Heaven & Earth (1993 film)

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Heaven & Earth
Heaven & Earth.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byOliver Stone
Produced by
Screenplay byOliver Stone
Story by
Music byKitarō
CinematographyRobert Richardson
Edited by
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • December 25, 1993 (1993-12-25)
Running time
140 minutes[1]
  • France
  • United States
  • English
  • Vietnamese
Budget$33 million
Box office$5.9 million[2]

Heaven & Earth is a 1993 biographical war drama film written and directed by Oliver Stone, and starring Tommy Lee Jones, Haing S. Ngor, Joan Chen, and Hiep Thi Le. It is Stone's third film about the Vietnam War, following Platoon (1986) and Born on the Fourth of July (1989).

The film was based on the books When Heaven and Earth Changed Places and Child of War, Woman of Peace, which Le Ly Hayslip wrote about her experiences during and after the Vietnam War.


Le Ly is a girl growing up in a Vietnamese village. Her life changes when communist insurgents show up in the village to first fight the forces of France and then the United States. During the American involvement, Le Ly is captured and tortured by South Vietnamese troops, and later raped by the Viet Cong because they suspect that she is a traitor. After the rape, her relationship with her village is destroyed, and she and her family are forced to move.

Her family moves to Saigon and she is employed by a family there. The master of the household misleads her into believing that he genuinely cares for her, and she falls for him and gets pregnant by him. The master's wife becomes enraged and Le Ly's whole family is forced to move back to their former province. There she meets Steve Butler, a Gunnery Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. When she first meets him she is not interested in a boyfriend or marriage, having been through so much suffering. Steve falls for Le Ly and treats her very well, making a big difference in her life while in Vietnam.

The two leave Vietnam and move to the United States. Their life together begins well, but years of killing in the war have taken their toll on Steve, who becomes uncontrollably violent. The relationship falters, despite Le Ly's attempts to reconcile with Steve. After an impassioned plea by Le Ly for Steve to come back to her, he commits suicide. Many years following this tragic experience, Le Ly returns to Vietnam with her sons and shows them where she came from.



Theatrical release[edit]

Heaven & Earth opened in 63 theaters on December 25, 1993. Its widespread release date was January 7, 1994, at which date it was playing in 781 theaters.[2]


The film received mixed reviews, in contrast to Stone's other films and especially films like Platoon and JFK. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 40% of critics gave the film a positive review based on a sample of 20 reviews, with an average score of 5.1/10. The site's consensus states: "Heaven & Earth is a well-intentioned glimpse into an underrepresented perspective on Vietnam, but Oliver Stone's solemn storytelling keeps audiences at a fatal distance from Hiep Thi Le's enigmatic heroine."[3] Desson Howe of The Washington Post called the script "structurally clunky" and complained that the film "lacks a poetic center."[4] James Berardinelli noted that the film "lacks much of the narrative strength" of Stone's other Vietnam films, particularly once Jones's character appears. Berardinelli also complained that flashbacks and voiceovers are overdone, although he did praise Stone for "a number of memorable camera shots."[5]

Handpicked by Stone, actress Hiep Thi Le's performance received mixed reviews. Roger Ebert called her performance "extraordinary", and Desson Howe complimented her "authentic presence."[4][6] James Berardinelli, however, called her "adequate, but not peerless" and noted that the emotional scenes reveal "the limits of her acting ability."[5]

Box office[edit]

Heaven & Earth opened in 63 theaters and, for its opening weekend, earned $379,807. For its widespread release, it played in 781 theaters and, for the weekend, earned $1,703,179. The film has had gross domestic receipts of $5,864,949.[2] It was a box office failure earning only $5.9 million on a budget of $33 million.


The music, by composer Kitarō, won the 1993 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score.


  1. ^ "Heaven & Earth (15) (CUT)". British Board of Film Classification. January 20, 1994. Retrieved December 9, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "Heaven and Earth". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 22, 2010.
  3. ^ "Heaven & Earth". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 22, 2010.
  4. ^ a b Howe, Desson (December 24, 1993). "Heaven and Earth". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 22, 2010.
  5. ^ a b James Berardinelli. "Heaven and Earth". Retrieved December 22, 2010.
  6. ^ Roger Ebert (December 24, 1993). "Heaven And Earth". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved December 22, 2010.

External links[edit]