The Dead Zone 1983

The Dead Zone

Critics 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.

89%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 47

76%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 36,411

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Movie Info

When Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) awakens from a coma caused by a car accident, he finds that years have passed, and he now has psychic abilities. Heartbroken that his girlfriend (Brooke Adams) has moved on with her life, Johnny also must contend with his unsettling powers, which allow him to see a person's future with a mere touch. After shaking the hand of aspiring politician Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen), Johnny sees the danger presented by the candidate's rise and resolves to kill him.

Cast & Crew

Brooke Adams
Sarah Bracknell
Tom Skerritt
Sheriff Bannerman
Herbert Lom
Dr. Sam Weizak
Anthony Zerbe
Roger Stuart
Colleen Dewhurst
Henrietta Dodd
Martin Sheen
Greg Stillson
Stephen King
Writer (Novel)
Michael Kamen
Original Music
Mark Irwin
Cinematographer
Ronald Sanders
Film Editor
Carol Spier
Production Design
Barbara Dunphy
Art Direction
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News & Interviews for The Dead Zone

Critic Reviews for The Dead Zone

All Critics (47) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (42) | Rotten (5)

  • An accomplished psychological thriller.

    October 7, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • By no means a bad film, just a disappointingly bland and superficial one.

    September 25, 2007 | Full Review…
  • Cronenberg pulls it off, but you can't help feeling it's a movie in search of a TV series.

    January 26, 2006 | Full Review…

    Tom Charity

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

    October 23, 2004 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    May 20, 2003
  • Ranks among the finest of all Stephen King adaptations.

    September 26, 2020 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Dead Zone

  • Apr 02, 2018
    With a strong performance by Christopher Walken and an intriguing story that unfolds without hurry, Cronenberg's film is an entertaining Stephen King adaptation that knows how to hold our attention by offering us always more and more surprises and new twists at the right moments.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • May 10, 2015
    I've never understood people who say that Christopher Walken isn't a good actor. Maybe I'm overstating the point. I don't think I've ever seen someone say this, though I'm sure some are of this mindset. Perhaps its more that his eccentricities in his facial expression, his voice inflections, his body language have given him sort of a cult following past just being a good actor. People just plain like the guy. Say what you want, but he's got a very charismatic on-screen presence. With all that out of the way, my point in this, is the fact that if you needed proof to see that Walken can be a really good, at times, great actor, then you need look no further than this. I think Walken, Cronenberg's direction and Sheen's Stillson character more than make the film into what it is. I love me some Cronenberg but Walken and Martin Sheen are absolutely excellent here. Perhaps the one thing that I thought was keeping this movie out of truly great status is the fact that its story, while intriguing, feels a little more episodic than one, long narrative. The film sees Johnny helping people he meets with his newfound powers. He'll help this police solve a series of rape-murders in the area, then he'll move on tutor a kid and warn his father about the kid's drowning if he goes on to play hockey one day and then he prevents Stillson from causing a nuclear holocaust in the distant future once he becomes president. Not one of those three elements, outside of Johnny being involved in them, connect in one way or another. Well I mean the father of the kid that Johnny tutors does know Stillson's character, but that's about it. It's not like you need one to get to the other. Like I mentioned, it's like 3 different episodes of a TV series. Which is ironic considering that this was also made into a TV series that aired for 6 seasons, I believe. And, honestly, after seeing this movie and the disappointing story structure, I believe that it WAS better suited for a television series, in that you can do a different crime/murder each week for Johnny to solve. That's not the type of show I like, I'm more into Breaking Bad-type serials, where everything is interconnected and there's a big story arc that spans seasons or even the entire series. That's the stuff I like. Don't get me wrong, it's not that the story is bad, it's just that the episodic nature of its structure did absolutely nothing for me. The film is still really good however, do not misunderstand me. Can you imagine how much higher I would've rated the film if I actually enjoyed the story? The best of the three 'segments', if you want to call it that, would, easily, far and away, be the stuff with Stillson. They save this for the end, so the best for last. It's the best because it brings to light Johnny's struggle with his own powers and whether he would go to the extreme in order to stop a madman from wreaking havoc on the world. I thought it was really well done with Walken doing some of his best work here. On top of that you also have Martin Sheen. The guy is so fucking great in this movie, honestly. He doesn't get a lot of screen time, but he absolutely steals the show every time he's on screen. He's just perfect as this charismatic politician who says what the people want to hear in order to get to where he wants, and that is the presidency of the United States. He's willing to step over anyone on his way. He's just so awesome here really. Again a small role, but Sheen makes a big impact on the film. And as much as I liked Christopher Walken here, and he is great, Martin Sheen is the most memorable part of this film. I don't wanna say far and away, but he's still the best thing about this. Problems with story structure aside, I really, really liked this movie. It's about as easy a recommendation as I can give. It's not great, but it's a very good movie and you will be with it from beginning to end.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Jan 23, 2015
    From director David Cronenberg comes the supernatural thriller The Dead Zone. Based on a Stephen King novel, the story follows a school teacher name Johnny Smith who gains psychic abilities after a car accident and slowly begins to realize that he has the power to change the future. Christopher Walken delivers an incredibly strong performance and gives a tragic edge to the Smith character. However, the storytelling is episodic, making it difficult to get invested in the plot or the characters. Yet, through Cronenberg's directing the film takes on a foreboding and atmospheric tone. The Dead Zone is a little unfocused at times, but there's something compelling about the character's struggle.
    Dann M Super Reviewer
  • Nov 12, 2012
    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 W Super Reviewer

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