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The Killing Fields (1984)



Average Rating: 6.1/10
Critic Reviews: 7
Fresh: 4 | Rotten: 3

No consensus yet.



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Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 22,477

My Rating

Movie Info

The Killing Fields is a romanticized adaptation of an eyewitness magazine story by New York Times correspondent Sidney Schanberg. Covering the U.S. pullout from Vietnam in 1975, Schanberg (Sam Waterston) relies on his Cambodian friend and translator Dith Pran (Haing S. Ngor) for inside information. Schanberg has an opportunity to rescue Dith Pran when the U.S. army evacuates all Cambodian citizens; instead, the reporter coerces his friend to remain behind to continue sending him news flashes.

Mar 13, 2001

Warner Home Video

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All Critics (37) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (34) | Rotten (3) | DVD (9)

It must be nerve-racking for the producers to offer a tale so lacking in standard melodramatic satisfactions. But the result is worth it, for this is the clearest film statement yet on how the nature of heroism has changed in this totalitarian century.

August 25, 2008 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The screen is swamped by a bathetic, self-preening sententiousness.

April 9, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Comments (9)
Chicago Reader
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The intent and outward trappings are all impressively in place, but at its heart there's something missing.

April 9, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
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The film's overall thrust - angry, intelligent, compassionate -- makes this producer Puttnam's finest movie to date.

February 9, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
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The best moments are the human ones, the conversations, the exchanges of trust, the waiting around, the sudden fear, the quick bursts of violence, the desperation.

October 23, 2004 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
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The movie is diffuse and wandering. It's someone telling a long, interesting story who can't get to the point.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times | Comments (2)
New York Times
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One of the great films from what proved to be a great year for cinema, The Killing Fields hasn't lost any of its power over the ensuing 30 years.

January 15, 2014 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

Every scene of The Killing Fields (and every participant in its making) is in service of showing how abruptly a seemingly safe and vital individual can have everything essential stripped away.

January 13, 2014 Full Review Source: The Dissolve
The Dissolve

A gripping romanticized and somewhat fictionalized adaptation of an eyewitness magazine piece by New York Times journalist Sidney Schanberg.

June 7, 2011 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

The movie is too conventional and fictionalized to qualify as a genuine political epic, but it's emotionally touching in describing the friendship between the NY Times reporter and his Cambodian translator.

March 12, 2011 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com | Comment (1)

Se a primeira metade impressiona pelo virtuosismo técnico, a segunda fascina pela coragem em observar sem sensacionalismo a magnífica força de vontade de um sobrevivente, beneficiando-se ainda da maravilhosa performance semi-auto-biográfica de Ngor.

April 15, 2009
Cinema em Cena

First time feature director Roland Joffe shoots the drama with an unforced realism lent a terrible grace by the handsome images and smooth, unobtrusive long takes...

May 14, 2008 Full Review Source:

Without doubt one of the finest British films of the last 50 years.

April 9, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4

A deeply moving film.

April 9, 2008 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

A mighty accomplishment, and possibly the bravest Britflick yet made.

February 1, 2006 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Epic and heartrending.

September 24, 2005 Full Review Source:

One of the most potent politically-charged dramas ever made, managing to honor both the epic and the intimate aspects of its drama. One of the top films of the '80s.

March 22, 2005

Powerful, unsettling, factual; Oscar caliber acting all around.

January 2, 2005
Kansas City Kansan

"unforgettable and unshakable"

July 29, 2002
Kalamazoo Gazette

The story is powerful, the script intelligent, the cinematography beautiful and the performances nearly flawless.

May 29, 2001 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide
Apollo Guide

Audience Reviews for The Killing Fields

With the gut-wrenching first half of the film dedicated to portraying with gritty realism and a beautiful cinematography the takeover of Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge, the second half relies on Ngor's magnificent performance to show a man in an amazing struggle to escape from hell.
October 14, 2013

Super Reviewer

The Killing Fields in the incredible true story of the atrocities committed by Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Brilliantly acted and directed The Killing Fields is a powerful film that touches on what is probably one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century along with the Holocaust. The Killing Fields is a stunning drama film that brings to light a terrible crime. This is a brilliant film that exposes the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, and one mans survival through the ordeal. The Killing Fields is an accomplished film that though is a solid drama, also plays out like an important history lesson. The film will most likely want to make you read on the subject. The film is an important one, and like Schindler's List, also evokes the humane side to a terrible ordeal. A film that evokes emotions as you watch the events unfold before you. The cast that grace this film are terrific, and the thing that's pretty interesting is that actor Dr. Haing S. Ngor who plays Dirth Pran is an actual survivor of the Cambodian Killing Fields. This is a superbly crafted drama film that has a strong story, and boasts some terrific performances. This is a must see film for anyone who is interested in the subject, and to those who enjoy a solid, drama film; The Killing Fields is a strong, near flawless picture, and one you can't easily forget.
August 5, 2011
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

The horrors of the Cambodian genocide became buried in the first hour and twenty minutes of background information on the conflict between a small group of journalists, eventually huddling in an American embassy, versus an emperging Khmer Rouge government hellbent on capturing photographer Dith Pran. Thought to be benign, rebels overtake the government with the help of Americans, ignorant to their full power after the end of the Vietnam War. Not to say that these events were not important, but the film came across as more of a biography of Dith Pran, a captured Cambodian, then on the actual killing fields full of rotting corpses. For the next hour the tumultuous record of exposure to the dictatorship based on genocide is captured by Dith Pran, working the fields, trying to escape without being killed by small children, the hierarchy of the system. The ugly betrayal of humanity is alarming, not always documented by groups of people being slaughtered. It's etched across actor Haing S. Ngor's face as his mortality flashes before his eyes. My main qualm is the choice of music, which is either a reject 80's synth piece, or a racially insensitive set of bing bongs. Plus, the last song played is "Imagine", which stinks of a tearjerker cliche.
May 17, 2011

Super Reviewer

An exceptionally well made film. The Killing Fields is an important, compelling and emotive story brilliantly brought to the screen by director Roland Joffé. Great performances from Sam Waterson, John Malkovich, Julian Sands and a heart-wrenching portrayal from Dr. Haing S. Ngor as Dith Pran. I came across this film by accident really, but it drew me in and horrified me about an era of history I wasn't well informed of. The Killing Fields is an incredibly honest tale of war, tragedy and friendship, with the perfect placement of John Lennon's 'Imagine' at its beautifully poignant ending.
March 31, 2011
Shauna Robinson

Super Reviewer

    1. Sydney Schanberg: Anyone who knows my work will know that half of this belongs to Dith Pran. Without Pran, I wouldn't have been able to file half the stories I did. It's nice to congratulate ourselves on occasions like this. But I can't stand here tonight... without thinking of those innocent people. Pran dedicated himself to helping me bring to the notice of the public.
    – Submitted by Dennis L (2 years ago)
View all quotes (1)

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Foreign Titles

  • The Killing Fields - Schreiendes Land (DE)
  • La Déchirure (FR)
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