Hamburger Hill is a 1987 American war film about the actual assault of the U.S. Army's 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Division 'Screaming Eagles', on a well-fortified position, including trenchworks and bunkers, of the North Vietnamese Army on Ap Bia Mountain near the Laotian border. American military records of the battle refer to the mountain as 'Hill 937', its map designation derived from its being 937 meters high.
The series of assaults (which resulted in heavy casualties to the American forces) commenced on May 10, 1969, with the hill finally being taken on May 20.
The film portrays fighting, combat, courage, camaraderie and dedication to the mission among troops. It also brings up painful questions about the Vietnam War, such as the stigmatizing of replacement troops ("newbies" or, more crudely, "FNGs", for "Fuckin' New Guys") and of the seeming caprice of high command in the conflict, specifically the lack of strategic value of the hill and subsequent unnecessary casualties. Other issues include the effect of anti-war sentiment on morale, and racial tensions among troops (especially the overcoming of racial tension by gradual friendship and earned respect).
Written by James Carabatsos and directed by John Irvin, the film starred Dylan McDermott, Steven Weber, Courtney B. Vance, Don Cheadle and Michael Boatman. The novelization was written by William Pelfrey. Set in May 1969 during the Vietnam War, the movie was distributed by Paramount Pictures, which had only theatrical rights to the film, whereas the video rights were owned by Vestron Video, and in later years by Live Entertainment, Artisan Entertainment, and Lions Gate Entertainment (which also recently acquired the UK video rights with distribution by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment). However, Paramount Television's successor CBS Television Distribution continues to distribute the film on TV.
One aspect of the war portrayed is how the soldiers in the field felt betrayed by people back in the United States, particularly college students. In one scene a soldier gets a letter from his girlfriend saying she will not keep writing because her college friends told her it was immoral. In another scene, Sgt. Worchester (played by Steven Weber) from the Southern United States says that when he got home he faced discrimination for being a veteran. When he got off the plane, hippies gave him and his fellow soldiers bags of dog feces. When he got to his house, his wife was sleeping with another man. None of this bothered him until he discovered that his local bartender had lost his son in the battle of the Ia Drang Valley and was sent home in "a rubber bag with 'members missing' labeled on it." To make it worse, college students kept phoning him saying they were glad his son was killed by "the heroic people's army", causing the bartender to start using heroin. This event caused Worchester to sign up for another tour in Vietnam.