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The Deer Hunter

The Deer Hunter (1978)



Average Rating: 8.5/10
Reviews Counted: 50
Fresh: 46 | Rotten: 4

Its greatness is blunted by its length and one-sided point of view, but the film's weaknesses are overpowered by Michael Cimino's sympathetic direction and a series of heartbreaking performances from Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, and Christopher Walken.


Average Rating: 7.5/10
Critic Reviews: 7
Fresh: 6 | Rotten: 1

Its greatness is blunted by its length and one-sided point of view, but the film's weaknesses are overpowered by Michael Cimino's sympathetic direction and a series of heartbreaking performances from Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, and Christopher Walken.



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Average Rating: 4.1/5
User Ratings: 99,722

My Rating

Movie Info

One of several 1978 films dealing with the Vietnam War (including Hal Ashby's Oscar-winning Coming Home), Michael Cimino's epic second feature The Deer Hunter was both renowned for its tough portrayal of the war's effect on American working class steel workers and notorious for its ahistorical use of Russian roulette in the Vietnam sequences. Structured in five sections contrasting home and war, the film opens in Clairton, PA, as Mike (Robert De Niro), Nick (Christopher Walken), and Stan (John


Drama, Cult Movies

Deric Washburn

Sep 6, 2005

Universal Pictures

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All Critics (50) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (46) | Rotten (4) | DVD (28)

Is it as good as its advance word and nine Academy Award nominations suggest? Yes.

February 6, 2013 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This excruciatingly violent, three-hour Viet Nam saga demolishes the moral and ideological cliches of an era: it shoves the audience into hell and leaves it stranded without a map.

February 20, 2009 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine | Comment (1)
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film is ambitious and it succeeds on a number of levels and it proves that Cimino is an important director who deserves to be watched carefully.

February 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A disgusting account of what the evil Vietnamese did to poor, innocent Americans stands at the center of this Oscar-laden weepie about macho buddies from a small industrial town.

December 13, 2006 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Comments (46)
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This is probably one of the few great films of the decade.

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out | Comments (2)
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It is a heartbreakingly effective fictional machine that evokes the agony of the Vietnam time.

October 23, 2004 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This multi-Oscar winner from Michael Cimino remains one of the finest and most controversial movies about the Vietnam War.

January 16, 2014 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

Robert De Niro is, once again, explosive in this stunning Vietnam movie.

January 16, 2014 Full Review Source: People Magazine
People Magazine

Michael Cimino is better remembered for bankrupting United Artists Studios with "Heaven's Gate" (1980) than he is for making the highly-praised war picture that put him in a position to do such a thing in the first place.

July 17, 2013 Full Review Source:

Cimino's daring elegy to a war-torn community may be a long haul, but the extravagant running time is a small price to pay for such gut-wrenching performances and Vilmos Zsigmond's rich cinematography.

February 22, 2013 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

The film's depiction of a senseless war remains relevant as long as power-hungry leaders continue to play Russian roulette with the lives of young soldiers.

April 25, 2012 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

Held together with a phenomenal cast, The Deer Hunter is a powerful film but also controversial in many ways.

March 19, 2012 Full Review Source: 7M Pictures
7M Pictures

Largely Ambitious, and not without flaws, Cimino's Oscar winning film is nonetheless an effective chronicle of the impact of Vietnam on a clique of close friends

February 26, 2011 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

The friendship between the three central characters, as well as their shared association with the men from their small hometown, is truthful and realistic in a way that most guys will find impossible to resist.

April 29, 2009 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

The first half and second half of the film couldn't be more different but that is the genius behind the film.

August 3, 2008
BDK Reviews

Like an honorable soldier, Cazale gave everything he had for a cause in which he believed.

July 8, 2007 Full Review Source: Arizona Daily Star
Arizona Daily Star

Gauging the shifting moods of the 1970s, this tale of life and love disrupted by war is as arresting as a bullet to the brain.

June 13, 2007 Full Review Source: Film4

A visceral film that says volumes about the horrors of war and its impact on the lives of typically well adjusted people.

December 13, 2006 Full Review Source: Cinema Sight
Cinema Sight

A simultaneuosly touching and harrowing experience that puts the audience directly in the shoes of one man's experience of Vietnam.

August 4, 2004 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

A hollow movie that only play-acted at meaning; the sucker was us.

April 4, 2004 Full Review Source: | Comments (19)

Audience Reviews for The Deer Hunter

Whilst its running length may annoy some, "The Deer Hunter" and Michael Cimino provides viewers with the most gut-wrenching and harrowing examination of the Vietnam War, and most importantly its affects on the lives of individuals.

Set across many years, the film is split into very defined sections or three acts, with one hour given over to the characters and their normal lives back in the US, the second to the war in Vietnam, and the third to the years after the war. After struggling for funding for the three hour epic screenplay, a British studio, EMI, finally got the film rolling and the cast together for this brutal war film.

The film tells the story of three men, and their friends, who take part in the Vietnam war. After one is married, Steven, played as like all the cast beautifully by John Savage, the other two, one a hunter of deer, Robert De Niro, and the other Christopher Walken, they leave for Vietnam and the film follows the war itself and the after effects.

Whilst the screenplay and film itself combine to make a long film, it's well worth the wait. The picture itself is slow, the characters slow moving, and the action steady and events slow one by one. However amongst the slowness of the film, every member of the cast gives a slow but beautiful performance.

Robert De Niro is riveting as the leading member of the gang of three, leading the film in the direction the director set out to do, and capturing the spirit of his horrified and somewhat soul rotted character perfectly. But each member of the cast performs their role wonderfully too, with John Savage's drained character of Steven, reflecting his injuries, and Christopher Walken's sunken and out of reality face and feel.

The supporting cast also give fantastic performances, with Meryl Streep as Linda, in one of her finest roles, and John Cazale in his last ever film role, and perhaps his most provoking one.

The action scenes themselves are not particularly special, but the Russian roulette scenes are what really stand out, with the intensity of the actors and set, stretching across, through the screen, onto any viewer. In the Russian roulette scenes, Cimino shows us his best, as we are literally taken into the middle of the games with the other characters and flung headfirst into uncertainty, panic and desperation.

But the real achievement of this film, is the study in human emotion and character, when such horrors of war are flung upon them, and how it affects not only them, but the people they know and love. At the 1979 Oscars, it was filled with controversy and its portrayal of the war, which had only ended a few years earlier, but in the end, the film's terrible, horrific study of human individual lives following the Vietnam war, will ensure its status as a classic war film and classic motion picture.
August 1, 2012
Adam Kelly

Super Reviewer

The Deer Hunter, could sometimes, present boring scenes, but the tension in this dramatic film, with a great Michael Cimino's direction, original story and unforgettable actings, make this war drama, one of the best movies about the Vietnam war.
July 19, 2012
Lucas Martins

Super Reviewer

Michael Cimino's Vietnam classic is a bit overlong and a bit under-stuffed, but no one can deny the power of this classic. The acting is generally good, but the true terror of the Russian Roulette scenes are vivid and shocking. Not merely a story about a war, but a story about people in war. War with others and war with themselves. Cimino's classic survives to this day.
July 12, 2012
Kase Vollebregt

Super Reviewer

A sprawling epic of three hours, 'The Deer Hunter' is a striking, moving film. It focuses on a group of working class men who live in Clairton, Pennsylvania; which whilst is an industrial town, is a pretty and tranquil part of the world. However, this is strictly the film's depiction of Clairton; it was actually shot in various locations across Ohio. These men have firm working class sentiments, they work in the steel factory together and, once their shifts are over, drop by the local bar to shoot pool and have a few drinks; this is the men's comfortable existences, however their lives are soon to be turned upside down. The men are called to serve their country in Vietnam, where they are to be subjected to an array of abhorrence that will change them forever.

It is a striking film in every sense. John Williams' score, the acoustic 'Cavatina', is blissful; it complements every scene it features in. Its sequences of natural beauty and Clairton life are starkly juxtaposed in the film's second act: the infamous Russian roulette scene. It is acted with truly remarkable conviction; the actors must have forced themselves into an unpleasant place to produce such harrowing realism. The scene is so visceral and intense that it creates a disturbed silence amongst an audience; even its biggest critics would have to try very hard not to be affected by it.

Normally a critically acclaimed film, 'The Deer Hunter' hasn't been devoid of criticism. It has been labelled melodramatic, and it does indeed have its maudlin moments, I agree, but it has also been accused of being 'racist'. It may be a one sided account of the war and I appreciate it was released during sensitive times shortly after the war, but I do not agree. Does a film have to cover every aspect of an event? Does it have to cover every perspective? Of course not. 'The Deer Hunter' reflects one case: one group of men and their exposure to a small group of sadistic belligerents. Some say the depiction of the Vietcong is racist, but as rational, informed adults, I think we're all aware that the film isn't suggesting that all Vietcong were like this. We realise that atrocities similar to those seen in the film are committed by both parties in times of war; to proclaim that the film is trying to tell us otherwise is false and preachy. I concede that the majority of the Vietnamese are, to understate somewhat, portrayed unscrupulously, but the extent of one's criticism should be that the characterisation is flat, certainly not racist. Additionally, there are those who moan about how there were no cases of Russian roulette documented over the course of the Vietnam War; it's just an artist using his licence, you pedants. If you're so bothered by 'The Deer Hunter', if you yearn for fair portrayal, balance it out by watching Oliver Stone's vitriolic 'Born on the Fourth of July', which is a scathing attack on the United States' behaviour in Vietnam and their military and political ethos.

Returning to another popular comment; I do concede its melodrama, especially during a scene where the American National Anthem is sung in unison: far too gushing and American. However, overall, any flaw is completely pushed aside by its ensemble cast, its aural and visual impact and its ability to keep your attention for 180 minutes and leave a lasting impression on you.
May 13, 2012
Jack Hawkins
Jack Hawkins

Super Reviewer

    1. Michael: Put an empty chamber in there!
    – Submitted by Jesse K (14 months ago)
    1. Stan: How does it feel to be shot.
    2. Michael: Don't hurt. That's what you wanna know. And how it's been, doing okay.
    3. Stan: Yeah, same thing. Nothing's changed. I'm getting more ass than a toilet seat and Axel here, he's getting fatter than ever.
    – Submitted by Adam O (15 months ago)
    1. Michael: Stanley, see this? This is this. This ain't something else. This is this. From now on, you're on your own.
    – Submitted by Adam O (15 months ago)
    1. Axel: You're so full of shit, you're gonna float away.
    – Submitted by Adam O (15 months ago)
    1. Michael: I feel a lot of distance, and I feel far away.
    – Submitted by David E (16 months ago)
    1. Michael: [holding a bullet] Stanley, see this? This is this! This ain't something else. This is this. From now on, you're on your own.
    – Submitted by David E (16 months ago)
View all quotes (13)

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