Slaughterhouse-Five (1972)



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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, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Slaughterhouse-Five

All Critics (13)


Jun 6, 2013 | Rating: A- | Full Review…

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

Oct 11, 2010 | Rating: 4.5/5 | Full Review…

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.

Feb 20, 2007 | Rating: 3/5

Interesting, if not fully realized, version of the Vonnegut novel.

Nov 26, 2003 | Rating: 4/5

The best of the Vonnegut adaptations

Sep 20, 2002 | Rating: 5/5

Audience Reviews for Slaughterhouse-Five

An interesting sci-fi that sadly fails by only hinting at its 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
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
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
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer


Billy Pilgrim: It's time for me to be dead for a little while. And then live again. I give you the Tralfamadorian greeting: Hello. Farewell. Hello. Farewell. Eternally connected, eternally embracing. Hello. Farewell.  "Billy Pilgrim lives- from time to time." I believe Slaughterhouse- Five to be a pretty good adaptation of Vonnegut's masterpiece novel. First off, Vonnegut himself said that this is a worthy adaptation and he should probably have the last word on that issue. The book is one of my personal favorites. So obviously the movie isn't going to be as good, but I didn't expect it to be. I hate when people criticize a movie for not being as good as the book. They can't include every little detail from the book, so obviously some areas are going to suffer slightly. This adaptation left out a lot of stuff, but that's normal. Only one exclusion made me slightly angry and that was Kilgore Trout; the science fiction novelist from the book. I think his inclusion would have helped a lot of people who hadn't read the book understand the story a little better. With the comparisons to the book out of the way, I have to say I was fairly satisfied with this movie. Going in, I didn't really know how this movie was going to be. The novel had to be incredibly hard to adapt, but George Roy Hill and company do a fantastic job with Vonnegut's structure. It's incoherent, yet coherent, both at the same time. Michael Sacks is everything I pictured when I read the book. He does a fantastic job. The only part of the story that did leave me a little underwhelmed was Tralfamadore. But to be fair, I wouldn't know how to make it any better; I just such high hopes for those scenes going in. It's obviously flawed, as every adaption is, but it's still a good film. If you're interested in the movie, I'd read the book also. You won't be sorry. The book is amazing and the film is a pretty solid companion piece to it. 

Melvin White
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

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