Seven Amazing Drill Sergeants in Movies

Mckinney – Cadence

I’m not 100% sure if Mckinney was even a drill sergeant in this movie but I put him in here anyway because he acted as such.   Played by Martin Sheen, he’s a tough acting, big drinking military man who’s out to prove himself and to prove to Private Bean (Charlie Sheen) that he’s as good as anyone else.

Sgt. Cass – Renaissance Man

A very underrated role by Gregory Hines.   Cass is trying to mold his recruits into soldiers while he’s at odds with Danny Devito’s character who is trying to educated these boys.   Hines and Devito are constantly butting heads on whose philosophy is better.   But you see that Hines has a compassionate side.

Sgt. Apone – Aliens

Sergeant Apone (Al Matthews) was the squad leader of the team that went to investigate LV-426. Apone was far more liked and respected than his C.O, Lieutenant Gorman. During the first incursion into the atmospheric processor, he enforced Gorman’s orders not to use pulse rifle and smartgun ammunition. Shortly after finding a still-alive cocooned colonist whose chest bursts to reveal an alien, Apone grabbed a flamethrower from Frost to incinerate it

  • Chris

    What, no Sgt. Zim from Starship Troopers? 🙁

  • Chris

    Also how could you leave out Major Payne? It may be kind of a kids movie but he’s still pretty freaking awesome.

  • MurderBot

    No love for Clancy Brown’s Sgt. Zim from Starship Troopers?!

  • HarshReality

    Minor Edits (from a Marine).
    Full Metal Jacket. It’s GySgt Hartman (or Gunny). It’s Drill Instructor not Drill Sergeant in the Marines. They get a bit techy about it. Trust me.

    Same for Officer and a Gentleman. Actually technically for officer’s school it’s Sergeant Instructors if I remember correctly. It’s been a few years.

    As for Aliens, Apone is a GySgt (Gunnery Sergeant or Gunny) and he wasn’t really a DI, but a Platoon Sergeant. And as such doesn’t really fit in this list. Zim from the book Starship Troopers would be a good fit, but the movie was an abortion of classic scifi.

    And yes, its all fiction so I’m being far to anal.


  • Griffon23

    I’m not a huge fan, but I think Viggo Mortensen was one of the better movie Drill Instructors(although I think he may have been a Master Chief) in G.I. Jane.

  • Biji M.

    I don’t care if he’s a colonel – KILGORE FROM APOCALYPSE NOW, man!!

  • Diablo

    For enlisted navy, they are RDC’s (Recruit Division Commanders) generally E-5 to E-7 and are too ugly and retarded to be recruiters, hence getting stuck with a terrible shore billet.

  • andrew

    Al Matthews (Apone) was a Marine in real life too. Served combat duty in Vietnam. He was actually the first black Marine meritoriously promoted to the rank of Sergeant. And, he’s a folk singer.

  • Bert

    Sgt. Slaughter!

    Also, I believe that R. Lee Ermey wasn’t just a military man, but an ACTUAL drill instructor.

  • aSnarkyShark

    Let’s not forget Clint Eastwood’s role as Tom Highway in Heartbreak Ridge, where he was a Gunnery Sergeant.

  • Diablo

    Bert- Not only was Ermey a Drill instructor, his lines are almost all completely his own. He was originally just a technical adviser until Kubrick witnessed him tearing into film extras in an instructional video for the actor who was supposed to play the role. I guess he figured, f- getting an actor when you got the real thing. More amazingly, Ermey would get his scenes done in very few takes. That is almost unheard of for a Kubrick film…so either Kubrick was happy with his performance or he was just intimidated. The Marines actually gave him an honorary post retirement to E-7 for his film work.

    No other branch would have done that. Hell, my old branch, the navy only lets crap like “Top Gun” get produced. That film could only be less accurate if they had Tom Cruise riding a unicorn into an air battle.

  • BobaFett

    Just to be clear as a former Marine, it is incorrect to say “in the Marines”. No one is “IN” the Marines. If you were to enlist, it would be in the “MARINE CORPS”.

    In regards to Sergeant Ermey (USMC Ret), during a Marine Corps DI School cycle, at least twice, part of your training is to yell at a tree for up to 15 minutes without stopping. You learn to be creative, as you aren’t allowed to swear at recruits anymore.

    My Senior DI used to say God Dern Fricken at least every three sentences. Lima Co, PLT 3039 Apr24-Jul20 1990. Ooh Rah.

    Major Payne is a very glaring omission for this article, while as said above, Apone (A Platoon Sgt) and McKinney (Brig Chief/SNCOIC) don’t belong.

  • Dorito

    Clint Eastwood as Gunnery Sgt. Tom Highway in Heartbreak Ridge is a glaring enough omission that I felt compelled to reiterate what someone else already pointed out.

  • Mike

    I second that. heartbreak ridge is hilarious and Clint plays the role very well.


  • shieldwolf

    “R Lee Ermey” Was just as damn good in “Boys From Company C” He reminds me of my Drill Sgt Lenderman! YAYYOO! We Love Dough! LOL

  • shieldwolf

    In 1987, he was involved in a jeep accident during the making of Full Metal Jacket (1987). At 1:00 am one morning, he skidded off the road, breaking all the ribs on his left side. He refused to pass out and kept flashing his car lights until a motorist stopped. In some scenes in the movie, he does not move his left arm at all.
    That! My Friends is a real man!

  • Tough talk has its place in the training regimen and instructors at times use some Gunny Hartman techniques to make certain points, but the military recognizes that mentoring is a more effective teaching tool than abuse.

    From my own experience, the most accurate portrayals of drill sergeants were R. Lee Ermy as SGT Loyce in Boys in Company C (his first film role) and Louis Gossett, Jr’s Foley character, mentioned in the article.

    While he was not a drill sergeant, the Apone character should get an honorable mention here. Al Matthews was spot on as a platoon sergeant. I was wondering how an actor could have been so credible in such a role. Perhaps his six years in the Marine Corps and his Vietnam combat experience helped.

  • ramo etneciv

    Cool list.

    As for myself, my list of the best movie sergeants would go like this…

    1) GySgt Hartman – Full Metal Jacket
    2) GySgt. Tom Highway – Heartbreak Ridge
    3) GySgt. Emil Foley – An Officer and A Gentleman
    4) GySgt Jack Burns – Death Before Dishonor
    5) SSgt. Ezekiel Anderson – Tour of Duty
    6) SSgt. John “Reaper” Grimm – Doom
    7) SSgt. Michael Nantz – Battle: Los Angeles
    8) Sgt. Elias Grodin – Platoon
    9) Sgt. “Chip” Saunders – Combat (TV series)
    10) Sgt. Charlie Zim – Starship Troopers

  • Mafoc

    Just to clarify, the Army has Drill Sergeants, the Marines have Drill Instructors.