It’s been 36 years since the release of Francis Ford Coppola’s seminal film about war, duty, and the slippery descent into the dark cavern of madness. The film is a masterpiece and a symphony of beautiful ugliness, but before it was sanded and lacquered and polished into that, it almost killed its star (Martin Sheen) and almost destroyed its creator.
The recollection of those sacrifices and struggles won’t stand the test of time, though. Only the final film will. Thanks to characters like Colonel Kurtz and Kilgore, performances by Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, Dennis Hopper, and Robert Duvall, the shocking imagery, and of course the words that tell the story.
So with that in mind, here are 11 essential quotes from Apocalypse Now accompanied by their relevant scenes.
“Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my sins they gave me one.” — Captain Willard
“Terminate with extreme prejudice.” — Jerry
“What the hell do you know about surfing, Major? You’re from goddamned New Jersey!” — Lt. Col. Kilgore
“You can either surf, or you can fight!” — Lt. Col. Kilgore
“I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” — Lt. Col. Kilgore
“I am beyond their timid lying morality, and so I am beyond caring.” — Captain Willard (reading a letter)
I’m a little man, I’m a little man, he’s… he’s a great man! I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across floors of silent seas.” — The Photojournalist
“It’s impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared.” — Colonel Kurtz
“You’re an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill.” — Colonel Kurtz
“We train young men to drop fire on people, but their commanders won’t allow them to write “fuck” on their airplanes because it’s obscene!” — Colonel Kurtz
“The horror. The horror.” — Colonel Kurtz