As the Vietnam war rages, Air Force DJ Adrian Cronauer (Robin Williams) arrives in Saigon to bring his particular brand of on-air anarchy to the US troops stationed there. Loathed by several of his superiors, in particular the officious Major Dickerson (J.T. Walsh), Cronauer soon finds himself in hot water, although his blend of daring humour and blaring rock 'n' roll records makes him a huge hit with the troops. As rebellious off air as on, Cronauer, with the help of colleague Private First Class Edward Garlick (Forest Whitaker), is soon causing trouble in the war-torn city, falling for local girl Trinh (Chintara Sukapatana) and refusing to adhere to the army's censorship policies. Witnessing the horrors of the war first-hand, Cronauer's idealistic worldview is soon shattered as his relationship with Trinh puts him at odds with those on both sides of the conflict.
Based on the real life experiences of DJ Adrian Cronauer, Levinson's film became instantly iconic due to Williams's trademark "Gooood Moooorning Vieeeetnam!" howl. Indeed, outside of Disney's Aladdin, there are few other films where the comedian's talent for wildly energetic improvisation has been so evident, his performance here also demonstrating the well-honed dramatic skills that would later net him an Oscar for his work in Good Will Hunting. Part of a slew of films in the mid/late eighties that took a critical stance on the Vietnam War - alongside the likes of Platoon and Full Metal Jacket - Good Morning, Vietnam stood out through its use of irreverence to highlight the madness at the heart of the war, rather than gritty scenes of combat.
As such, it still stands up as not only an immensely entertaining comedy but a poignant drama about the futility of such hostilities, and is all the more effective for blending prickly satire with genuinely moving moments of pathos.