Oliver Stone

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Oliver Stone in 2013.
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William Oliver Stone (1946–) is a controversial American filmmaker and Vietnam veteran known for his films that often substitute facts with conspiracy theories.


The Vietnam Trilogy[edit]


A fictional story based heavily on Stone's experiences during the war, the 1986 film centers on a Marine (played by Charlie Sheen well before he lost all grip on reality) who quits college and serves in the war to escape expectations his family puts on him, only to be flung into situations that work to destroy his innocence. The film is quite masterful, showing the talent Stone undoubtedly has for narrative and symbolism, and even appeals to viewers of all political leanings.

Born on the Fourth of July[edit]

Based on the memoir of the same name by Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, the film portrays Kovic (played by Tom Cruise in saner days and in what is arguably his greatest ever performance) serving in the war, his guilt from killing a fellow Marine in a friendly fire incident, his being paralyzed by Viet Cong fire, and his struggle to find meaning and reconcile his youthful enthusiasm with mature disillusionment, resulting in his becoming an anti-war activist. Kovic co-wrote the script with Stone, and the film only takes two real liberties with the truth: giving Kovic a girlfriend who never existed and creating a scene where he spoke to the family of the man he accidentally killed, which never took place. Though it is tame compared with his later fast-and-loose portrayal of the facts, these deviations were very controversial at the time of the film's release in 1989.

Heaven & Earth[edit]

In the third of his trilogy Stone attempted to show the war from the Vietnamese point of view, but it seemed his bro fans weren't interested in the life of a Vietnamese woman. Based on two books by Le Ly Hayslip, it tells the story of a woman who goes from the horrors of war to become a prostitute in Saigon and then a war bride, married to an American soldier, and moving to the US, where she's treated horribly by her husband. Fun fun fun, in other words. It received mixed reviews, with praise for star Hiep Thi Le, but many critics felt it was too much the story of a passive woman having lots of bad shit happen to her; technically it was unevenly structured, and sometimes awkward particularly in the portrayal of Vietnamese life. Nonetheless it's one of the few times Stone has focused on a female character, and he managed it with some success.[1][2][3]

The President Trilogy[edit]


In 1991 Stone released JFK, about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy based on the book On the Trail of the Assassins by New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison. The film suggests a vast conspiracy carried out by our military industrial complex, Mafia, CIA, FBI and LBJ.[4] He also lionized Garrison as a hero and loving if absentee family man, when many, including books such as the 1998 book False Witness, show that Garrison was a zealot who broke the law, abused his wife, destroyed lives, ruined the credibility of the conspiracy movement — and who did the investigation to deflect from his softness to the Mob (Stone, for his part, defends the film and his portrayal of Garrison). Garrison himself portrayed Earl Warren in the film. Public reaction to the film caused Congress to enact the JFK Records Act and establishing the Assassination Records Review Board which released almost all records of the investigations by October 2017.[5]


Four years later Stone released a follow up about Richard Nixon. Taking even more liberty with facts, the film implies Nixon (played by Hannibal Lecter Anthony Hopkins) was an alcoholic pill popper who felt responsible for the assassination of JFK that led to the Watergate scandal. This Nixon incarnation is also portrayed as paranoid over the idea that the CIA may assassinate him like (he thinks) they may have with JFK.


The last entry in the trilogy is the 2008 film W., based on the Saturday Night Live sketch starring Will Ferrell about George W. Bush. It wrongfooted people who expected a searing denunciation of Bush. Instead it was a more complex, nuanced portrait of Dubya (played by Thanos Josh Brolin) as a man with no particular skills other than an innate belief that he was bound for glory. It has some interesting things to say about the WASPy privilege of the Bush clan and as an implicit critique of myths of American greatness: this isn't the story of a flawed man who comes of age at a time of crisis (9/11) but of an incompetent if slightly charismatic man who conspicuously fails to rise to the occasion. Bad luck, America.[6] The film received mixed reviews and did poorly at the box office. Bush reportedly liked the film.[citation needed] There have also been questions over the factual accuracy of various elements but it appears mostly truthful: Bush reportedly is a big fan of Cats and crashing cars, and Donald Rumsfeld passed the time in meetings by doodling, although it's not clear whether Bush got a girl pregnant and arranged for her to have an abortion (which was then illegal in Texas).[7]

Wall Street[edit]

The film came to embody the excesses of 1980s Corporate America, in Michael Douglas' portrayal of Gordon Gekko, who tells everyone the mantra of "Greed is good." A later, unnecessary sequel did not fare as well.

The Doors[edit]

Released the same year as JFK, the film is the first of Stone's many inaccurate biopics, in this case about Jim Morrison, the frontman of The Doors. Starring Val Kilmer as Morrison, the film portrays him as a drunken asshole with an incredibly sick and perverted imagination, out of which happened to come poetic songs. It also takes an incident Morrison recalled about seeing dead Native Americans on a highway (and the parenthetical statement that a shaman's soul entered his body and became his muse) to ridiculous levels, including scenes of said shaman standing next to him on stage or running away when his body dies in a Paris bathtub. The other three members of the band spoke out against the film to differing extents, most notably keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who spent various sections of his 1998 autobiography venting against Stone.

Natural Born Killers[edit]

Starring Woody Harrelson, Natural Born Killers tells the story of a severely twisted couple going on a violent murder spree and subsequently becoming a media sensation. Because of the many violent stories that dominated the media in the early 1990s Stone altered the original story to become a satirical attack on modern media. The film caused a moral panic and has been accused of inspiring no less than a dozen copycat acts including Columbine. Stone called it a "very optimistic film about the future. It's about freedom, and the ability of every human being to get it."[8]


Like his other biopics, this film of the life of Alexander the Great missed the mark wildly, especially about his family and his personal life. Unlike the other ones, which were compelling and incredibly well-assembled, this film was notorious as a bloated and dull exercise in filmmaking, with performances that didn't stand out (except for Angelina Jolie attempting in vain to speak in an accent that has not existed for millennia). Stone has re-released the film on DVD and Blu-ray several times in several "Director's cuts" in an attempt to rehabilitate the film.

World Trade Center[edit]

Strangely, Stone's film about 9/11 was not a conspiracy rant, but a focus on two firemen trapped below the rubble of the Twin Towers, waiting to be rescued, and reminiscing about their personal lives up to that point. Critics and audiences alike were dumbfounded at a film about the biggest attack in American history and not making it the focus, or giving an impression of what that day meant. It fared poorly against Paul Greengrass's universally praised film United 93.

Snowden and cancelled MLK project[edit]

Stone's 2016 movie about Edward Snowden seemed like a return to his controversial roots; in order to make it, he scrapped another of his projects, a biopic about Martin Luther King. The movie is based on two books: The Snowden Files by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena. It got a muted critical reaction (60% on Rotten Tomatoes): the consensus was that while it was technically fine and Joseph Gordon-Levitt was good as Snowden, it didn't add much to Laura Poitras's acclaimed documentary Citizenfour, and was lacking both in drama and in condemnation of the surveillance state.[9][10]

AmeriKKKa's most unwanted[edit]

Finding it harder to make films or get anyone to watch them after the box office bombing of Snowden, he has increasingly worked in documentary, generally leaning heavily on friendly interviews with controversial world leaders, which are cheap to film and guaranteed at least a bit of press coverage. These included studies of his mates Fidel Castro, in Comandante (2003), and Hugo Chávez, in Mi Amigo Hugo (2014).[11][12] He also directed The Untold History of the United States (2012), a 12-episode documentary series about America's imperialistic shenanigans since World War II in the spirit of Howard Zinn, and Ukraine on Fire (2016), in which Stone argues Russia was justified in annexating Crimea.[13]

In 2017, Stone released a series of four 1-hour interviews with Vladimir Putin, The Putin Interviews. The interviews consist of mainly softball questions from Stone, resulting in what is basically propaganda.[14]


  1. Heaven & Earth, Rotten Tomatoes
  2. Heaven And Earth (1993), Roger Ebert, RogerEbert.com, December 24, 1993
  3. Review/Film: Heaven and Earth; A Woman's View Of Vietnam Horrors, Janet Maslin, New York Times, Dec 24, 1993
  4. Thanks to the Onion, Americans already knew this
  5. Trump releases some, but not all, JFK assassination records by Jeremy Diamond & Kevin Liptak (Updated 8:04 AM ET, Fri October 27, 2017) CNN.
  6. Revisiting Hours: ‘W.’ and the Age of Incompetence, Tim Grierson, Rolling Stone
  7. Fact Checking Oliver Stone's W., Larry Carroll, MTV, 10/08/2008
  8. "Director’s Commentary (DVD Extra)
  9. Snowden, Rotten Tomatoes, accessed 8 Oct 2019
  10. ‘Snowden’ Review: Oliver Stone’s Whistleblower Biopic Isn’t Crazy Enough, Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
  11. Comandante, IMDb
  12. Mi Amigo Hugo, IMDb
  13. http://www.newsweek.com/oliver-stone-insults-megyn-kelly-fawns-over-putin-622789
  14. Oliver Stone defended Vladimir Putin to Stephen Colbert. The audience laughed at him by Stephanie Merry (June 13 at 9:54 AM) The Washington Post.