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Duel (1972)


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Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 3
Fresh: 2 | Rotten: 1



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Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 34,488

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Movie Info

Driving down a deserted Southern California highway at a safe and sane 55 miles per hour, David Mann (Dennis Weaver) steps on the pedal to pass a large gas trailer truck. Moments later, the truck is back, dangerously tailgating Mann before abruptly cutting him off. For the next 90 minutes, Mann and the never-seen truckdriver are pitted against one another in a motorized duel to the death. Author Richard Matheson conceived Duel after a similar experience with a reckless trucker. The story first


Mystery & Suspense, Television

Richard Matheson

Aug 17, 2004

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All Critics (37) | Top Critics (3) | Fresh (32) | Rotten (5) | DVD (25)

This 1971 made-for-TV movie was one of Steven Spielberg's auditions for Jaws, and the same slickly impersonal shock effects prevail.

December 10, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Comments (4)
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Simply a rivetingly murderous game of cat and mouse that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Even without benefit of hindsight, Duel looks like the work of an unusually talented young director.

January 15, 2005 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film's rusted, growling tanker truck is an obvious predecessor to the man-eating Great White of Jaws. And it's every bit as terrifying.

July 20, 2011 Full Review Source: Projection Booth
Projection Booth

... 'road rage' taken to new heights of exploitation by the boy wonder.

August 2, 2009 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

At 24, Spielberg demonsrated his technical virtuosity with his first made for TV feature, a nail-biting suspenser of a salesman pursued on the roadby a mad trucker.

July 12, 2009 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

Steven Spielberg's debut feature is a ripper

April 24, 2009 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

The film pits the awesome talents of Richard Matheson ... with Spielberg, delivering one of the best genre films of the past 50 years.

July 4, 2008 Full Review Source: ESplatter

An exquisite piece of streamlined suspense and action that clearly demonstrates that [Spielberg] was already in full control of his vision.

December 10, 2007 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Superior made-for-TV thriller directed by Spielberg.

May 11, 2006

Duel demeure donc encore aujourd'hui l'un des meilleurs exemples de l'agilité de Spielberg à si bien combler un manque de substance par ses grands talents de raconteur.

February 9, 2006 Full Review Source: Panorama

pretty boring for Spielberg

August 29, 2005 | Comments (6)
7M Pictures

A lean, efficient thrill ride that taps into "road rage" long before the term existed.

November 11, 2004
Capital Times (Madison, WI)

[A] masterpiece of visual suspense that's hardly dated at all, more than 30 years later.

October 29, 2004 Full Review Source: Flick Filosopher
Flick Filosopher

Not even Hitchcock could have shot or paced Duel any better. Spielberg understands precisely where to insert his silences and pauses, and when to make them restful or tense. He knows how to pour it on for the exciting chase scenes.

September 13, 2004 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

A thrillingly paranoid tale of a businessman (Dennis Weaver) and his apocalyptic duel with the driver of a monster truck.

September 3, 2004 Full Review Source: Boulder Weekly

A sort of minimalist telepic precursor to John Dahl's Joyride that packs the unadulterated genre punch of pure grain alcohol...

August 23, 2004 Full Review Source: Entertainment Today
Entertainment Today

Gets plenty of mileage (no pun intended) out of its simple premise.

August 19, 2004 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

A singular idea executed to perfection

October 24, 2003
Lawrence Journal-World

Spielberg's first film finds the director ruthlessly exploiting a devastatingly simple premise to extraordinary effect.

August 19, 2003 Full Review Source: Film4

Audience Reviews for Duel

The predecessor to the entire truck versus man sub-genre of horror films; of course Steven Spielberg was at the helm of this fairly original concept film. It was the director's first film, the start of a series of films that would culminate in a canon that's lasted for forty years. This first venture had many of the same elements as later films, especially what many consider his magnum opus, "Jaws." The psychological play here rises to an ending climax that pales in comparison to some earlier horror films, and moments in the film still scare forty some years later. The driver is never shown, the situations that he puts the other driver into really scare, and no one seems to be around to help the injured party, which makes for some heart pounding sequences. It's a very simple concept, but with some character development for the part of David (Weaver) who is trying to get back to his wife. Does that have much bearing on the film itself? Not really, because the concept has a driver versus a truck on the open road, with several complications, and that's it. There isn't even all that much dialogue except in the first fifteen minutes. What makes the film watchable, as well as rich in foreshadowing and tension, seems to be the fact that they never seem to leave each other. Even in the moments when there's no chase, when it's quiet and we're waiting for the truck to appear around the bend, it's tempting to scream with anticipation. What also pushes the film past psychological and into the realm of horror is the fact that the truck driver in question randomly seems to choose this victim. It's hellish, the driver and the truck sometimes seeming like the exact same creature, and oftentimes it's hard to distinguish the face-like grill on the front of the truck from a hellhound driver's. Really, the best thing about this early film is that others afterwards weren't as developed and yet had much more story and character than this film, which is simply astounding.
September 9, 2013

Super Reviewer


Back in the day before Steven Spielberg became an enormously acclaimed filmmaker irresponsibly recognized by the Oscars for directing epic, arty, classy dramas, he was unrecognized for his talent in the thriller genre. When he began he directed his incredible debut feature, a little monster of an exploitation movie called "Duel." Although it was filmed on a micro budget and was regarded as a throwaway B movie by the studio that backed it's production, it remains one of the most skilfully crafted television movies ever produced, and to a greater extent it is among Spielberg's greatest films if not the very best of his prestigious cinema legacy. Interestingly ever since it's creation a number of Spielberg's well known films pay homage to Duel through similar uses of camera shots and characters originating from this film, including that of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Jaws. Needless to say that it is incredibly tense and endlessly terrifying. It it essentially the perfect demonstration that ambition and imagination is superior to massive CGI creations when it comes to making the most skillful and enjoyable horror films for both genre fanatics and the general popcorn audience. Not only is Dennis Weaver's twitchy, quirky, paranoid performance absolutely terrific, but the direction is absolutely phenomenal for a feature debut. Spielberg get's just about everything in this genre movie correct, it has an opportunist plot, a fantastic lead, endless tension and sets his career up for greater triumphs. It has a marvelous Hitchcock meets "The Twilight Zone" influenced narrative that makes for a great atmosphere enhanced with spellbinding music and sound effects as well as eery voice over work and silent suspense. Duel is basically a darkly haunting benchmark in demonstrating how a finely ambitious small screen director can be instantly transformed into Hollywood's most admired, all due to one influential and timeless hit.
February 24, 2013
Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

June 14, 2011

Super Reviewer

    1. David Mann: Okay.. Okay..! You want to play games?
    – Submitted by Sam M (21 months ago)
View all quotes (1)

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