Slaughterhouse-Five (1972) - Rotten Tomatoes

Slaughterhouse-Five (1972)

Slaughterhouse-Five (1972)





Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

"Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time." These opening words of Kurt Vonnegut's famous novel make an effective and short summary of a haunting, funny film. For the screen, director George Roy Hill faithfully renders Vonnegut's black anti-war comedy about Pilgrim (well played in a low key by Michael Sacks), who survives the horrendous 1945 fire bombing of Dresden then lives simultaneously in his past as a naïve American POW and in the future as a well-cared-for zoo resident on the planet Tralfamadore (with zaftig Valerie Perrine as his mate). In the present, he's a middle-aged optometrist in Ilium, NY. If this sounds like a bit of a jumble -- it is. But viewers willing to watch carefully will find the movie as intricate and harmonious as Glenn Gould's plaintive renderings of the Bach keyboard pieces that decorate its soundtrack. It's not essential, but fans who read the short, poetic book will find it a treat in itself, and it will help them appreciate Hill's genius in bringing this "Children's Crusade" to the screen. In addition to Sacks, there are noteworthy performances by Ron Leibman (Norma's union man in Norma Rae) as Pilgrim's crazed nemesis and by radio/TV/movie legend, John Dehner as the arrogant Professor Rumfoord. Hill, of course, came to this film from a big hit, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and went on to triumph with The Sting one year later. The elaborate medieval and baroque architecture of pre-bombing Dresden was represented authentically in the film by scenes from Prague, since much of Dresden's architecture was lost to the bombing, and that city, in any case, was deep in East Germany, thus inaccessible at the time of filming. ~ Michael P. Rogers, Rovimore
Rating: R
Genre: Drama, Classics, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Stephen Geller
In Theaters:
On DVD: Oct 10, 2000
Universal Pictures


Michael Sacks
as Billy Pilgrim
Sharon Gans
as Valencia
Perry King
as Robert
Holly Near
as Barbara
Roberts Blossom
as Wild Bob Cody
Sorrell Booke
as Lionel Merble
John Dehner
as Rumford
Ekkehardt Belle
as Young German Guard
Henry Bumstead
as Eliot Rosewater
Frederick Ledebur
as German Leader
Lucille Benson
as Billy's Mother
Karl Otto Alberty
as German Guard
John Wood
as Englishman
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Slaughterhouse-Five

Critic Reviews for Slaughterhouse-Five

All Critics (18) | Top Critics (3)

Full Review… | July 31, 2008
Top Critic

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Full Review… | May 9, 2005
New York Times
Top Critic


Full Review… | June 6, 2013
Old School Reviews

The film captures the essence of the book even while diverging from it. Vonnegut himself always claimed to be extremely pleased with it.

Full Review… | October 11, 2010
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Embora consiga se manter fiel à trama e à estrutura narrativa do fabuloso livro de Vonnegut, falha por não ter força dramática e por captar apenas parcialmente a intensa mensagem anti-belicista da obra original.

February 20, 2007
Cinema em Cena

Audience Reviews for Slaughterhouse-Five

An interesting sci-fi, but which fails by only hinting at some philosophical ideas and not going deeper into them. The narrative is always fluid, with elegant scene transitions and visual rhymes, but also vague about whether it wants to be a satirical piece or not.

Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

World War II vet Billy Pilgrim time-jumps throughout his life on Earth and on Tralfamadore.
In the list of unfilmable books I thought that Kurt Vonnegut's most famous novel would rank high on the list next to Naked Lunch, but George Roy Hill's adaptation of Slaughterhouse-Five diverges from the book just enough to make it a viable film and stays true enough to the novel that it still retains the plot and spirit of the original. The overall philosophy - that "life is just a collection of moments, and the trick is to remember the good and ignore the bad" - emerges both as a line of dialogue and a lesson demonstrated by the narrative structure of the film without seeming didactic. Michael Sacks's performance is exemplary, playing Billy with a naivete and innocence that is both charming and endearing. Sacks captures the origin of Billy's milquetoast nature as it emerges from a wisdom borne of timelessness.
One of my friends argued that Slaughterhouse-Five is a patriarchal, misogynist book, and I disagreed because the female characters have an inner life that Vonnegut doesn't downplay. Unfortunately the film didn't keep this aspect of Vonnegut's narration, and Valencia and Montana emerge respectively as a crazy, superficial nut-job and an over-willing sexual partner.
Overall, Hill's film is a fine testament to one of the great American novels.

Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer


Like Kurt Vonnegut's novel, Slaughterhouse-Five blurs the line between fantasy and reality, intermingling the two until they're inseparable and indiscernible.

Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

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