The Deer Hunter

8.13 h 4 min1978X-RayR
Winner of five Academy Awards®, The Deer Hunter stars Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken in an unforgettable saga of friendship and courage set during the Vietnam War.
Michael Cimino
Robert De NiroMeryl StreepChristopher Walken
English [CC]
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Supporting actors
John CazaleJohn SavageGeorge DzundzaShirley StolerChuck AspegrenRutanya Alda
Barry SpikingsMichael CiminoMichael DealeyJohn Peverall
Universal Pictures
R (Restricted)
Content advisory
Smokingalcohol usenudityfoul languagesexual contentviolence
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4.6 out of 5 stars

5092 global ratings

  1. 78% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 12% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 6% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 1% of reviews have 2 stars
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Cheryl R.Reviewed in the United States on January 25, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
WAR is Hell, Let's Not Repeat It
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I saw this movie when it was first released. I was pretty young at the time but I do remember that It helped me to understand why so many soldiers were coming back emotional trainwrecks. When I recently watched it again it had the effect of making me feel transported back in time to 1970s, it's just so real to that time. The deerhunter movie is like a time capsule of real life during the seventies. The houses, the buildings, the steel mill, the bar all look reminiscent of life in an established city of the time. This could be Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland or an number of areas in the U.S. The wedding, the Polish neighborhood, the ethnic dancing, the clothing, the cars once again are accurate to the times. The behavior of people in the neighborhood as well reminds me of the seventies. People were friendly and knew each other. The mother of the groom looking for pity because her son isn't marrying a neighborhood girl. The bridesmaids look real not like models with a ton of makeup. The group of women wearing babushkas and carrying the wedding cake to the hall. This is something you might have seen in such a neighborhood. The behavior of the men who hung out together after work and who go deer hunting together. The phones are few and are attached to the wall. The men trying to honor a soldier who doesn't want to talk about the war. So true of the turbulent seventies. As we follow the group to the Vietnam war we see them dealing with a lot of different circumstances which have changed them in different ways. In the initial Vietnam scene one of the friends can barely deal with the emotional trauma of hearing men pulling the trigger with a gun held to their head. In the hospital Christopher Walken is so traumatized that he can barely communicate. These are things which really occurred during the Vietnam war. People treating death and killing as casually as swatting a fly. Later we see that the recently married fellow has lost both his legs. We see scenes in which multiple soldiers are returning home dead in metal boxes. And of course the scene where Robert Deniro attempts to persuade his friend to return home but Walken shoots himself instead is also very emotional. All of this gives those of us who didn't go to Vietnam a peek of the horror show we missed. This is a movie about a group of people dealing with the effects of war during the seventies. Those people were changed forever by war. Robert Deniros character can no stand to see handguns mishandled and will not shoot a deer. His recently married friend will not walk again on his own legs and possibly may never work again. The third friend is dead and buried at the end of the movie. Anyone who watches should be changed also in some way. This is movie that shows the watcher that war is hell. This is important especially for the young to learn. Today it is common to see so many kids glamorizing war and viewing themselves as indestructible while playing video games. This is a movie that makes a statement to "wake up and see the reality of war." Few movies have have made an impact upon me as this one has. I think that's why do many people see this as one of the greatest movies of all time.
68 people found this helpful
John P. Jones IIIReviewed in the United States on October 4, 2019
1.0 out of 5 stars
“Extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds…”
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Winner of five Academy awards, “unforgettable saga of friendship and courage,” Robert de Niro, Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken…

I first saw this movie in 1978 in Atlanta. I remember coming out of the theater with this sense of unreality, and a serious dislocation from those around me, none of whom had been in the war. This was not “Hearts and Minds,” the terribly realistic account of the Vietnam War that I had seen in 1974, in Atlanta’s only art theater. No, this was the “big time, popular culture” version of the Vietnam War, a horrible phantasmagoria of the war that painted the Vietnamese as evil and the American participants as so damaged they would never be able to function again. This movie would be the first of several, certainly including “Apocalypse Now.” Yet, I was also fascinated by more than half the movie which depicted life around the steel mills near Pittsburgh, something that I knew a bit about, having worked in one for two summers, just as the Vietnam War was “cranking up.”

I knew this movie was bad… and that it had commenced a very distorted remembrance of the war in the popular culture. I’d been postponing a re-viewing of it to determine just how bad it was, but now have finally “bit the bullet.” It was even worse than I remember, and the 146 “trivia” items associated with this film helped confirm my even lower assessment. A new term: “Oscar baiting.” A “trivia” item explained how this was the first movie to use a number of techniques, like an initial small release, late in the year, to help ensure that the move would receive Oscars.

“Real men doing real men’s work”… that is a steel mill, or, at least it was. The locker room, and the bar, with signs for “Iron City” beer, but the preferred beer is “Rolling Rock.” Men, in their good-natured joisting, some faux male bonding. Drunks can be tedious; watching them in a movie, more so. Still, the center piece of the first hour and 10 minutes is Steven’s (John Savage) wedding, in a Russian Orthodox church. Steven’s mother is unhappy, ‘cause the bride is “showing” a bit. On the re-viewing, I heard, loud and clear, the Russian word “pozhaluista,” a handy word to know if you are traveling through the Soviet Union. Real men hunt; “one shot” is the only way to kill, ‘cause two is for… that slightly derogatory word for women. Depicted is, or at least was, Clairton Pennsylvania, just up the Monongahela River from Homestead. Although it appeared to be Clairton to me, thanks to the trivia section, it turns out it was really Cleveland, Ohio. The hunting scenes, even back then, were obviously NOT set in the rolling hills of Western PA. Rather, that old white Cadillac drove all the way across the country to the Cascades, of Washington state. Before they leave for the Army, Nick (Christopher Walken) extracts a promise from Michael (Robert de Nero): “You gotta promise me not to leave me over there…”

At 70 minutes, suddenly we are in Vietnam (Thailand). No hint what year it is. Michael, and we suppose Nick and Steve, are Green Berets, with the 101st Airborne, which requires a year of training. EVERYTHING about the military segments is wrong, outrageously so. You’d think Michael Cimino, the Director, would have someone check the uniforms, and make sure that they are right. No. A wild pastiche of badges and awards. Michael even comes back from Vietnam wearing a beard (which the trivia section also called out). Trivia section also noted that all three are too OLD to be in that sort of combat. The first Vietnamese shown immediately kills 50-100 women and children in a bunker. Michael uses a flame thrower, instead of his M-16, to kill this soldier, who is out in the open. Somehow all three are captured and are POWs, at a remote jungle Enter “Russian Roulette,” orchestrated by those evil Vietnamese. (The trivia section indicated that about 25 deaths have been attributed to the popularizing of “Russian Roulette” by this movie.)

Apparently, someone cornered Cimino enough that he would claim that the movie really was not about the Vietnam War… it was about all that “saga of friendship and courage.” Hum. That is the part when I really wanted to SCREAM. Somehow, drawing three cards to an inside straight, Michael manages to trick the Vietnamese captors as they play a bit of roulette, kill them, and then escape and float down a river. An American helicopter to the rescue, well, at least of Nick. Steven and Michael literally hang from the skids, before dropping back into the river. The helicopter leaves them!! Michael pulls Steven out of the river, noting a broken leg at the shin. He decides to carry him on his back from somewhere north of Danang to Saigon, through the jungle!! At the sign welcoming one to Saigon, he sees a jeep driven by South Vietnamese army soldiers. He dumps Steven onto the hood of the jeep, thus into ARVN hands, and wanders off. The next time he sees Steven he is in a VA hospital, with both legs amputated at the hip, and Michael asks him how he is doing!! SCREAM, redux. Meanwhile, Nick is making a pretty good living in Saigon playing Russian Roulette with those evil Vietnamese (and an evil Frenchman), for YEARS, sending lots of hundred-dollar bills back to Steven, that are kept in his drawer at the VA bedside, without being stolen.

It even gets worse! But if you’ve read this far, suffice it to say, I got a bit of this off my chest. As Charles Mackay described, almost two centuries ago, there are these delusions that sweep through the crowds. Anointing such an appalling fantasy with “must-see” Academy Awards is an example of such madness. And what did Streep and de Niro REALLY think about their role in this? This movie is not just “harmless” bad, and that extends far beyond the 25 roulette deaths, but remains a most damaging portrait of the war and its participants. Thus, I must provide a new rating category: “zero-stars.”
36 people found this helpful
nick eckersonReviewed in the United States on June 11, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
What can one really say?
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It's 2020 and I write this amid the Corona Pandemic and the Black Lives Matter rallies and protests. Riots have hit our streets-- are you sick of hearing about it? You're probably sick of even reading that last sentence. I am 30 and a dude from the suburbs and my mom and dad are sick of this movie because it reminds them of the parts of Vietnam their fathers and mothers lived through and rarely spoke about. The painful thing is that we must watch and must witness these things, not look away always. There's of course balance. The main takeaway for me was that they who survived stuck together, and as painful as it was, De Niro's character did his best to bring his group together again, whether they survived the war at home mentally, emotionally, or were damaged but alive-- Nikki, Stevie-- he did his best because at the end of the day, we all can watch this and know that we will survive only by coming together. That's what we are here for, is to go through life together. That's what the final scene is about, that's what the opening half is about. Whether our job looks like hell itself (the steel mill, the fire in the plant, or the fires in Saigon) or our time doing duty as a soldier in some way looks like hell, we who survive look out for one another. Let this sink in-- not once did they talk about who thinks what about politics or whatever else they could have-- they dealt with life as-is. God bless the veterans, the living and the deceased. God bless us then, now and forever in the future, Amen.
16 people found this helpful
James W. ThreadgillReviewed in the United States on April 16, 2019
1.0 out of 5 stars
Fire the writer, director, editor
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This "war film" devotes more footage to a wedding than the war -- a Russian peasant wedding with all that culture's inherent tackiness and ghastly music. I wanted to shove ice picks through my eyes and ears less than halfway through the more than 33 minutes devoted to the wedding. I could have attended an actual wedding and returned home in time to fast forward through to the end of the wedding segment.

The hunting trip was a jarring discontinuity. The film presents the hunting trip as a simple trip to nearby hunting grounds. The group sets out and seems to arrive at the hunting grounds -- around 3,000 miles across the country in a junk vehicle anyone with sense wouldn’t trust enough to cross town in -- on the same morning. One would need to be as ignorant of North American geography as the film makers are of pacing (glacial like Russian literature but sans well developed redeeming philosophical themes) to not be jarred by the shattering shots of western range mountains towering above tree line, hosting glaciers so soon after leaving PA steel country.

Finally, we get to Viet Nam where our guys --except one -- go directly to the POW camp without ever -- as far as the viewer can ascertain -- engaging the enemy or firing a shot. The "POW" camp looks more like a badly maintained peasant sustenance plot than VC/NVA camp. It's poorly guarded with no more visible guards than prisoners which consist only of the main characters and one possible other. (I assume a half dozen extras would have blown the budget for I can imagine no other scenario to justify the thinly drawn, one dimensional camp.) It seems POW activity consists of near non-stop Russian Roulette in which the hapless guards hand prisoners guns with as many as three live ammunition rounds. They must want to be shot!

Then it’s back to soporific scenes from the backwoods steel town. And yet another hunting trip where we learn the film makers know less about hunting than geography. The hunting party runs around making more noise than the Macy’s parade without causing the game, which apparently exists in concentrations more on par with a zoo than nature, any alarm. Not a single game animal bolts even when fired upon. These lazy critters can’t work up more speed than a dissipated trot.

Finally, after sitting through nearly 150 minutes of tepid celluloid, we get to the only part of this travesty with any value. And by that point, my finger had merged with the remote’s fast forward button.

Watch Apocalypse Now or Platoon and thank me for warning you off the torturous 180 minutes I’ll never get back.
17 people found this helpful
Mr. MajestykReviewed in the United States on February 7, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
An American Tragedy
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The Deer Hunter is said to be about a lot of things: friendship, loyalty, male rite of passage, the effects of a war physically, spiritually, psychologically and communally. I think of it as a movie concerned with people--their inner workings and what motivates them, what makes them tick. The movie spends a lot of time in curious zooms, simply peering into the faces and eyes of the actors. It seems content in that aspect alone.

There are so many scenes to admire. The Russian Roulette sequence is particularly violent and disturbing, unleashing a dark cloud upon the rest of the characters' lives. The deer hunting scenes are beautifully photographed. I love how upon Deniro's return from Vietnam he finds he no longer needs to hunt deer for sport, tossing a revolver to the wind, realizing his experience in the war has made him repulsed by violence of any kind.

I love the scene where Walken is in the hospital, post prison camp. A doctor asks him his name and Walken is so full of grief he is unable to speak, and he sobs, muttering softly, struggling for the words. The camera lingers on this pain for quite a while. I have a feeling it is the scene that won Walken the Oscar--it's quite astonishing.

The ending where the entire cast sings God Bless America will simply knock you off your feet. Roger Ebert said some interesting things about it in his review in 1978: "What The Deer Hunter insists is that we not forget the war. It ends on a curious note: The singing of 'God Bless America.' I won't tell you how it arrives at that particular moment, but I do want to observe that the lyrics of "God Bless America" have never before seemed to me to contain such an infinity of possible meanings, some tragic, some unspeakably sad, some few still defiantly hopeful."

To me, this is The Deer Hunter, in a nutshell. It is not Pro-war. It is not Anti-war. It is simply a record of how war enters a group of people's lives. "It is a progression from a wedding to a funeral. It is one of the most emotionally shattering movies ever made", Ebert.

Could the film have benefitted from a stronger sense of editing? Yes. And no. Some folks say the Wedding Sequence drags on far too long. They may have a point. But when the film is finished, all of the events included in their entirety bring the film to a satisfying conclusion, I believe. As I said, this movie is simply concerned with people, its' characters, the ensemble. And you have to be prepared to view it through such a lens.

It's not a movie EVERYONE adores. Some viewers will find the film frustrating, artsy, confounding and unsatisfying. Others will find it poignant, sincere and beautiful. I am in the latter category.
81 people found this helpful
Jose Eustasio RiveraReviewed in the United States on September 30, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
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I've been watching many movies as always. this year I watched my best of the best war movies again and just as an afterthought I said I'll watch the Deer Hunter. a movie that I had seen in E.S. when it came out in 1978. I was only 16 at the time or 17 if you can believe that.
the war scene had impressed me but it was not one of my favorite favorite movies. Man what a surprise I got watching it again. For a movie to impress me at 56 y.o. when I have seen so many movies it has to be a treasure indeed and it is. the movie is long 3 hours and 40 minutes but well worth it. I actually paid $8.00 to rent - well worth it!

The actors are nothing less than robert de niro, christopher walken, meryl streep, Fredo from the Godfather. therefore, the acting is impeccable. I cannot say enough good things about the movie which obviously I was too young to appreciate when I saw it the first time.

Everything is perfect about the movie. I will go as far as to say that it is as good as the two godfather movies and even better. Why? those movies although masterpieces were about power, italian family, crime, violence. this movie is about real life after a tragedy, friendship, the impact that war has in friends, girlfriends, a small community but also about the good things about the community. In other words, topics that more akin to real life and there is more positive in this movie that the godfather movies.

It also impressed me how far ahead of its time it was in language, i.e. swearing.

One caution: if you watch it don't have high expectations or you'll be disappointed.

A movie like this makes life worth living.
6 people found this helpful
Crazy SvenReviewed in the United States on January 21, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
BEST Vietnam War Movie Ever
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"The Deer Hunter" is the Vietnam War film that I liked much better than "Apocalypse Now" by virtue of its peek into small-town American life during the same period, without all the propaganda. One of the top films of all time. A cinematic masterpiece.
19 people found this helpful
Mudda GooseReviewed in the United States on January 18, 2021
3.0 out of 5 stars
Important Psychological Damage seen from Vietnam's drastic traumas; Not a good war-film overall.
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I went into this movie having studied the infamous scene that everyone knows best, Russian Roulette with the VC gambling green berets' lives away. So, I wanted to encapsulate this movie having known that scene from film school.

First off, this film is WAY too long. with just over 3 hours of runtime, I hated to find myself sitting in a lot of it, but then catching myself skipping ahead through the overly drawn out scenes of jokes, gags, drunkards, and eventually Mike finding Nick. The movie, understandably, wants you to experience the slow burn, even though we have established how quickly we jump from period to period in this film. Because of this, the pacing is botched, making it neither a fluid and smooth sail, nor a cigarette being put out on your flesh; it lands somewhere undecidedly in the middle.

Second, a lot of the movie labels itself as a war film, and while I loved seeing the performances of each Vietnam vet's PTSD and how it's screwed up their lives or ruined it forever, we didn't really see all that much to work with. In just about an hour and a half, we've seen where the men work, hangout, get ready for a wedding, and then the women doing all these things as well (including an unused side-plot with Linda, Meryl Streep's character, being abused by her sickly father...which never gets developed to anything??). The hunting trips infuriated me as much as De Niro's character was bringing these sloppy drunkards hunting! They never shut up, they're always drinking, and the one character, whose forgettable name I've already...well, FORGOTTEN, doesn't bring any of his gear when they go hunting. I seriously cannot fathom how they've been on THIS many hunting trips alone. After about the 2nd time where this bozo has forgotten his gear, I'd have not invited him, PERIOD. Nothing against him, just he isn't a hunter...AT ALL. Nick and Mike are the only relatable ones who seem to understand how hunting works: you track, you stay quiet, and you do not take a shot until you have a clear sight of your deer, and you make it in one shot. Two shots, meaning you're both A. a bad aim, and B. making the animal suffer because you didn't kill it on sight.
Not only is Mike the most relatable character in my own eyes, especially with drunkard, loudmouthed and irresponsible friends, but he also becomes the most broken...he loses the most before realizing he needed to appreciate those things before shipping off to hell itself.
Now that we've gotten through the worst setup to a war film, let's talk about Vietnam:

It ain't pretty, it's war; it's bloody and cruel.
That said, you'd expect maybe some more scenes of it? We see only 2 scenes of any REAL war zones in the movie: the village, and then abruptly the "POW Camp". It's a shoddy hut on the river, and it's practically asking to be unprotected, asking to be overrun in a mere matter of seconds. If the screenwriter had it dubbed or labeled as a FOB/Outpost POW Camp or something of the like, even THEN I'd say you're full of it. 1 measly fisherman's hut on the river, and 6-7 VC soldiers...that's it? After a few moments of seeing a field of them sweep out of the trees to capture these characters, and we get a handful of goons to be shot. Frankly, it's rather underwhelming, as you know things are gonna swing in their favor with how much runtime is left. And literally after escaping from one of the biggest parts of the movie, it just takes you back home, with another hour and fifteen left to fill the void on a very short section of the movie.
This is where the film shined brightest, as it showed how damaged these men were coming home; maimed physically and mentally. Mike, a spirit and mentally broken steel mill worker/deer hunter, now unable to one shot his game anymore...nay, miss and let it get away. Steven, forever scarred by war, and Nick AWOL.
The film finishes in a rather unfulfilling way with no sense of if everything will work out, or what: which is why I loved it's ending. Like the memories of war, it's frozen in time, frozen in memory and nightmares. It will never go away, but have to endure the struggles they faced. As a group of friends; as a broken family.

The film direly needed some more war to protest it's anti-war agenda. I am anti-war as well, but if all you're going do to convince me is put me through Russian Roulette for a half hour, and then yank me out of Vietnam, I'm sorry you're gonna have to do better than that.
I am not diminishing the players' performance, I am diminishing the play (so to speak).

The movie lacked so many things that Apocalypse Now, or Platoon, or Hamburger Hill, or We Were Soldiers had (Mel Gibson's film being all the more similar in this list, in regards to the things I mentioned above). A war film about Vietnam where we show a wedding for half the runtime is like a gangster film where all we see is the crooked fellas cooking spaghetti for half the film, and then having a 20 minute segment where the gangsters get in a shootout and all die. It's built up well, but then tries to burn it with alcohol and ends up just accidentally snuffing the flame out more--
It's a slow burn, that never evolves into a flame. And that is why I deem it a 3 star, frustrating, but important period piece film.
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