The Deer Hunter (1978) Poster

User Reviews

Add a Review
1,070 ReviewsOrdered By: Helpfulness
10/10
It was 1978 and everyone in the audience was about to wet their pants
yawn-26 April 2006
No, this is not the best film about the Vietnam War; it's hardly about Vietnam at all. The vets who don't like it have it wrong, as do the Vietnamese who found it racist. It could be any war, with any combatants. But because the (primary) victims here are recognizable American archetypes, Americans will feel this in their gut more than any other war film I know of. This is one of the very few post-war Hollywood films that shows a sincere reverence for the lives of small town Americans.

After seeing it in a very high quality theater on its initial release, I walked out thinking it was easily one of the best movies I had ever seen - and that I never wanted to see it again. But I looked at it today on cable and found that not much had changed about it, or me. I don't want to see it again...but I want you to see it.

Even now, the Russian Roulette scene (in context, people: watch all that comes before it first) is the single most intense sequence I've seen; it makes the end of "Reservoir Dogs" seem like a cartoon. Best Walken performance, period. Meryl Streep glows, DeNiro has seldom been more affecting. A unique classic...it is not surprising that Cimino didn't have another movie in him after something this wrenching.
242 out of 326 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
It's about character development
mikeand1-121 May 2005
A comment re the other comments: A lot of the comments criticize the first half hour as being too long. In my opinion, these comments miss the point of the movie.

Of course many of the scenes in the first hour don't advance the narrative. They're not supposed to; they're for character development.

The whole point of the movie is to show us how the various characters were affected by the war. It wouldn't have worked nearly as powerfully as it does had the first hour been trimmed down. We have to sense the careless and frat-boy-like immaturity of these young men. That's why the scenes all revolve around frivolity and seemingly senseless boyish behavior; it creates such a stark contrast to the devastated characters of the three who went to war (and the relatively unaffected personalities of those who stayed behind, like Stanley).

The strong points of the film are the outstanding performances of nearly every actor in the movie. Yes, there are technical deficiencies in the sound, but it hardly matters. This is nitpicking compared to the overall construction of the film.
275 out of 374 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
A War Like All Wars A Film Like No Other
abelardo6431 January 2010
"The Deer Hunter" is 32 years old. How extraordinary to sit through it now. Walking over the politics that divided , somehow, all of its admirers then. "Great film but..." How silly to think of it now. Michael (a sensational young Robert De Niro) is as extreme a character as Rocco was in "Rocco And His Brothers" His goodness, the one that was always there but that he discovers under the most horrendous circumstances, underlined by Stanley Mayers's "Cavatina" permeates the entire film. I remember thinking, when I saw the film for the first time, that I couldn't or wouldn't spend ten minutes with Michael and his friends, the ones we meet at the beginning of the film but by the end I thought of them as brothers and I loved them. I actually loved them. That in itself is a sort of film miracle. John Savage will break your heart, it certainly broke mine and Christopher Walken is absolutely riveting. How strange to tho think that Michael Cimino, still a young man, is nowhere to be seen. Is still a punishment for "Heaven's Gate" and "Indecent Exposure" or there is something else we don't know about. The Cimino behind "The Deer Hunter" is a true master.
30 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
It's been given a fairly bad reputation over the years - undeservedly so, too. One of the greatest films ever made.
MovieAddict20167 July 2004
Warning: Spoilers
"One shot is what it's all about. A deer has to be taken with one shot."

There's that particularly infamous scene in "The Deer Hunter" that seems to remain more disturbing each time we view it, when Michael (Robert De Niro), a Vietnam veteran, tracks down a friend of his named Nicky (Christopher Walken), who never arrived home after the war and is eventually found in Saigon, playing Russian Roulette for money, his mind an utter mess. He is unable to fully remember Michael, and refuses to return home, and what proceeds in the following sequence is a haunting example of gut-wrenching film-making.

The Vietnam sequences take place midway through the movie, serving as a connection between the beginning and the end, both of which study the lives of the men and not the war around them. Michael, Nicky and Steven (John Savage) are young Pennsylvanian miners drafted into the war. Steven has just gotten married to the love of his life, but has little time to celebrate as he is shipped overseas with his friends. They eventually all find themselves taken hostage in a Vietnamese POW camp where their captors force them to play Russian Roulette. The rules of the game? Put a single bullet in a random chamber of a handgun, spin it, snap it, raise it to your head, squeeze the trigger, and repeat these steps until there's only one man left standing.

After a series of fortunate events Michael, Nicky and Steven escape and make their way downriver. All three men are eventually rescued, Nicky via helicopter and Michael and Steven later on. Steven's battered, infected legs are amputated and he is left helpless in a wheelchair. Michael returns home as well only to find that Nicky is still back in Vietnam. Nicky's girlfriend back home, Linda (Meryl Street), begins to fall in love with Michael, but Michael soon remembers his promise to Nicky ("If I don't make it back don't leave me over there") and travels over 2,000 miles back into the middle of his own personal hell to find and rescue his best friend. It's hard for him to understand why Nicky doesn't recognize him when he finally tracks him down. "It's me, Mike." "Mike who?"

Causing mass controversy upon its release because of its alleged "racist" content regarding the Vietnamese, a crowd of Vietnam veterans gathered around outside the Oscars ceremony and caused riots as well, claiming that the film was "not accurate" and somehow insulting to the veterans of the war.

However as many film historians, authors and critics have already pointed out, the film is never meant to be a 100% accurate depiction of the events in Vietnam. It is not really a Vietnam War picture at all. Instead, it is a focus on the aftermath of war, and how damaging it can be, both physically and mentally, to its participants. Because of the era that "The Deer Hunter" was released in, Vietnam was a recent event, the focus of the nation, and is therefore used as a more convenient -- and relative -- backdrop (much like "Apocalypse Now"). Unlike "Platoon" this is not a movie relating specifically to the Vietnam War, in fact less than a half an hour is devoted to the war scenes. It is a character study, and accusations of racism -- although perhaps justified to some extent -- are hardly convincing as the film itself is not concerned with bashing the participants of the war as it is the war itself.

It is the film's necessary setup that is often called long and boring and, ironically, unnecessary, but this is essentially where the nature of each character is examined for the audience. To launch directly into the war sequences would be sloppy, and we would have a harder time caring for the characters. Instead, we are given scenes with weddings, discussions, and hunting trips -- normal events. Then, the end, a somber reflection upon the past, chronicles the aftermath of the damaging events in the lives of Michael, Steven, Nicky and their loved ones. Michael has a hard time adapting back to his normal life. It would be hard for anyone, after experiencing such damaging events and images.

De Niro made a few post-Vietnam films during the '70s and '80s, the most famous being "Taxi Driver," in which Travis Bickle was totally unable to find his way in life again after the war and resorted to violence in order to justify his existence and release his anger. "The Deer Hunter" is similar in approach but reveals more background; this would be a suitable prequel of sorts if the names had been changed.

Over the years "The Deer Hunter" has surprisingly gained a fairly bad reputation -- most of which stems back to the controversy surroundings its release and protested accolades. Director Michael Cimino's follow-up ("Heaven's Gate") was an enormous flop, bankrupting United Artists, and he had a hard time finding work afterwards. His first feature film, "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot," which starred Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges, was a buddy road movie that was also a sign of things to come in Cimino' later features, most notably the process of male bonding, which is a huge primal element in this project. Cimino was an extremely talented and visionary director, and it's a shame that the ambition of "Heaven's Gate" cost him his career.

And furthermore, despite the negativity surrounding "The Deer Hunter," it is still one of the finest works of American cinema, a touching, poignant and ultimately depressing film that asks us if the effects of war extend past the physical and into the realm of human mentality. Yes, I think they do.
179 out of 268 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
A veteran's impression of "The Deer Hunter"
ldadvantageinc22 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I will not repeat much of the comments in the previous positive reviews, but will stick mostly to how the movie affected me. First off, I am an Army veteran of the Vietnam War. Thus there is much in this picture that deeply moves me. I still can not listen to the theme music piece played by John Williams, "Cavatina", without choking up and weeping.

I identify much with the characters in this movie. I grew up in a very small town and come from a working class ( Norwegian, Scots-Irish, English) background. Two weeks out of high school and at the age of 17 I enlisted in the Army. Like the men in this movie I came from a tradition of serving one's country in the military. Both my brother, two cousins and my future brother-in-law also served in the Vietnam War.

I identify with Michael, played by Robert DeNiro in his sense of honor in going back to 'Nam and trying to bring back his buddy Nick. Additionally I admire Mike when he visits Steven in the VA hospital and brings him back home. Honor is, as mentioned in the movie "Rob Roy", a gift a man gives to himself. Michael (and the movie) doesn't waste time on whether the war in Vietnam is right or wrong. Michael just does what he thinks is right with respect to his buddies. Ask any one who has served in the military and they will tell you that you're sense of commitment to your comrades almost takes precedence over your commitment to your country.

I do not see this movie as either pro or anti-Vietnam War. To me the movie portrays how war affects three individuals. It is a movie about character, honor, loyalty------what you are when everything around you is falling apart. I will continue to see this movie many times as I hope that the values depicted in it will still be reflected (albeit weakly) in me.

In closing, I can not help to remember that the politically anti-Vietnam War movie "Coming home" starring Jane Fonda and Jon Voight was also up for the same Oscars. When Jane Fonda was asked what movie would win the Academy award that year, she sneeringly replied that she hoped it wasn't "The Deer Hunter". In the years since Jon Voght has transitioned from being a Liberal to a Conservative. Parenthetically, Jane Fonda has never apologized for her pro-Viet Cong actions. At the age of 66, I am still proud that I served my country and volunteered for the US Army and the Vietnam War.
15 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Immense poignancy
kevandeb18 January 2006
I cannot fathom the absolute horror that war brings to a persons life, but never has a film depicted it more harrowing than The Deerhunter. At 182 minutes, it seemed to fly by, leaving me wanting more and wishing this would not end. all facets are explored, all people's emotions are laid bare, not just the combatants. If we obviously did not know better, one would have to say this was a British film, as it has all the best elements that British movie making displays. i can eulogise for hundreds of lines, but this really is the ONLY American movie i can think of (others? apart from taxi driver) that is RAW. A strange word i know but the movie oozes a raw edge to it. Immense performances from all concerned, and if i had to say, i believe i have not seen Christopher Walken in a better role. One of the very few films i deservedly give 10/10. A must for any collection and a stunning example of every aspect of film making coming together, albeit for a sombre depiction of life.
96 out of 146 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
As great as ever
vaneyck12 June 2002
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.
91 out of 138 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
The Deer Hunter: 10/10
movieguy102118 January 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Most young people today need to learn that Robert De Niro was not just the person in Meet the Parents or The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, but he starred in films like The Deer Hunter, which got him to where he is today. Not only is he a great actor, he always picks good films to act in. And with a strong supporting cast, also, you can't really go wrong with The Deer Hunter. Michael (De Niro), Nick (Christopher Walken), and Steven (John Savage) sign up to go to Vietnam. They leave after a farewell party/wedding party for Stanley and Angela (Rutanya Alda). Once in the midst of the war, they are forced into playing Russian Roulette and eventually they escape, but none of them can forget the experiences from the war. It's sad to see that Michael Cimino fade from view, because his direction here is really memorable and it's what holds the film together. There's about 70 minutes in the beginning of the film that has nothing to do with the rest of the film, but it gets us to know these three main characters, and it seems like you wouldn't care if they even went to Vietnam, because you certainly were intrigued by these three people. And once they're in the perils of war, you feel enough for these three basic people to get through the war. The Russian Roulette scenes are harrowing, even when it's a complete stranger who has the gun to their head. I read that to get the tension on set, a live bullet was put into the gun, but it was checked to make sure that it wasn't the one about to be shot. And, since you've known these people for 90 minutes already, you obviously didn't want them to die, making them all the more nervous. The Deer Hunter is quite unlike another great Vietnam film, Full Metal Jacket. While FMJ just showed the immediate results, this movie showed the results immediately and in the future, back at home. This helped make everything seem more realistic, which it was. For each of the three main characters, the war has changed them greatly, and none for the better. De Niro is great, but the stand out here is Walken, who accurately takes his role and makes it into something memorable. Thankfully, he won best supporting actor. Meryl Streep was nominated as a supporting character, deservedly. However, this movie is not all about the acting, it's about the feeling you get. As one character says, 'I don't know how I feel.' That's exactly how you'll feel after seeing this tour-de-force. My rating: 10/10 Rated R for strong language and violence.
131 out of 206 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
The Deer Hunter is a masterful piece of cinema
johnny-burgundy24 October 2017
The Deer Hunter (1978) This is an epic war drama film about a trio of steelworkers whose lives are changed forever after they fight in the Vietnam War. The cast includes Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage, John Cazale, Meryl Streep, and George Dzundza. The story takes place in a little working class town south of Pittsburgh, and in Vietnam. The film won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor for Christopher Walken. It also marked Meryl Streep's very first Academy Award nomination. She is now the most nominated actor in history. It was named the 53rd greatest American film of all time by the American Film Institute (AFI). The film's initial reviews were mostly positive. It was hailed by many critics as the best American epic since The Godfather. The late Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four stars and called it "one of the most emotionally shattering films ever made." This film is an American classic. It is my favorite drama, and perhaps my favorite film of all time. It even holds up nearly 40 years later. My willingness to try older films, any films, was because of this picture. Movies are like these are why film lovers should really give older movies a shot. I suggest the AFI's top 100 films as a starting point. The Deer Hunter is a masterful piece of cinema that explores the human condition in a way few films do today.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Goodness. So Heartbreaking, So Sad, So Accurate, So Brilliant.
tfrizzell15 March 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Outstanding and haunting Best Picture winner of 1978 that still packs a punch nearly 25 years later. Robert DeNiro (Oscar-nominated), Christopher Walken (Oscar-winning for Best Supporting Actor) and John Savage are on their way to fight for their country in Vietnam. The three are in for a rude awakening from their simple lives in a small steel town in Pennsylvania. The terrors of Vietnam will change all. DeNiro, an avid deer hunter, cannot stand to even shoot a gun after he returns. Savage loses his legs and is too ashamed and scared to return home to his new wife and friends. Walken has lost it mentally and stays in Vietnam and develops the taste for Russian roulette. The movie is a trial to sit through in many ways, but it is also an important film that was the first commentary on the topic of Vietnam. Meryl Streep also received her first of a record 12 Oscar nominations as Walken's love interest. John Cazale was deathly ill during the making of the movie and died shortly after the film was completed of terminal cancer. Michael Cimino's amazing Oscar-nominated screenplay and out-of-this-world Oscar-winning direction are right on key. "The Deer Hunter" is important film-making that has a strong message about life, death and love. It is a movie that should be experienced by everyone at least once. 5 stars out of 5.
100 out of 158 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
Touching drama about the ruin of a group of men's friendship by war
Danherb30 June 2005
"The Deer Hunter" is not a film about the Vietnam war, as it is wrongly said in many cases.

"The Deer Hunter" is a film tells the story of 3 friends within about 5-6 years, during which their friendship is repeatedly put to the test.

It is primarily a picture of the contemporary life of a group of people around 30 living in a small American town during the Vietnam war.

The first hour of the film portrays the every day life of three friends Mike (De Niro), Steven (Savage) and Nick (Walken), who look forward to Steve's wedding but at the same time have to prepare for their commitment in Vietnam. The main actors (above all De Niro and Walken) perfectly picture the character's inner conflict between their easygoing home town life and the forthcoming assignment in Vietnam. Despite this conflict the characters don't show their concerns to their environment.

Particularly Nick is worried about him and his friends leaving his home town and perhaps never coming back, but he only tells his best friend Mike of his thoughts, who is much more resolute and sees their engagement as a strong masculine act.

Cimino manages to show the simple irrationality of young men, going to a senseless war from which they might never return for the only purpose of glory and approval, and abandoning their settled and happy life for it. The spectator just can't understand why those young men voluntarily sign for the army and give up everything they have. The passage from the small-town-idyll to the war cruelty is greatly pictured. Cimino does not show the three friends' way to Vietnam or the training, he immediately switches from a happy get-together to the cruel war captivity of the Vietcong. This passage perfectly underlines the contrast and the inexplicability of the three men's actions.

Although the passage that is set in Vietnam is only about one third of the whole film long, the war is omnipresent at any time, which is probably the best benefit of the whole film, Cimino does not need to bomb the spectator with pictures of crying children, mutilated soldiers or desert battlefields in order to illustrate the cruelty of war. Far from it! The changed behavior of all characters after the friends' returns tell more about wars' capability of changing someone's life, than anything else.

And the fact that the many dreams that these three friends had before they went to Vietnam didn't come true, because of their longing for recognition by becoming an acclaimed veteran can even pluck your heartstrings.

Cimino's great directing and the cast's awesome acting provide for a touching and honest drama about the friendship of a group of young men, that is destroyed by the Vietnam war.
23 out of 33 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
Hard to Watch At Times!
gab-1471218 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
1978's The Deer Hunter is one of the more polarizing movies to come out during the 1970's. It was the first movie with the deeply controversial subject of the Vietnam War to both become a critical and commercial success. However, there were several people who expressed dissent ranging from its portrayal of the Vietnam War to the controversial involvement of Russian roulette to the singing of "God Bless America." I remember not being too impressed with the film the first time I viewed it. I felt it was too long and violent. Years later, I am singing a different tune. It's a difficult film to sit through because of its violence and the effects of PTSD (post-trauma syndrome). But it is a highly engaging and effective film and I regard it as one of the more influential American movies of the 1970's. Not the best, but the most influential because there will be more successful films tackling the Vietnam War on the horizon.

You can call this movie a symphony of some sort. I sort this film into three major segments. The first segment is the longest because of its lengthy and effective characterization. We meet three Pennsylvania factory workers: Michael (Robert De Niro), Steven (John Savage), and Nick (Christopher Walken). They enlisted in the army to serve in Vietnam. Steven decides to marry before going off to war and this wedding also serves as the farewell party. This section is eerily reminiscent of the opening act of The Godfather. There is lots of partying and dancing. And we essentially get to know these characters. These men are hard workers who get drunk at the party because they deserve a night for themselves. After the party, the trio of friends along with another friend Stan (John Cazale) go into the mountains to hunt for deer for one last trip. Hence the title of the movie. I found this section to be incredibly effective in character-building. Director Michael Cimino took his time with his part because it was important to understand these men before they go into the horrors of war.

The second movement of our symphony is the actual war. Just like that with a loud noise, the film instantly changes its tone. From the foggy mountains of Pennsylvania to the tropical war zone of Vietnam we go. In one of the most terrifying sequences ever made, the three men are taken prisoner and are forced to play Russian roulette while their captors are betting who will win and who will die. Just seeing the men's faces as they are waiting their turn in the rat-infested cages are undeniably scary. One of the film's controversies is that roulette was not actually played in Vietnam. According to Cimino, he read articles saying they did play roulette although any of this has not been confirmed. But it's one hell of a way to add tension to the movie. You can also take this as a symbol for the war overall. Roger Ebert puts it perfectly in his review, "Anything you can believe about the game, about it's deliberately random violence, about how it touches the sanity of men forced to play it, will apply it to the war as a whole." Essentially, this violence stands for the war itself and what these men face.

Now our final act of the symphony is what happens after the horrors of the prison camp. Michael becomes a prominent character here as he returns home and is welcomed as a hero by his townsfolk and his girlfriend Linda (Meryl Streep). But Michael does not feel like a hero. Steven is in the hospital after losing his legs and Nick is somewhere in Vietnam still. Michael eventually goes back to find Nick who happened to take his roulette experiences to heart by playing this game professionally. This section is incredibly sad and moving as here we see what exactly war can do to strong-willed men. It was horrible to watch this transformation on screen. To see these characters we got to laugh with in the first part to seeing them play with death in the final act is sad to see. We also get to see an act of patriotism (or is it?) when the survivors join in a ragged rendition of "God Bless America" in the very end.

This movie has a very strong cast, although the only star at the time was Robert De Niro. De Niro instantly became the film's leader and he played Michael very well. He became a bona fide star after his work in The Godfather: Part Two, and he put that stardom to work here. Christopher Walken had some of the strongest scenes in the movie because of his involvement with the deadly game of Russian roulette. Meryl Streep is one of the greatest actresses ever to grace our screens, and this was one of her first big roles. We end this paragraph with a sad note. This would be the last movie John Cazale would play because he was suffering from terminal cancer and he died before the film was released. He was very good as Stan, but you can tell in the movie that he was really sick.

Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter is a incredible movie about the horror of wars and it effective covers themes ranging from PTSD to male bonding and friendship. It was one of the first movies to successfully cover the Vietnam War, although I'd say this film may not be the most accurate regarding the actual war. I do commend its effort on conveying the themes of general war though. This film was nominated for nine Oscars and it won five of them including Best Picture. Walken took home the statue for his amazing and tense performance as Nick. The film may be controversial and it may be hard to watch, but it's one you'll remember forever.

My Grade: A-
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
Cimino's film is undeniably powerful in its depiction of Pennsylvania steel worker's initiation into warfare and its after-effects…
Nazi_Fighter_David4 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Opening in Pennsylvania steel town that morning, Steven (John Savage) is going to get married… Just a few days later, he and his best friends Michael (Robert De Niro) and Nick (Christopher Walken) will join the Army and go to Vietnam…

All three are made prisoners of war who finally escape their ordeal, although with several complications… The terrible experiences that they are subjected to change their whole life…

Over the course of more than three-hours of screen time, "The Deer Hunter" presents outrageous and impressive scenes of sadistic Vietcong force tossing grenades into shelters filled with helpless women and children, and later forcing American captives to play Russian roulette for their amusement, while the prison guards bet on the result…

Whatever his intention, Cimino goes courageously forth, staging with power his big end during the fall of Saigon, depicting the trauma of war and the effort of one friend to rescue the other…

The extreme effects of the conflict provide indelible images, and make us feel the pain, the compulsion, the threat, and the terror of war…
37 out of 58 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
to call it masterpiece is to state the obvious
dbdumonteil15 December 2006
Of the first two American films about the Vietnam war with a priceless artistic weight, "the Deer Hunter" wins hands down over "Apocalypse Now" (1979) although Francis Ford Coppola's work is very potent too.

But would it be judicious to pigeonhole Michael Cimino's work in the category of the war movie? Unlike Coppola's visual nightmare, only the central part takes place in Vietnam and the filmmaker barely shoots one fight sequence before Mike (Robert De Niro), Nick (Christopher Walken) and Stevie (John Savage) are prisoners of the enemy and are forced to play Russian roulette in the notorious unbearable scene. Actually "the Deer Hunter" is a film straddling two movie genres: the war movie and the social drama. Rather than shooting a political film, Cimino chose to represent us the deadly impact this nightmarish war had on an American community whose hopes and values disappeared.

Dividing his work in three parts: before, during, after and thanks to symbolical images, scenes or even eloquent details, Cimino used and honed his own cinematographic language to set out his stalls and the result can only command respect and admiration. Each sequence could be separately taken and carefully studied like the representation of the humdrum but reassuring living standards of the blue-collars with their everyday rituals (Cimino's obsession with rites and customs) revolving around factory, bar, friends and hunting (you have to admire the startling contrast between the dirty little town and the gorgeous, wild landscapes). Archetypal sequences that epitomize life and it reaches its height in the famous, unusually long wedding sequence. Perhaps Cimino wanted to stretch this sequence to make his characters take advantage of this rapture moment. But even during this state of bliss that lives inside them, the imminent tragedy ominously lurks: Mike and Nick gently laugh at an officer who remains dumb and when Stevie and his wife have to drink in a dish, some drops fall on her wedding dress. This sequence also epitomizes the polar opposite to the sequence of the Russian roulette in which death is just around the corner. After the war when Mike comes back to the small town, he's completely altered. Before, a devotee of deer hunting; after his traumatizing experience, he can't kill one. He's unable to talk about about what he went through and for his sidekicks, the experience of a war like this one is incomprehensible. Cimino eschews classical, predictable storytelling and hasn't recourse to psychological study. Nearly everything occurs in gestures and looks while the suggested has a meaty part in the dialogs. Besides, during the whole movie the topic of the war is barely mentioned by the characters. A lyrical whiff blows on the film, dovetailed by Cimino's astounding directing.

Cimino was consumed with ambition and went at it hammer and tongs to get his crew completely involved in his project. He was hard on his actors (Robert De Niro has often said that "the Deer Hunter" was his most grueling role to date) and was obsessed with absolute control. But the efforts weren't vain at all and gave a heartfelt, invaluable yardstick in war movie, even American cinema which reached the streets when America rose from its ruins. It was also the beginning of the end for Cimino, a filmmaker ahead of his time and on the fringe of cinematographic trends.
103 out of 180 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
The Best Film Ever made about War
Lord_Crypto18 June 2007
Most of you after reading my title are already going to be upset. I do consider this to be the best film ever made about war. I do not look at this film being about the Vietnam War. I look at this film being about war (Period).

I think this film is as excellent as it is for one good reason, showing the effects of war. True, we see the films where men are shaped by war, what events make them who they are, and how the events of war transform them. It is mainly about what the war has done to them. The Deer Hunter takes a bigger step back from that and shows the entire character transformation. It does not just show the transformation of a soldier, but also the transformation as a civilian. You spend a good 40 minutes in the Deer Hunter getting to know the main characters and getting a feel for their personalities. The first 40 minutes is about character development and almost getting an attachment to those characters. This makes their transformation more effective for the viewer and they almost feel for the character and what they are going through. Than those characters get thrown into war and you see the events that change them. The things they had to experience as a soldier. And than, most importantly, we see the changes in their characters after the war. And we do not just see the changes in the soldiers, we see the changes that their friends and lovers undergo as a result of the war. We are not just looking at one soldier, we are looking at a network of friends and how they are changed due to the war. Even those who did not go to war are still effected. And the fact all the characters are from a small town makes it that much more powerful. The Deer Hunter is a powerful film about how war effects everybody, not just the soldiers involved in it.

The cast is terrific! Robert De Niro, John Cazale, John Savage, Meryll Streep, and Christopher Walken. Need I say more. Christopher Walken won an Oscar for best supporting actor in this film. The script is beautifully written and the movie is filmed perfectly. I can find nothing wrong with anything about this movie. I mean, it did win 5 Oscars in 1978 including Best Picture and Best Director for Michael Cimino.

This movie is emotionally powerful. I can not say this film is accurate about war, I can only give my opinion and take from the film what I can. I am an 18-year old teen who has an almost complete control over his emotions. This film brought me the closest to tears I have ever been by a movie. It is an absolute masterpiece. This is one of the greatest films ever made. Take the time to watch this film, it is a classic that hits you the hardest emotionally.
54 out of 91 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
1/10
It is hard to imagine a worse movie!
apm729 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Those other negative comments that suggest that maybe this movie was good when it came out, but hasn't aged well, are dead wrong! I waited in line to see it on Opening Night in 1978. As a Vietnam veteran and a huge DeNiro fan, I was really looking forward to the first big movie about Nam. And it was as hideous, boring, exploitive, senseless, and unrealistic that night as it is now! They're going to Nam the next day?!? Without any kind of basic training or anything? The Walken character survives how many years playing Russian roulette?? How does DeNiro get away with that beard in Special Forces? I knew many soldiers from Western Pennsylvania steel mills, but not one with Walken's blow-dried hair-do that not even New York dancers were wearing till the late '70s! Okay, so let's suspend disbelief and not criticize its lack of anything vaguely realistic. In that case, we are left with a boring, long, boring, disjointed, boring, meaningless, exploitive piece of crap that had nothing whatever to do with the Vietnam War. And did I mention boring? For those who want a movie about the Vietnam War, I recommend Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, and a wonderful almost-unknown Burt Lancaster movie called Go Tell The Spartans that also came out in '78. Almost every Vietnam vet I know liked Apocalypse Now -- almost all thought The Deer Hunter was crap. And Cimino's later career supplies ample evidence for that point of view!
118 out of 219 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Real look at Life for some...
Wolfman61325 May 2004
The Deer Hunter is a masterpiece of life among a community before and after three friends get drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. The tragic events that take place in the jungles and the adjustment back into the drinking and hunting life of steel workers in Pittsburgh shook my life forever. Bobby, Chris, and John all give fine performances with an outstanding supporting cast comprised of George Dzunda(Crimson Tide, The Limbic Region) Meryl Streep(Kramer vs. Kramer, Out of Africa) and of course the late John Cazale(The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon). The scenes are lavishly created to pull us into the magic and to strike horror into our dreams. The themes of a powerful movie such as this applies across all generations even to now with all that is happening with our soldiers in the Middle East. If you only have "one shot" to see an outstanding movie that will make your heart sing and make your soul weep, make it this movie.
53 out of 93 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
How far would you go for a friend?
Kristine12 December 2005
This is one of the best adaptions of the Vietnam War on film that I have seen. We have also "Platoon" that represented somewhat of the same thing that "The Deer Hunter" did as well, but this one came first and was a great version. It showed the intense horror and ultimate change effect on the men that fought in Vietnam. At first, I admit, I was a little bored because the beginning is a little long and felt unnecessary, but then I realized later in the film how much that developed the characters and understood their friendships and how they relate.

Robert De Niro seems to be the strongest one of the group, his name is Mike. He has a lot of guts, but he also seems to care mostly about himself, he later on proves that after finally just letting go with his kept up emotions, he must take care of his friends as well. Christopher Walken, he's a baby in here! He's such a terrific actor and he did so well by portraying innocence in his role and the ultimate insanity of his character. He and Robert were amazing, they were just so believable and worked so well together.

This was the best picture of 1978, so far I cannot really judge one wither or not it deserved the reward. But it is an awesome movie and I would highly recommend it for anyone. The lines are just F****** A! :D I mean memorable! This does deserve to be on the top 250, good job to other IMDb users!

10/10
73 out of 132 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
1/10
Movie That Makes You Go Hmmmm
ewarn-17 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The first hour of this movie concerns a bunch of guys at a wedding reception. They spend their time drinking and not saying much, so we don't know who they are. Hmmmmm. Eventually we learn that these guys are going to 'fight for their country in Vietnam' (apparently without joining the army first.) At this point, you'll really start to go 'hmmmm....' The guys, who work in Pennsylvania, leave the wedding reception, still boxed out on beer, and travel (a 45 minute drive) to the Canadian Rockies to hunt elk. Hmmmm.

Next, they show up in Vietnam. Apparently they made a special deal with the U.S. Army to serve in the same squad. Hmmmmm.

Next, they are all in a hut in the jungle playing Russian Roulette. I think they are being forced to by sinister villains, but I'm not sure. Hmmmmm.

Two of the guys are rescued, but one guy disappears, to pursue a career as world reigning Russian roulette champion. Seven or three or five years later, DeNiro goes back to Saigon to rescue him. Apparently the roulette champion had been lucky enough to last years playing this deadly game and made a fortune. Will his luck hold out? Hmmmmmm. Anyway, The last day the Americans are in Vietnam, and refugees are killing themselves to rush the last helicopter at the embassy, DeNiro shows up on a commercial flight, casually strolling through the Saigon airport. Hmmmmm.

I think they call it suspension of disbelief. Hmmmmmm.
141 out of 270 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
1/10
The worst highly rated movie ever!
imdb-10-jszlauko2 September 2009
How this movie got such a high rating is beyond me. There are maybe two good scenes in the whole thing, which hardly makes it worth while enduring the other 2+ hours of it. The beginning drags on and on, then when the characters are finally in Viet Nam, the scene is ludicrous.

For a movie that is suppose to show the effects of war on a group of people living in a small steel mill town, it fails miserably.

Seems to me the character development was very weak to begin with, and just gets weaker as it goes. I was so bored and disappointed towards the end of this mess of a movie, that I finally turned it off about 15 minutes from the end. I figured it was a lost cause to continue, and I had already wasted over 2 hours of my life watching this crap.

Aside from being painfully boring, with no real character development, ludicrous war scenes, a complete failure to get any point across, and totally non-rational events, I guess it was OK. I'd give it a zero rating if I could.
23 out of 37 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
1/10
Boring, historically inaccurate and FAR too long
preppy-32 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Story about three buddies (played by Robert DeNiro, John Savage and Christopher Walken) going off to Vietnam. They're all gung ho about going and aren't prepared for what they experience. They all return home--one mentally affected, one physically handicapped and one dead.

This came out in 1978 and was immediately hailed as a masterpiece. It was one of the few movies that dealt with Vietnam realistically (somewhat). It also really hit a lot of Vietnam vets and young guys hard. A friend of mine went to see it and after it was over he was in the mens room and saw 4 guys in their 20s crying nonstop. I saw it around that time. I was in high school and was bored silly. I figured at the time I was too young to appreciate it. I saw it years later and was STILL bored.

For starters--it's too long--3 hours. The wedding sequence at the beginning goes on and on and ON. You learn nothing more about the characters than you could have in about 10 minutes. Even after they return home it moves slowly. The Russian roulette sequences (which were VERY hotly debated) never happened in reality. There's no proof at all that it ever happened. Also one character makes a living out of playing Russian roulette???? Come on! The Vietnamese are portrayed as victims or monsters--very black and white. No shadings of character. With the sole exceptions of DeNiro, Savage and Meryl Strepp the acting sucks. Seriously--HOW did Walken get an Oscar for this? DeNiro should have gotten it. And the irony at the end (when they're all singing "God Bless America") was SO heavy-handed it was almost comic. Wildly overpraised and overrated. This does not belong in the top 250 on IMDb. A 1 all the way.
75 out of 138 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
1/10
It lost me...
Davyd Styl15 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I hired The Deer Hunter after a number of people recommended it to me. I thought they were serious. I honestly cannot believe this film is so highly regarded when nothing actually happens. There is three whole hours of nothing. I haven't been so full of hatred for a film since I was forced to watch "the Piano" (another very boring and overrated waste-of-space).

Alright, it started out looking good and interesting, showing the very harsh conditions of a Pennsylvania steel mill. It captured my interest. That was in the first five minutes.

Then, we are treated to about 55 minutes of a mind-numbingly boring wedding scene. God knows what happened to the editor, but he must have been drunk or on strike or something because what should have been a five- or ten-minute brief explanation became a drawn-out and long-winded dance scene! Next there's maybe fifteen minutes of the main characters going out into the wilderness and murdering a few animals for their own entertainment.

Now we finally get into the "war" scenes. When I hired this film I was led to believe that it was in fact a "war" movie. No, it really isn't. Vietnam may be involved and feature part-way through the story, but this is definitely NOT a war movie. All we get is a few seconds of Viet Cong brutality, then a flamethrower and some American choppers dropping off a squad or two of well-equipped soldiers.

All of a sudden, we are transported into some kind of Viet Cong mobile water torture station, where unfortunate American (and other Vietnamese, probably South Vietnamese) soldiers are forced to play Russian Roulette for entertainment and gambling purposes. They get slapped around, thrown into rat-infested, half-submerged pits and generally mistreated by the evil VC.

Don't get me wrong, the first Russian Roulette scene was very tense and I did hope that Robert DeNiro would blow a hole in the head of the VC leader.

However, this is all that happened in the film. After that, nothing at all happened. I gave up just before the two-hour mark. It was just too much tripe for me. I could not believe it was rated so highly. Nothing happened in two god-damn hours! A long-winded wedding, a boring hunting scene and a very poor attempt at a war scene.

I stopped watching after two hours. The garbage was finally beginning to get to me. So, to all those who adore and blindly praise this film, I have to ask you: Did you actually watch it, or were you just jumping on the Every-Academy-Award-Winner-Must-Be-Good train? It may well have been a great cinematic work in 1978, but today it certainly doesn't stand up against other older war movies.

If you haven't watched The Deer Hunter yet...don't bother. Instead go watch a decent Vietnam film - such as Platoon or Full Metal Jacket. Otherwise, you're just wasting three hours of your life.
51 out of 91 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
1/10
most overrated film ever
dlevitt-111 January 2005
This boring, overlong, implausible excuse for a story has psyched out a surprising number of people, thanks to a strong cast (Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken), phony but emotionally exploitive material, and American audiences desperate to demonize the winners of the Vietnam war.

Any scenes that might have shown combat, snipers, or something that could have really happened in Vietnam are jarringly missing - it practically cuts from Pennsylvania to a POW camp. Then the famous "Russian roulette" scenes are utterly invented, and never happened to anyone in Vietnam (and probably not in any other war). Any honest viewpoint on any war would be preferable. Nam veterans aren't fooled; they hate this movie.

Finally, they eliminate Walken's character in a twist that should logically have occurred many years earlier, but happens to take place just as his best friend arrives after ten years. Please!

The most amazing thing about this movie is how many people say they loved it. Somehow the alternation of pretentious slowness and violence is manipulative. Its success so confused its director that he became delusional and made an even longer and far more expensive failure, so infamously bad it actually brought down United Artists studio. Still, I suspect I'd like it better than The Deer Hunter.
37 out of 64 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
1/10
What a fake!
HyperionM21 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is just awful. Take away 1 scene (De Niro shooting the guards) and the average rating for this movie would probably drop 2 to 3 points. And that scene had nothing to do with the actual Vietnam war but was just sort of 'COOL'.

I enjoy war flicks and Apocalypse Now is one of my all-time favorite movies.. But this movie just didn't make sense.

The editing is terrible.. The wedding scene just goes on and on. I suspect it was the best footage they had shot and they just couldn't bring themselves to cut any of it. Then the war starts.. We see a brief helicopter scene and next thing we know our heroes are in a POW-camp? Excuse me?! What just happened? After that point the movie just gets progressively worse.

The plot is just outrageous. You don't have to be a statistician to understand that Walken having a successful career in Russian roulette is absurd.. His successful streak ending just the moment his buddy comes looking for him makes it even more silly.

I guess many people see good symbolism for war in the Russian roulette theme and thats part of why this movie scores so high... but come on, you cant reduce the Vietnam war to something that never happened in it..

This movie insults my intelligence! Its a silly Hollywood action flick posing as a meaningful war drama.. and quite possibly the most overrated movie of all times!
47 out of 84 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
1/10
Major flaws, with a long movie wrapped around them
SnorriGodhi5 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Clearly, there are many people who value this movie. I have no problem admitting that I just "don't get it" -- as long as those who like this movie are open to the idea that, just possibly, there is an elephant in the room that they are overlooking. Actually, from some other comments, it looks like some other people have seen the elephant, but think that it fits well into the room.

My case rests on the fact that this is meant to be a "serious" movie, but I have had less trouble suspending disbelief with the X-Men than with this movie: if the main characters had escaped from the Vietcongs using their super-powers, that would have left me less uncomfortable than what I have seen in this movie.

Some other IMDb reviewers have mentioned the extreme improbability of Nick making a living out of playing Russian roulette professionally. But the weirdness does not end there, because his buddy Michael returns to Vietnam to rescue him from his insanity. How? why, by playing Russian roulette with him, of course! You might think that this is the action least likely to bring the two of them back together to the USA -- and you would be right, because Nick shoots himself during the game. The way it looks to me is that Michael unwittingly ends Nick's successful career.

The earlier escape scene is also absurd. It makes sense that Michael and Nick plan to escape by using the gun they are supposed to play Russian roulette with. It makes sense that they figure they need three bullets to escape. It might even make sense that, before starting to fire at the Vietcongs, they want to be sure that the next chamber has a bullet in it (although the way they make sure would mean a very likely failure for their plan, in real life). But why did the Vietcongs let them keep a gun with three bullets ready to be fired? The escape plan boils down to hoping that the Vietcongs will let them keep a loaded gun, if they survive Russian roulette. Nothing wrong with trying; but the scriptwriters should not have allowed them to survive both the odds of Russian roulette and the odds that at least one of the Vietcongs would use his brain.

The Russian roulette scenes are surreal. Watching them, I could feel no suspense whatsoever, in spite of the characters screaming themselves hoarse: I simply could not suspend my disbelief. I had the uncomfortable feeling of missing something: perhaps they were playing some other game that looks a lot like Russian roulette, except that the person with the gun knows whether the next chamber has a cartridge in it. That might help to explain both the escape from the Vietcongs and Nick's survival as a professional player, but it would introduce other difficulties, such as Nick shooting himself.

Now, all of the above comments are about the Russian roulette scenes, and it might be said that i am overlooking the rest of the movie: that this is not a war movie, but a movie about the trauma of war. Maybe so, but suppose that you had seen the movie without the Russian roulette scenes: would you think that the movie could be improved by adding a few silly scenes?

For me, the addition of silly scenes means that i must take away one or two points from my rating. My rating is already pretty low because I "don't get" the rest of the movie, and in addition because I had high expectations for this movie and was disappointed; so i am giving the minimum rating to the movie as a whole.
49 out of 88 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
loading
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews