The Dead Zone (1983)



Critic Consensus: The Dead Zone combines taut direction from David Cronenberg and and a rich performance from Christopher Walken to create one of the strongest Stephen King adaptations.

Movie Info

Christopher Walken plays a schoolteacher, Johnny Smith, who awakens from a five-year coma. He discovers that he has acquired the ability to foretell a person's future simply by touching his or her hand. After seeing several examples, Smith's doctor (Herbert Lom) becomes convinced that Smith can not only predict the future, but also has the power to change it. This ability is given its severest test when Smith shakes the hand of ruthless political candidate Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen) -- and … More

Rating: R (for a sexual reference)
Genre: Horror, Mystery & Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By:
Written By: Jeffrey Boam, David Cronenberg
In Theaters:
On DVD: Sep 19, 2000
Paramount Pictures


as Johnny Smith

as Sherriff George Bann...

as Weizak

as Henrietta

as Stuart

as Stillson

as Frank Dodd

as Herb Smith

as Vera Smith

as Sonny Elliman

as Alma Frechette

as Christopher Stuart

as Walter Bracknell

as Vice President

as Five-star General

as Secretary of State

as Dardis

as Therapist

as Secretary of State

as Natalie

as Weizak's mother

as Teenage Boy with Cam...

as Young Weizak

as Reporter

as Reporter

as T.V. Anchor

as Brenner

as Deputy #1

as Ambulance Driver

as Gene Purdy

as Sarah Bracknell

as Bruce Lewis

as Sheriff Bannerman

as Johnny Smith Jr.
Show More Cast

Friend Ratings

No Friends? Inconceivable! Log in to see what your friends have to say.


Critic Reviews for The Dead Zone

All Critics (40) | Top Critics (5)

An accomplished psychological thriller.

Full Review… | October 7, 2008
Top Critic

By no means a bad film, just a disappointingly bland and superficial one.

Full Review… | September 25, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Cronenberg pulls it off, but you can't help feeling it's a movie in search of a TV series.

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

The Dead Zone does what only a good supernatural thriller can do: It makes us forget it is supernatural.

Full Review… | October 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Mr. Cronenberg's direction is vivid and effective; his pacing is a little unemphatic at times, but the film's individual scenes are very well staged.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

The Dead Zone ultimately ranks as one of the best King adaptations to date.

Full Review… | October 21, 2013

Audience Reviews for The Dead Zone

Johnny Smith:  If you could go back in time to Germany, before Hitler came to power, knowing what you know now, would you kill him?

"In his mind, he has the power to see the future. In his hand, he has the power to change it."

The Dead Zone is one of many films to populate the genre of Stephen King adaptations. These films end up normally being hit or miss. We've had our share of great movies adapted from King's books, but we've also had a huge amount of terrible King adaptions. The Dead Zone is one that falls into the top category, and is one of the top King adaptions of all-time. It isn't my favorite, but it is a great movie with excellent direction from David Cronenberg and a performance from Christopher Walken that goes down as my personal favorite of his.

Johnny is a school teacher, who is close to marrying his girlfriend. After a date one night, he decides to go home instead of staying the night with his girl. There's a storm going on, which causes a semi to crash, leaving part of the truck in the road. Before he can realize it is there, Johnny crashes into the truck. Five years later he awakes from a coma to find out that he hasn't only lost five years, but his girl and job too. He also gained something through it all; he had the ability to see the past and future events that will surround a person when he touches their hand. 

There's a lot to love about The Dead Zone. From Walken as a psychic to Martin Sheen as a candidate running for the senate, the movie doesn't miss the mark much. The development of Johnny is extremely well done, as are the changing situations in the story. The story from King may be one of the smartest of his career, and Cronenberg found the genius in the story and let it out perfectly.

The Dead Zone is a classic film, that I myself consider as a must watch. It's an early film in Cronenberg's filmography, but of all the movies I have seen from him; this would have to be my favorite. It's one of those thrillers I could watch over and over again. The story is just so intriguing, and Cronenberg and Walken almost flawlessly continue to suck the viewer in deeper and deeper. 

Melvin White

Super Reviewer

Based on a novel by Stephen King, this is easily one of David Cronenberg's more straightforward and accessible films.

Christopher Walken stars as Johnny Smith- a schoolteacher whose live goes to pieces after a terrible car accident leaves him in a coma for five years. When he wakes up he discovers that he has the ability to see someone's future simply by touching their hand. It could be a blessing, or a curse, but either way, Johnny's new ability definitely gives him a new lease on life, for better...or worse.

Yeah, this might be just a studio gig for Cronenberg, but I think it's still a pretty solid and entertaining thriller. It's more toned down than most of his work, but he still manages to gt in some effectively creepy and unsettling moments here and there.

Plus, Walken is great. The seeds for his creepiness were sowed with The Deer Hunter and Annie Hall, but they come to full bloom here. Tom Skerritt, Martin Sheen, Brooke Adams and Herbert Lom all give some really good supporting performances, but this is clearly Walken's show.

The cinematography and music are great, I like the way they portray Johnny's visions, and, though this might be a fairly conventional film, it's still quite a fun thrill ride.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

A teacher involved in a near fatal car crash reawakens from a coma five years later with the power of second sight. David Cronenberg's most restrained and mainstream movie is based upon a Stephen King novel, but don't let that put you off. The Dead Zone, along with The Shining, is one of the very best examples of his numerous adaptations and is a fine exercise in supernatural suspense. The inventive plot sees a man haunted by images of future events, finely played by Christopher Walken in one of his least flamboyant performances. His hollow eyed, almost shell shocked interpretation strikes the mark perfectly and he is ably supported by Herbert Lom as a pragmatic doctor and holocaust survivor and Martin Sheen as an insidious senatorial candidate. The score also deserves a mention, providing exactly the right mix of the otherwordly and oppressive and the film as a whole is a perfectly engineered, tightly plotted and tautly paced chiller which still stands as one of Cronenberg's best.

xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

The Dead Zone Quotes

– Submitted by Brian f (18 months ago)
– Submitted by Brian f (18 months ago)
– Submitted by Brian f (18 months ago)
– Submitted by Alannah D (3 years ago)

Discussion Forum

Discuss The Dead Zone on our Movie forum!