The United States Army has had a close relationship with Hollywood for many years, influencing the narrative of war movies and shaping public opinion. The Pentagon even has its own Film Liaison Office to approve or disapprove scripts based on their interest to the country’s military leaders. This office is responsible for cutting or watering down of scripts, changing characters, and rearranging historical facts in films.
Perhaps no better example of this influence can be seen than the 1986 blockbuster Top Gun. Filmed with the approval and support of the U.S. Army, the movie was heavily influenced by their involvement and offers a positive portrayal of military life. The influence of the U.S. Army on American war films does not always result in such an idealistic outcome however; in some cases filmmakers are refused any kind of help if their script is deemed too critical by Army officials. One such example is Oliver Stone’s Platoon which tells a gritty story about soldiers fighting in Vietnam – something that did not sit well with those in power at the time.
The ultimate goal of the Film Liaison Office made no secret – they want to make films that flatter and encourage more people to join the army, essentially spreading propaganda through artistry as a means to manipulate public perception and opinion about war and military action. It is often up to producers to find alternative filming locations and equipment when they are denied access by the Army as was done for Platoon, but this comes at great cost both financially and artistically as creativity can be stifled by higher powers intervening from above.
If you want to understand more about this deep dive into how Hollywood war movies have been shaped by US military intervention over decades then you should watch the documentary War Story which looks closely at this topic from all angles from both filmmakers who benefited from cooperation with Armies as well as those whose creative process was hindered due it. From interviews with key people involved in both sides, viewers will get a deeper look into what really happened behind-the-scenes during some of our most beloved war movies and come away with a greater understanding of how important it is for us all to stay informed when it comes to media manipulation on such large scales.