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Slaughterhouse-Five (1972)

A man named Billy Pilgrim tells the story of how he became unstuck in time and was abducted by aliens.


George Roy Hill


Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (novel), Stephen Geller (screenplay)

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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 3 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Michael Sacks ... Billy Pilgrim
Ron Leibman ... Paul Lazzaro
Eugene Roche ... Edgar Derby
Sharon Gans Sharon Gans ... Valencia Merble Pilgrim
Valerie Perrine ... Montana Wildhack
Holly Near ... Barbara Pilgrim
Perry King ... Robert Pilgrim
Kevin Conway ... Roland Weary
Friedrich von Ledebur ... German Leader (as Friedrich Ledebur)
Ekkehardt Belle ... Young German Guard (as Nick Belle)
Sorrell Booke ... Lionel Merble
Roberts Blossom ... Wild Bob Cody
John Dehner ... Prof. Rumfoord
Gary Waynesmith Gary Waynesmith ... Stanley
Richard Schaal ... Howard W. Campbell Jr.


Using his own terminology, Billy Pilgrim is "unstuck in time", which means he is moving between different points in his life uncontrollably, although he is aware of it at certain of those points as witnessed by the letter to the editor he writes to the Ilium Daily News about his situation. Primarily, he is moving between three general time periods and locations. The first is his stint as a GI during WWII, when, as a pacifist, he was acting as a Chaplain's assistant for his unit. This time is largely as a POW, where he was in Dresden the day of the bombing, spending it with among others an older compassionate GI named Edgar Derby, and a brash loudmouth GI named Paul Lazzaro. The second is his life as an optometrist in Ilium in upstate New York, eventually married to the wealthy and overbearing Valencia Merble, and having two offspring, Robert, who would spend his teen-aged years as a semi-delinquent, and Barbara, who would end up much like her mother. And the third is as an abductee on... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Billy Pilgrim lives - from time to time to time... See more »


Comedy | Drama | Sci-Fi | War


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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English | German

Release Date:

15 March 1972 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Matadero cinco See more »

Filming Locations:

Czech Republic See more »


Box Office


$3,200,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (Ontario - edited)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)| 4-Track Stereo


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Michael Sacks, who plays Billy Pilgrim, is eleven months older than his on-screen daughter, played by Holly Near, and he is actually four months younger than Perry King, who plays his son. See more »


When Billy Pilgrim is asked by the American soldiers, "Where's your rifle?", he replies that he doesn't have one because he's a chaplain's assistant. However, in the United States Army, the primary duty of the chaplain's assistant in a combat zone is to protect the chaplain, so all chaplain's assistants must carry rifles. Because Chaplains are considered ministers in uniform they are forbidden from carrying weapons even when in combat zone. See more »


[repeated line]
Valencia Merble Pilgrim: I'm gonna lose weight. I'm really gonna lose weight.
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Referenced in Pressurecooker (1997) See more »


Concerto No 3 for Harpsichord in D major, BWV 1054 - 3rd movement 'Allegro'
Written by Johann Sebastian Bach (as J.S. Bach)
Glenn Gould, Piano
Columbia Symphony Orchestra
Vladimir Goldschmann, Conductor
See more »

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User Reviews

Vonnegut's Classic Through Roy Hill's Lens
14 June 2007 | by mstomasoSee all my reviews

The film Slaughterhouse 5 is a brilliantly portrayed interpretation of a great but typically multilinear novel by science fiction author Kurt Vonnegut. With all due respect to the literary critics, sci fi really is what Vonnegut most often wrote - whether or not it is viewed as allegory or even 'serious literature'. As such, it was not really made to convey the same messages,nor even the aesthetics of the book, but rather to convey the director's (and others on the creative team) impressions of the book.

The book is also brilliant, but none of Vonnegut's work is easily adapted to the medium of film. Not quite the task Cronenberg took on when he directed Burrough's Naked Lunch, but very similar in method.

S-5 exposes us to the life of Billy Pilgrim (Michael Sacks) and his many loves (his dog spot, his wife played by Holly Near and an actress played by Valerie Perrine), as he either blacks out and travels into the deep recesses of his memory experiencing the delusion of time travel or (as indicated by his occasional leaps forward in time), he actually has become 'unstuck in time.' Between trips back to Dresden during its WWII bombing and trips forward to the planet Tralfamador, it seems that Billy is constantly tripping. Yet he manages to build a successful and very normal American life despite his bizarre and uncontrollable time-travel habit.

The film illustrates the non-linear manner in which the book is written by skipping from time to time in a seemingly random manner, but it manages to do so without losing focus on Pilgrim, who is, in fact always living in the present regardless of what time he happens to be experiencing. Fantastic directoral method!

The film makes a lot of subtle, simple and very good points by making Billy - a quiet simple guy with an extraordinary set of circumstances in his life - a true hero simply because he is relatively nice, somewhat aloof, happy, and quite normal. Sacks' performance is spot-on.

This film is beautifully photographed, very well paced, perfectly directed and edited. The acting is all quite good, and comes from a well appointed cast mostly consisting of character actors. I was particularly impressed with Eugene Roche's excellent portrayal of Edgar Derby.

Highly recommended for the art-house crowd and friends of intelligent sci fi.

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