure you could find a lot more blood trails and drag marks.
Lockhart: Joker, I've had my ass in the grass. Can't say I liked it much. Lots of bugs and too dangerous. As it happens, my present duties keep me where I belong; in the rear with the gear.

    • When he's introduced, Rafterman is shown lamenting having to be this.

Rafterman:I hate Da Nang, Joker. I want to go out into the field. I've been in country almost three months, and all I do is take handshake shots at award ceremonies.

  • Artistic License Basic Training: A few examples.
    • The Marine Corps Rifle Prayer that the recruits say before lights out is a bit shorter than the real one.
    • Throughout the boot camp segment, Hartman addresses the recruits as "Private (Insert Name Here)". In Marine boot camp, recruits are addressed as just that; "Recruit (Insert Name Here)", as Private is a rank which must be earned by completing boot camp.
    • Cowboy is from Texas, yet he's going through boot camp at Parris Island. While not impossible, it's more likely that he would be going through boot camp at USMC Recruit Depot, San Diego, which is for male recruits who live west of the Mississippi River, while Parris Island is for male recruits who live east of the Mississippi River. However, this is quite minor, since recruits from west of the Mississippi can request to go to Parris Island, and the Marine Corps has sent recruits to the opposite depot when one experiences a shortage of recruits.
    • While it's necessary for Rule of Drama, and possible given the Real Life shortage of recruits during the Vietnam War, the entire character of Leonard/Pyle. His being in the military at all, let alone the Marine Corps, and especially an infantryman, is a bit far fetched. He's extremely overweight and borderline retarded and most likely would have been barred from service, either enlistment or conscription.
    • R. Lee Ermey, formerly a real-life Drill Sergeant Nasty, once said in an interview, that a drill instructor would never slap, choke or punch a recruit, even back in his day as a young marine. He also was far more verbally abusive in the movie than what is permitted in real-life.
  • Asian Hooker Stereotype: This movie is a famous example, with it's infamous line "Me love you long time". The second half of the movie takes place in Vietnam, yet the hooker saying this line and another hooker in a later scene are the only Vietnamese characters who get any dialogue at all.
    • Note that the soundtrack just happen to be about a woman breaking up and getting revenge. The movie end with most of the squad getting gunned down by a Vietnamese sniper - who is then revealed to be young and female.
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: Likewise, "Me Love You Long Time."
  • Ate His Gun: Private Pyle (it's even the page image).
  • Ax Crazy: Private Pyle becomes this near the end of the first part, though he only kills one other person.
  • Badass Bandolier: Animal Mother has two bandoliers of ammo for his machine gun crossed over his torso. Other Marines can also be seen carrying bandoliers holding extra ammo for their weapons as well.
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil: Or rather having a blanket party thrown on you makes you evil.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Subverted. The prostitute does not want to have sex with 8-Ball, a black Marine, at first because he is "too beaucoup".
  • Black Comedy Rape: Male on female. Not actual rape but a joke about it. While in the barracks, Stork, a white Marine jokes with Payback, a black Marine, "How do you stop five black men from raping a white woman?" Answer: "Throw them a basketball."
  • Black Dude Dies First: Corporal Eightball is the one sent to do recon and the first to be gunned down by the sniper. He's helplessly aware of the trope.

"Put a nigger behind the trigger."

  • Booby Trap: An extremely dastardly one, to boot.
  • Break the Fatty: Private Gomer Pyle gets it worse than the rest of the recruits due to being overweight and mentally slow, most of it at the hands of the original Drill Sergeant Nasty. The worst of it comes when the other recruits, pissed off after the entire platoon was punished due to Hartman finding a jelly doughnut in Pyle's foot locker, throw him a blanket party by pinning him to his bunk with a blanket and beating the crap out of him with bars of soap wrapped in bath towels. All this eventually leads to his psychotic breakdown, his murder of Hartman and his ultimate suicide.
  • Brick Joke: In a meeting with his fellow "Stars and Stripes" personnel, Joker and the other Marines are being informed by their CO, Lt. Lockhart, of upcoming events, one of which is a USO visit by actress, Ann Margaret. A few scenes later, after being informed by Lt. Lockhart about the Tet offensive by the NVA and how bad the situation is, Joker, asks, after a few moments of silence, "Sir, does this mean that Ann Margaret's not coming?"
  • Call Back: Several.
    • Joker references actor John Wayne during both segments. First in the boot camp segment, in his very first line in the film, when he says out loud and in Wayne's voice, after Gunny Hartman's opening speech, "Is that you, John Wayne? Is this me?". He repeats the line later during the Vietnam segment, while the Marines are being filmed while going into Hue to take the city back from the NVA.
    • "A world of shit". Gunny Hartman first tells the recruits during marksmanship training that this is what they will be in if they hesitate in combat. It's referred to at the end of both of segments. At the end of the boot camp segment, Joker, after, finding the crazy Leonard in the head with his rifle, tell him that if Hartman catches them, they'll "both be in a world of shit" to which Leonard replies, "I AM...in a world...of shit." At the end of the Vietnam segment, Joker says, during his closing narration, "I am in a world of shit."
    • The Real Life Marine Corps Rifle Prayer. It's first said by the recruits in unison as they're lying in bed before lights out. It's later repeated partially and very loudly by Leonard after he snaps and is in the head with his rifle.
    • Mickey Mouse is referred to at the end of both segments. At the end of the boot camp segment, Gunny Hartman yells "What is this Mickey Mouse shit." At the end of the Vietnam segment, the Marines are singing the theme song to The Mickey Mouse Club as they march away from the burning city of Hue.
  • Camp Follower: There are two scenes in the movie focused on prostitution.
  • Cargo Ship: In-universe example. Gunny Hartman orders the recruits to give their rifle a girl's name "Because this is the only pussy you people are going to get!" Private Pyle, after he goes insane, seems more than a little doting over his rifle (Charlene, if you were wondering).
  • Chewing the Scenery: "Hiiiiiiii...Jooooooookerrrrrrrr..."
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The scene introducing Gunny Hartman.
  • Cold Sniper: The Viet Cong sniper at the end of the movie.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Hartman reacts to Pyle taking a jelly doughnut by... forcing him to eat while everyone else does pushups (he does so nearly crying... but goes on to actually do that when they respond by tying him down to his bunk and beat him with bars of soap).
  • Coup De Grace: Joker gives one to the teenage VC sniper despite the rest of his squad wanting to leave her to die.
  • Creator Cameo: Stanley Kubrick is Murph, the voice on the other end of the radio when Joker's squad calls for tank support.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Hartman makes threats like: "I will unscrew your head and shit down your neck!" and "I will gouge out your eyeballs and skullfuck you!"
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: During the boot camp segment, while waking up the recruits, Hartman yells out, "Drop your cocks and grab your socks."
    • During the Vietnam segment, while standing over the bodies of two dead Marines, Cowboy starts talking about one of them, aptly nicknamed "Hand Job." Cowboy claims that he jerked off ten times a day, no exaggeration, and that he was put on Section 8 for doing it in the waiting room of the psychiatrist they sent him to in order to be evaluated.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Openly admitted to by Lt. Lockhart when he tells one of the "Stars and Stripes" Marines to substitute the phrase "Search and Destroy" with "Sweep and Clear".
  • Deadpan Snarker: Joker (hence, his name). Which sticks with him after boot camp which usually doesn't happen since most nicknames are derogatory. In this case, Joker probably liked the name enough to possibly introduce himself to the other Marines at Stars and Stripes, making himself even more a Joker.
  • Death by Irony: Gunny Hartman. More emphasis on this in the book than in the movie. In the book, when he gets shot, before he dies, he says "Private Pyle, I'm so proud." (he's glad that was finally able to make him a killer, which he had been struggling to do all through boot camp).
  • Deep South: Invoked by Gunny Hartman when he gives Cowboy his nickname, saying "Only steers and queers come from Texas."
  • Despair Event Horizon: What Leonard is driven to.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Which drove Kubrick absolutely bonkers. Even when he tried to make war as shitty as possible, some people still got off to things like the heli gunner shooting the civilians, and the dehumanizing boot camp led by the Drill Sergeant Nasty.
  • Downer Ending
  • Drill Instructor Nasty: R. Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman is the Trope Codifier. Truth in Television in that he was an actual Marine drill instructor before he did the movie, and was indeed originally brought in to advise the actor playing GySgt. Hartman on how to be more convincing. So impressive was his performance that he got promoted to Gunnery Sergeant after he had already retired, and was allowed to improvise his lines by acknowledged Control Freak Stanley Kubrick.
    • Marine drill instructors regularly use very similar hilarious instruction in an attempt to get officer candidates to smile, laugh, or otherwise break attention.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: Subverted hard. One of the Marines finds an oversized stuffed rabbit lying in the rubble of Hue, and picks it up out of confusion. Boom.
  • The Film of the Book: Based on the novel, "The Short Timers" by Gustav Hasford.
  • Flowery Insults: Hartman's whole shtick.
  • Freudian Excuse: Invoked by Gunny Hartman to Leonard/Pyle.

Hartman: What is your major malfunction, numbnuts? Didn't mommy and daddy show you enough attention when you were a child?

  • Genre Savvy: Cowboy knows better than to try recovering the wounded Marines shot by the sniper because he knows the sniper is just trying to lure them into the line of fire one by one. Animal Mother, on the other hand, though not Genre Blind, just doesn't care.
  • Girlish Pigtails: The Sniper. And they're braided.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Hartman's goal is to turn the new recruits into remorseless killing machines. In Pyle's case, he succeeds all too well.
  • Good-Looking Privates: The new Marines in their Service Alphas uniforms during their boot camp graduation. Gunny Hartman throughout the boot camp segment when he's in his Class A or Class B uniforms.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Averted hard. It's a Kubrick film, yeah?
    • Played straight, however, with The Sniper's death.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: Joker and Cowboy are the only things connecting the boot camp plotline to the Vietnam plotline.
  • Handgun: Joker pulls out a pistol when confronting the sniper after finding out his rifle is out of ammo. Later uses it to finish her off.
  • Hates Everyone Equally: Part of the job for a Drill Sergeant Nasty, according to Hartman:

Gunnery Sgt. Hartman: The more you hate me the more you will learn I am hard, but I am fair. There is no racial bigotry here! I do not look down on niggers, kikes, wops or greasers! Here you are ALL equally worthless!

Animal Mother: You seen any combat?
Joker: Seen a little on TV.

Rafterman: A high school girl could do my job. I want to get out into the shit. I want to get some trigger time.
Joker: If you get killed, your mom will find me after I rotate back to the world and she'll beat the shit out of me. That's a negative, Rafterman.

  • Meaningful Name / Punny Name: Private Joker.
  • Mercy Kill: The VC sniper asks for this.
    • Also Comically Missing the Point in the reactions of Joker's squad when he performs it. They complement him on his cold-blooded killing, when it was really an act of mercy.
  • Military Maverick: Animal Mother, who responds to Cowboy's order to stay put with "Fuck you".
  • Mood Whiplash: In-universe, done intentionally by Joker. In a meeting with his fellow "Stars and Stripes" Marines, after being informed by Lt. Lockhart about the Tet offensive by the NVA and how bad the situation is, Joker, asks, after a few moments of silence, "Sir, does this mean that Ann Margaret's not coming?"
  • More Dakka: Animal Mother and his M60.
    • Also, the Door Gunner taking potshots at civilians.
  • Murder-Suicide: After Private Pyle kills Sgt. Hartman, he seems to realize that he'll be severely punished, perhaps even executed, for his crime, and shoots himself in the mouth.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits: Completely subverted. While cleaning the head (bathroom) Joker says to Cowboy "I wanna slip my tube steak into your sister. What'll you take in trade?" to which Cowboy simply replies "What've you got?"
    • Also, referenced earlier, when, after meeting Joker, Hartman tells him that "you can come over to my house and fuck my sister."
    • Cowboy later brings it up again in Vietnam, when he ask if Joker has been getting any to which Joker replies, "Only your sister.
  • Nice Hat: Sgt Hartman is never once seen without his hat. Even in the bathroom confrontation.
  • The Nicknamer: GySgt. Hartman. His nicknames stick, even after the candidates graduate from boot camp.
  • Noble Bigot: Sgt Hartman is considerably homophobic but a well-intentioned guy.
  • Nothing Personal: Discussed by Joker and Rafterman about the South Vietnamese.

Rafterman: You know what really pisses me off about these people?
Joker: What?
Rafterman: We're supposed to be helping them, and they shit all over us every chance they get. I just can't feature that.
Joker: Don't take it too hard, Rafterman, it's just business.

  • Not Listening to Me, Are You?: While they're cleaning the head, Joker tells Cowboy that he's worried that Pvt. Pyle might be going crazy. Cowboy didn't seem to pay attention, or perhaps wasn't concerned.
    • That may be a small but of ((Fridge Brilliance)). Given the theme of dehumanization, it is only natural that Marines would become indifferent to things that would cause most people to panic or show concern.
    • Cowboy heard Joker and agreed with him. They both just thought Pyle would wash out with a psych discharge (aka a "section Eight").
  • Obligatory War Crime Scene: The door gunner for the Americans. The mass grave for the Vietcong.
  • Oh Crap: Hartman, upon being informed that Private Pyle has a full magazine, and is locked and loaded.
    • Joker, when he tries to shoot the VC sniper in the back, only to hear a click, indicating he's out of ammo and which lets the sniper know he's there.
  • One-Scene Wonder: The Door Gunner and the Da Nang prostitute.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Most of the Marines. Joker, Cowboy, Rafterman, Animal Mother, and 8Ball.
  • Parental Incest: Joked about by Cowboy after he meets up with Joker in Vietnam.

Cowboy: Been getting any?
Joker: Only your sister.
Cowboy: Well, better my sister than my mom, and my mom ain't bad.

Joker: I wanna slip my tube steak into your sister. What'll you take in trade?
Cowboy: What've you got?

"Hiiiii.. Jooooker..."

  • Sociopathic Marine: Where do we start... Animal Mother is probably the most spectacular example, as is the Door Gunner.
    • The entire point of the film. See how Leonard has to become crazy to be a good soldier. This is keeping with the concept of dehumanization,
  • Sock It to Them: The infamous "blanket party" scene, where everyone puts a bar of soap in a sock, and participates in a run-by pummeling of Leonard.
  • Sound Off: You'll hear some jody calls during the first act, and you'll also hear the Mickey Mouse Club theme song used as a marching song in the second act.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "Surfin Bird" by The Trashmen plays as the camera pans over a bleak, wasteland-like firing line.
    • Also:

He's the owner of the club that's made for you and me!

    • In the actual Vietnam War, an obscene variant of that song was popular among troops, with the famous refrain being replaced with "F-U-C-K-E-D A-G-A-I-N!"
    • "Chapel of Love" by the Dixie Cups plays before the Marine base gets attacked by the NVA in the Tet offensive.
  • Starter Villain: Hartman is only there for the first act but he's as close to a villain as the movie gets.
  • Strawman News Media: Minor examples of both of Type 2 and Type 3 with Lt. Lockhart. He explains to Joker that the "Stars and Stripes" newspaper needs to run positive stories about the war because of the negative stories being run by the media back in the States.
    • Type 2

Lockhart: Joker, I've told you, we run two basic stories here; grunts who give half their pay to buy gooks toothbrushes and deodorants; winning of hearts and minds--okay? And combat action that results in a kill; winning the war.

    • Type 3

Lockhart: Joker, maybe you'd like our guys to read the paper and feel bad. I mean, in case you didn't know it, this is not a particularly popular war, and it's our job to report the news that the "why-are-we-here" civilian newsmen ignore.

  • Streetwalker: The Da Nang prostitute.
  • Tank Goodness: Played straight during the scenes where the Marines are approaching Hue and entering Hue. Subverted during the Pinned Down scene where Cowboy attempts to call in tank support only to be told they have to wait.
  • Tempting Fate: Happens subtly. "I am f**king bored to death, man!" Not for long, you aren't.
  • That's an Order: Said by Cowboy to Animal Mother when Cowboy tells him to wait for the tank and not to try recovering the wounded Marines shot by the sniper, to which Animal Mother responds with a big "fuck you".
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Payback says that you can see that the Joker is a new guy, because he haven't got the thousand-yard stare. "A Marine gets it after he's been in the shit for too long. It's like... it's like you've really seen beyond. I got it. All field Marines got it." The Joker ends up getting it too after he kills the Viet Cong sniper.
  • Title Drop: Courtesy of Leonard, as he talks lovingly (and creepily) about the ammunition for his rifle. So very Kubrickian.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Yes, continue to taunt the broken and apparently psychotic recruit who is pointing a loaded weapon at you. Brilliant.
    • Noble as it may be, when you've just seen someone shot by a sniper, it's probably wise not to walk into the same line of fire to recover him.
    • Hey, Cowboy, maybe you shouldn't hide behind the part of the wall with a big hole in it. *BAM* Never mind.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Pyle, believe it or not. He loses weight and learns how to act like a Marine after he gets a harsh lesson in conformity from his fellow recruits. Unfortunately, he turns Ax Crazy at the same time.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Played with by Gunny Hartman when he tells a black recruit named Private Snowball that Snowball won't like that "they don't serve fried chicken and watermelon on a daily basis in my mess hall", referring to the foods that black people are stereotyped as liking.
  • Training from Hell: The first act of the movie which focuses on the recruits going through US Marine Corps boot camp which is generally considered the toughest initial training of the American military branches. Though the only one the audience really sees it as being "from hell" for is Pyle.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Boot camp.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: The film ends on this note: Animal Mother is the new squad leader.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Lt. Lockhart refers to a combat kill as a "weenie".
    • Also somewhat inverted by Hartman's threat to "gouge out your eyeballs and skullfuck you!"
  • Urban Warfare: Rather unusually for a film set in The Vietnam War, most of the combat scenes take place in an urban environment.
  • Verbal Tic: Door gunner. "Get some, get some, yeah, get some, get some, get some, get some".
  • The Vietnam War: Obviously.
  • War Is Glorious: During his speech upon meeting the new recruits, Hartman tells them that if they get through boot camp, they "will be a minister of death praying for war."
  • War Is Hell: "Ain't war hell? :D" Asked by the door gunner in regards to shooting civilians, but done so in a manner that clearly doesn't match the question.
  • Where Da White Women At?: While in the barracks, Stork, a white Marine, jokes with Payback, a black Marine, "How do you stop five black men from raping a white woman?" Answer: "Throw them a basketball."
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Private Pyle.
  • Would Hit a Girl / Would Hurt a Child: The Door Gunner.

Joker: How can you shoot women and children?
Door Gunner: Easy. You just don't lead 'em as much. (Laughing) Ain't war hell?

Door Gunner: Anyone who runs is a VC. Anyone who stands still is a well disciplined VC.