Best Score – Helicopter Assault

Purpose of Best Score.

Apocalypse Now (1979)

Starring: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Larry Fishburne, Colleen Camp, Albert Hall, Scott Glenn, Dennis Hopper, Harrison Ford, Francis Ford Coppola, Frederic Forrest

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Screenwriter: Francis Ford Coppola and John Milius


One of the top twenty most memorable scenes ever, music orientated or not, this quickly became the defining scene in one of the 100 Greatest Films of all-time. The half-crazy Colonel Kilgore more or less attacks a Vietnamese village in order to go surfing and, as is the custom for this unit of Air Calvary, they play Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” on speakers attached to their helicopters. Another impressive weaving of music into a scene although this one is made all the more impressive because it is largely unexpected.  Also something that many of the films mentioned in Best Scene do is contrast a sudden halt in the music with the power of the music itself.  Here, the halt comes prior to the attack as the roar of the choppers and the Wagner is contrasted with the idyll of the village that is about to be assaulted.

Also, it accomplishes two things in contrast to most battle scenes: the addition of the song heightens the brutality and senseless of the battle instead of glorifying and over-dramatizing it (as most scores do in war films); it is also possibly the only battle scene to effectively incorporate music within the scene itself rather than as just background music.

The scene is all the more impressive, having been shot live action in a time well before computer generated animation.

This film has another great music scene of somewhat the same ilk: the Naval personnel on the PBR boat go water-skiing while listening to the Rolling Stones “Satisfaction” on the radio.


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