If Michael Moore had been making movies in the '60s and wasn't as deeply besotted with the sound of his own voice and the sight of his own face, he might have made this documentary. Usually, I'm not as big a fan of docs that make a strident argument (rather than present an issue to explore), but I found this one inescapably compelling. Full disclosure: I had to make a brief escape after the first three minutes revealed that this was NOT the film to watch while I was eating dinner, so I took a break and caught a bit of Honeymoon in Vegas. A classic that the editors have thus far cruelly overlooked, I might add.
In any case, this movie helped me unpack the monolithic signifier that lives in my head as "The Vietnam War" by taking a dimensional approach to explicating the conflict's historical, political, social, and human context. Some of the combat footage is absolutely astonishing, and gives you a real taste of what a different business war reporting was before the Defense Department took an active interest in what does and does not make it back to American television screens. The most unsettling thing for me (and trust me, picking the most unsettling aspect of this movie is a trick) is how depressingly familiar the rhetoric of violence in the name of nation building sounds forty years later in the middle of another monolithic signifier, "The War on Terror." And, as a bonus, you get to hear Mark Clark, who currently rests in peace at The Citadel, and whose eponymous expressway I drove on regularly in Charleston, make some delightful observations about what "all Orientals" do.
Though I think this documentary is essential, it does bring up the point of whether docs should really be included on this list. They follow such different rules and operate under such a different aesthetic than features, I wonder if it's fair to lump the two genres together?