Prior to the 1960s, war films did well at the box-office. Invigorated audiences defined their ideas of combat by watching films that glorified heroic soldiers. Rather than questioning the accuracy of setting, dialogue, or action, audiences gave the film makers freedom to use their imagination. However, the Vietnam War failed to provide the same stories of struggle and bravery that made films about World War I and World War II successful because the conflict lacked clear objectives and easily identified enemies. Therefore, Hollywood directors used myths to create dramatic constructions of the realities of the Vietnam War that moved audiences" emotions. These myths reflect the demands of drama as opposed to the requirement for historical truth. C.D. B. Byran labels the resulting movies "the noble-grunt film," as generic narratives that feature "the gradual deterioration of order, the disintegration of idealism, the breakdown of character, the alienation from those at home, and finally, the loss of all sensibility save the will to survive." Watching the noble-grunt films, the audience relates with misunderstood, confused, idealistic, and betrayed characters. Although not completely inaccurate, noble-grunt films can manipulate the viewers understanding of the Vietnam War by displaying its history as an emotional drama.
Over the last the forty years, far more Americans have reached their comprehension of the Vietnam War from watching noble-grunt films, such as The Green Berets, The Deer Hunter, First Blood, Platoon, Apocalypse Now, and Born on the Fourth of July, rather than reading historical books. Unfortunately, movies are a poor source for learning about the war, as most films fail to meet the basic requirements of truth, balance, and reality. However, a film can be an excellent movie in spite of its use of myths and inaccuracies about the war and the soldiers.