Hearts and Minds: Reception by Film Critics

It’s hard to think of any political documentary than has been better received than “Hearts and Minds,” Peter Davis’ definitive chronicle of the Vietnam War, which had deservedly won the 1974 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.

“Power is virtually the first word heard in Peter Davis’s epic documentary Hearts and Minds, and power, real and mythical is what the film contemplates in as many tones and moods as you might expect in superior fiction.  Hearts and Minds is so various, so full of associations that go beyond the war, that the film does a lot more than preach to the committed.” Vincent Canby, The New York Times (1975)

“The charity of spirit that flood Hearts and Minds give it the right to be considered not only a true report but also a work that has the individual point of view possessed by art.  It is an extremely contemplative picture about some of the origins and consequences of the American involvement in Vietnam. Impressive that a work so coherent and mature can have been completed when the book is even now not closed.”  Penelope Gilliatt, The New Yorker (1975)

“A thoroughly committed, brilliantly executed and profoundly moving document… Unlike our leaders who encourage us to put Vietnam behind us, Davis wants us to confront our feelings about it first and to understand the experience before we bury it. We turn away from this portrait of ourselves at our peril.”  Paul Zimmerman, Newsweek (1975)

“A triumph. Davis has held up a mirror to our national conscience. His work endures as a touchstone for our concept of Americanism, patriotism, and personal and political principle.” Judith Crist, New York Magazine (1975)

Two years ago, Mr. Nixon and Dr. Kissinger gave the world the Christmas bombing. This year, I would like to give them and every other American a free ticket to a movie called Hearts and Minds…Peter Davis wanted to show three things – what elements in our own history had led us into the war, what we actually did there and ‘what the doing of it did to us.’ He accomplishes this with almost two hours of new and old footage assembled with such skill and subtlety that we see the war on film as we seemed never able to see it in real life…Weeping child and weeping parent, football coach and company commander, Buddhist monk, Saigon whore, Defense Secretary, cheerleader, general, infant, President – Hearts and Minds forces one to look war in its human face.” Shana Alexander, Newsweek (1974)

“I would not have thought I could be so moved by a film about the war, by images I’ve seen and arguments I’ve heard and metaphors I’ve memorized a hundred times over. But Hearts and Minds evokes the intensity that made the movement come to life.” Andrew Kopkind, Ramparts (1975)

Hearts and Minds is not only the best documentary I have ever seen, it may be the best movie ever. If I were to pick the one film that inspired me to pick up a camera, it is ‘Hearts and Minds,’ a film that remains every bit as relevant today. Required viewing for anyone who says, ‘I am an American.'” Michael Moore (2004)