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The Deer Hunter (1978)

R  |   |  Drama, War  |  23 February 1979 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.2/10 from 216,673 users   Metascore: 73/100
Reviews: 991 user | 133 critic | 7 from Metacritic.com

An in-depth examination of the ways in which the U.S. Vietnam war impacts and disrupts the lives of people in a small industrial town in Pennsylvania.



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Top Rated Movies #150 | Won 5 Oscars. Another 16 wins & 26 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Chuck Aspegren ...
Shirley Stoler ...
Pierre Segui ...
Mady Kaplan ...
Mary Ann Haenel ...
Richard Kuss ...


Michael, Steven and Nick are young factory workers from Pennsylvania who enlist into the Army to fight in Vietnam. Before they go, Steven marries the pregnant Angela, and their wedding party also serves as the men's farewell party. After some time and many horrors, the three friends fall in the hands of the Vietcong and are brought to a prison camp in which they are forced to play Russian roulette against each other. Michael makes it possible for them to escape, but they soon get separated again. Written by Leon Wolters <wolters@strw.LeidenUniv.nl>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


One of the most important and powerful films of all time! See more »


Drama | War


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






| | |

Release Date:

23 February 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Man Who Came to Play  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$15,000,000 (estimated)


SEK 10,994,967 (Sweden)

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


During the filming of the wedding sequence, director Michael Cimino encouraged the many extras to treat the festivities as a real wedding, so as to increase the authenticity of the scenes. Prior to filming the wedding reception, Cimino instructed the extras to take empty boxes from home and wrap them as if they were wrapping real wedding gifts and bring them to the set the next day. The fake gifts would then be used as props for the wedding reception. The extras did as they were told, however, when Cimino inspected the "props" he noticed that the "gifts" were a lot heavier than empty boxes otherwise would be. Cimino tore the wrapping paper off a few of the packages, only to find that the extras had in fact wrapped real gifts for the "wedding". See more »


In the bar, right before the guys start singing along to "Can't Take My Eyes Off You", Michael is sitting on a chair holding a pool cue in his right hand and tapping it on the floor. A split second later as they begin to sing, he pounds the cue stick on the floor with his left hand. See more »


[first lines]
Michael: Hey, watch out, Axel. We'll be calling him old fireballs after tonight.
Axel: Fuckin' A.
Michael: Not bad.
See more »

Crazy Credits

We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of our Thai crew in the production of "The Deer Hunter" See more »


Referenced in The Art of Negative Thinking (2006) See more »


Drop-Kick Me, Jesus (Through the Goalposts of Life)
Written by Paul Craft
Performed by the cast
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

As great as ever
12 June 2002 | by (Old Lyme, CT) – See all my reviews

I've now seen this film three times with a decade or more between viewings, and every time I see it I come away feeling that movies can't get any better than this. People always comment on the Viet Nam scenes, and it's true that they are as powerful and intense as any war scenes ever filmed. The Russian-roulette betting game, in both its up-river and Saigon venues, may be the most riveting, shattering plot device ever invented, as measured by the pounding of the heart.

But it's the 'home front' scenes that stick with me through the years. I think all the steel town scenes are nearly perfect, untoppable. And that very much includes the Eastern Orthodox wedding and its sequel. When anyone tells me they were bored I just shake my head. There's no arguing with short and shallow attention spans. You're either capable of appreciating art or you're not.

I do have a quibble or two. The deer-hunting scenes looked like nowhere I've ever seen in Pennsylvania, or anywhere else East of the Rockies. I think Cimino deliberately picked an ethereal location above the clouds as a contrast to the steel town. When John Cazale and the others get loaded and act like jerks it jars on Michael, because they have brought the stupid distractions of ordinary life to an extraordinary place. This would matter less if the 'genius loci' were not so strongly present in the other home front scenes. I wish he had used the soft, green forested hills of Pennsylvania for the hunting.

And some of the dialogue--Meryl Streep's in particular--wouldn't work on the page, and only first-rate acting by an inspired ensemble--has there ever been a better cast of young actors?--pulls it off. But these are forgivable errors in one of the finest films ever made.

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