The Deer Hunter: Wikis


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The Deer Hunter

Theatrical poster
Directed by Michael Cimino
Produced by Barry Spikings
Michael Deeley
Michael Cimino
John Peverall
Written by Story:
Quinn K. Redeker
Deric Washburn
Michael Cimino
Louis Garfinkle
Deric Washburn
Starring Robert De Niro
John Cazale
John Savage
Christopher Walken
Meryl Streep
George Dzundza
Chuck Aspegren
Music by Stanley Myers
Cinematography Vilmos Zsigmond
Editing by Peter Zinner
Distributed by Universal Pictures (US)
EMI Films (non-US)
Release date(s) December 8, 1978
Running time 182 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget US$15,000,000
Gross revenue US$48,979,328

The Deer Hunter is a 1978 American war drama film co-written and directed by Michael Cimino about a trio of Russian American[1][2][3] steel worker friends and their infantry service in the Vietnam War. It is loosely inspired by the German novel Three Comrades (1937), by World War I veteran Erich Maria Remarque, the author of All Quiet on the Western Front, which follows the lives of a trio of German World War I veterans in 1920s Weimar Germany. Like the novel, The Deer Hunter meditates and explores the moral and mental consequences of war violence and politically manipulated patriotism upon the meaning of friendship, honor, and family in a tightly knit community and deals with controversial issues such as suicide, posttraumatic stress disorder, infidelity and mental illness. The film won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

The film stars Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, John Savage, John Cazale, George Dzundza and Chuck Aspegren. The story takes place in Clairton, a small working class town on the Monongahela River south of Pittsburgh and then in Vietnam, somewhere in woodland and in Saigon, during the Vietnam War. It was filmed in the Pittsburgh metro area; Cleveland and Mingo Junction, Ohio; Weirton, West Virginia; the North Cascades National Park in Washington state, the Patpong district of Bangkok in Thailand (imitating the Saigon red-light district), and Sai Yok, Kanchanaburi Province (also in Thailand).



Act I

In Clairton, a small working class town in Western Pennsylvania during early 1967, Russian American steel workers 33 year old Michael (Robert De Niro), Steven (28, John Savage), and Nick (31, Christopher Walken), with the support of their friends Stanley (35, John Cazale), John (33, George Dzundza) and Axel (32, Chuck Aspegren), are preparing for two rites of passage: marriage and military service.

The opening scenes set the character traits of the three main actors. Michael is the no-nonsense, serious but unassuming leader of the three, Steven the loving, near-groom, pecked at by his mother for not wearing a scarf with his tuxedo and Nick is the quiet, introspective man who loves hunting because, "I like the know...the way the trees are..." The recurring theme of "one shot," which is how Michael prefers to take down a deer, is introduced.

Before the trio ships out, Steven and his girlfriend, Angela (who is pregnant by another man but loved by Steven nonetheless) get married in an elaborate Russian Orthodox wedding. In the meantime, Michael struggles with his feelings for Nick's lovely but pensive girlfriend Linda (Meryl Streep), who has just moved out of her abusive father's house.

At the wedding reception held at the local VFW, the guys all get drunk, dance, sing and have a good time, but then notice an Army Green Beret in full dress uniform sitting at the end of the bar. Michael buys the soldier a drink and tries to strike up a conversation with him to find out what Vietnam is like, but the soldier ignores Michael. After Michael confronts him to explain that he, Steven and Nick are going to Vietnam, the Green Beret raises his glass and says "fuck it" to everyone's shock and amazement. Obviously disturbed and under mental anguish, the Green Beret again toasts them with "fuck it." After being restrained by the others from starting a fight with the Green Beret, Michael goes back to the bar with the others and in a mocking jest to the Green Beret, raises his glass and toasts him with "fuck it." The Green Beret then glances over at Michael and grins smugly, knowing exactly what Michael and the others will face.

Later, during the wedding toast to Steven and Angela, a toast with a tradition of good luck for the couple who drinks from conjoined goblets without spilling a drop, a drop of blood-red wine unknowingly spills on her wedding gown, again foreshadowing the coming events. Near the end of the reception, Nick asks Linda to marry him, and she agrees. Later that night, after a drunk and naked Michael runs through the streets of town, Nick chases him down and begs Michael not to leave him "over there" if anything happens. The next day, Michael and the remaining friends go deer hunting one last time, and Michael again scores a deer with "one shot."

Act II

The film then jumps abruptly to a war-torn village, where U.S. helicopters attack a native Vietnamese village with napalm. A North Vietnamese soldier throws a stick grenade into a hiding place full of civilians. An unconscious Mike (now a staff sergeant in the US Special Forces) wakes up to see the NVA shoot a woman carrying a baby. In revenge Mike burns the NVA with a flame thrower and then shoots him numerous times with an M16. Meanwhile a unit of UH-1 helicopters drops off several US troops, Nick and Steven among them. The trio (Michael, Steven, and Nick) unexpectedly find each other just before they are captured and held in a riverside prisoner of war camp along with other US Army and ARVN prisoners. For entertainment, the sadistic guards force their prisoners to play Russian roulette and gamble on the outcome.

All three friends are forced to play; Steven aims the gun above his head, grazing himself with the bullet and is punished by incarceration to an underwater cage, full of rats and the bodies of others who earlier faced the same fate. Michael and Nick orchestrate the killing of their captors and escape from the prison. Mike had earlier argued with Nick about whether Steven could be saved but after killing their captors Mike rescues Steven.

The three float downriver on a tree branch. An American helicopter accidentally finds them, but only Nick is able to climb aboard. The weakened Steven falls back into water and Mike plunges in the water to rescue him. Unluckily, Steven breaks both legs in the fall. Mike helps him to reach the river bank, and then carries him through the jungle to friendly lines. Nick is psychologically damaged and recuperating in a military hospital in Saigon with no knowledge on the status of his friends. At night, he aimlessly stumbles through the red-light district. At one point, he encounters Julién Grinda (Pierre Segui), a champagne-drinking friendly Frenchman outside a gambling den where men play Russian roulette for money. Grinda entices the reluctant Nick to participate, and leads him into the den. Mike is present in the den, watching the game, but the two friends do not notice each other at first. When Mike does see Nick, he is unable to get his attention. Mike cannot catch up with Nick and Grinda as they speed away.


Back in the U.S., Mike returns home but maintains a low profile. He tells the cab driver to pass by the house where all his friends are assembled, as he is embarrassed by the fuss made over him by Linda and the others. Mike goes to a hotel and struggles with his feelings, as he thinks both Nick and Steven are dead or missing. He eventually visits Linda and grows close to her, but only because of the friend they both think they have lost. Mike goes hunting with Axel, John and Stanley one more time, and after tracking a beautiful deer across the woods, takes his "one shot" but pulls the rifle up just before he fires, missing on purpose. He then sits on a rock escarpment and yells out, "OK?", which echoes back at him from the opposing rock faces leading down to the river, signifying his fight with his mental demons over losing Steven and Nick. He also berates Stanley for carrying around a small revolver and waving it around, not realizing it is still loaded. He knows the horror of war and wants no part of it anymore.

Mike is eventually told about Angela, whom he goes to visit at the home of Steven's mother. She is lethargic and barely responsive. She writes a phone number on a scrap of paper, which leads Mike to the local veterans' hospital where Steven has been for several months. He has lost both his legs and is partially paralyzed. Mike visits Steven, who reveals that someone in Saigon has been mailing large amounts of cash to him, and Mike is convinced that it is Nick. Mike brings Steven home to Angela and then travels to Saigon just before its fall in 1975. He tracks down the Frenchman Julién Grinda, who has made a lot of money from the Russian-roulette-playing American.

He finds Nick in a crowded roulette club, but Nick appears to have no recollection of his friends or his home in Pennsylvania. Mike sees the needle tracks on his arm, a sign of drug abuse. He realizes that Nick thinks he (Michael) and Steven are dead, since he is the only one who made it back on the helicopter. Mike enters himself in a game of Russian roulette against Nick, attempting to persuade him to come home, but Nick's mind is gone. In the last moment, after Mike's attempts to remind him of their trips hunting together, he finally breaks through, and Nick recognizes Mike and smiles. Nick then tells Mike, "one shot" and raises the gun to his temple and pulls the trigger. The bullet is in the gun chamber and Nick kills himself. Horrified, Michael tries to revive him to no avail.


Back in America, there is a funeral for Nick, whom Michael brings home, good to his promise. The film ends with the whole cast at their friends bar, singing "God Bless America" and toasting in Nick's honor.



The film began with a spec screenplay called "The Man Who Came To Play", written by Louis Garfinkle and Quinn K. Redeker. The script, while unrelated to the Vietnam War, nonetheless centered on a group of men who travel to Las Vegas to play Russian Roulette. Producer Barry Spikings, who had purchased the script from Garfinkle–Redeker, pitched the story to director Michael Cimino, who then adapted the Russian Roulette idea into a story he was preparing about Pennsylvania steelworkers who go off to Vietnam. Cimino then worked for six weeks with Deric Washburn, before firing him (Cimino and Washburn had previously collaborated with Stephen Bochco on the screenplay for Silent Running).

While Garfinkle and Redeker had nothing to do with the writing or filming of The Deer Hunter, they ultimately shared a "Story By" writer's credit with Cimino and Washburn, since Cimino had adapted the Russian Roulette idea from "The Man Who Came To Play" into the film. Cimino would later claim to have written the entire screenplay himself, although a WGA arbitration awarded Washburn sole "Screenplay By" credit.[citation needed] All four writers received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay for this film.

Filming locations included:

Theme music and songs

The theme music and songs play an important role in this movie.


Academy Awards record
1. Best Supporting Actor, Christopher Walken
2. Best Director, Michael Cimino
3. Best Editing, Peter Zinner
4. Best Picture, Barry Spikings, Michael Deeley, Michael Cimino, John Peverall
5. Best Sound, Richard Portman, William L. McCaughey, Aaron Rochin, C. Darin Knight
Golden Globe Awards record
1. Best Director, Michael Cimino
BAFTA Awards record
1. Best Cinematography, Vilmos Zsigmond
2. Best Editing, Peter Zinner

The Deer Hunter won Academy Awards in 1978 for Best Picture, Best Director (Michael Cimino), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Christopher Walken), Best Film Editing, and Best Sound. In addition, it was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Robert De Niro), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Meryl Streep), Best Cinematography (Vilmos Zsigmond) and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Michael Cimino, Deric Washburn, Louis Garfinkle and Quinn Redeker).

In 1996, The Deer Hunter was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

It is ranked number 53 on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time.[4]

The theme song of The Deer Hunter, "Cavatina", written by Stanley Myers and performed by classical guitarist John Williams is commonly known as "The Theme from The Deer Hunter".

During the Berlin International Film Festival in 1979 the Soviet delegation expressed its indignation with the film which, in their opinion, insulted the Vietnamese people in numerous scenes. The socialist states felt obliged to voice their solidarity with the “heroic people of Vietnam”. They protested against the screening of the film and insisted that it violated the statutes of the festival, since it in no way contributed to the “improvement of mutual understanding between the peoples of the world”.[5] The ensuing domino effect led to the walk-outs of the Cubans, East Germans, Bulgarians, Poles and Czechoslovakians, and two members of the jury resigned in sympathy.

The film holds a strong 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 43 reviews.[6]

The Deer Hunter ranks 467th in Empire magazine's 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time.[7]

American Film Institute recognition

However, reception of the film was not all positive amongst critics and the BBC film critic Mark Kermode is quoted as saying the film is "about 3 hours too long". He also calls it "one of the worst films ever made,a rambling self indulgent, self aggrandising barf-fest steeped in manipulatively racist emotion, and notable primarily for its farcically melodramatic tone which is pitched somewhere between shrieking hysteria and somnambulist somberness". Added to this he said it was "a testament to the fact that, if allowed to do whatever they want, filmmakers will take their cameras and crawl up their own backsides".[8]

Home media release

The Deer Hunter has twice been released on DVD. The first 1998 issue by Universal, with no extra features and a non-anamorphic transfer, has since been discontinued. A second version, part of the "Legacy Series", was released as a two-disc set on September 6, 2005, with an anamorphic transfer of the film. The set features a cinematographer's commentary by Vilmos Zsigmond, interviews of the cast and crew, and deleted and extended scenes. The Region 2 version of The Deer Hunter, released in the UK and Japan, features a commentary track from director Michael Cimino. The film was released on HD DVD in 2006. It has since been released on the Blu-Ray format in countries other than the United States, however all versions of the film available on Blu-Ray are region free.


  • In an interview included on the bonus disc of the two-disc DVD release, director Michael Cimino states that Robert De Niro requested a live bullet in the revolver for the scene in which he subjects John Savage's character to an impromptu game of Russian roulette, to heighten the intensity of the situation. Savage agreed without protest. In the director's commentary of the region 2 DVD release, Cimino points out that Savage obsessively rechecked the gun before each take to make sure that the live round wasn't next in the chamber.
  • To render himself ghostly, Christopher Walken exclusively ate rice, bananas, and water for the week before he filmed the third act.
  • During screenings of the short version of the film, director Cimino bribed the projectionist to interrupt it, in order to obtain better reviews of the long version.[citation needed]
  • The epigraph to E. M. Corder's tie-in novelization of The Deer Hunter (1979) is from Ernest Hemingway:

    There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.

  • All scenes involving John Cazale, who had end-stage bone cancer during the shoot, had to be filmed first. Cazale died shortly after filming wrapped. Because of his illness, the studio initially wanted to get rid of Cazale, but his real-life fiancee, Meryl Streep, and Cimino threatened to walk away if they did.

See also


External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Annie Hall
Academy Award for Best Picture
Succeeded by
Kramer vs. Kramer


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The Deer Hunter is a 1978 film that provides an in-depth examination of the way that the Vietnam War affects the lives of people in a small industrial town in the USA. It won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1978.

Directed by Michael Cimino. Written by Deric Washburn.
One of the most important and powerful films of all time!
Spoiler warning: Plot, ending, or solution details follow.


Michael Vronsky

  • Those are sun dogs...It means a blessing on the hunter sent by the Great Wolf to his children...It's an old Indian thing.
  • [to Linda] I just wanted to say how sorry I am about Nick. And how, I know how much you loved him and I know that it will never be the same. I just wanted to tell you that.
  • You wanna play games, I'll play your fucking games.
  • Here's to Nick.

Julien Grinda

  • What is there to be afraid of in this war? The war is a joke, a silly thing...I pay my players - cash - American. However, should you prefer German marks or perhaps Swiss francs, that of course can be arranged.
  • If you are really brave and lucky, I can make you very, very rich.
  • When a man says no to champagne, he says no to life.


  • Steven's mother: I still do not believe this. My own boy with a strange girl and not so thin, if you understand my meaning...The next thing you know, he goes to Vietnam...I do not understand, Father. I understand nothing anymore, nothing...Can you explain? Can anyone explain?
  • Steven's mother: You marry this girl, you leave her with me, and you go with these bums to Vietnam.
  • Nick: Did you hear about the happy Roman? He was "GLAD HE ATE HER"!
  • Linda: I was hoping, somehow Michael, maybe you had Nick with you...He never wrote to me, he never called me.
  • Axel: You're so full of shit, you're gonna float away.
  • Steven: The place is great...It's like a resort...I mean they got basketball, bowling...Princess Grace came to see us the other day.


Michael: I'll tell ya one thing, if I found out my life had to end up in the mountains, it'd be all right, but it has to be in your mind.
Nick: What? One shot?
Michael: Two is pussy.
Nick: I don't think about one shot that much any more, Mike.
Michael: You have to think about one shot. One shot is what it's all about. The deer has to be taken with one shot. I try to tell people that - they don't listen. Do you ever think about Vietnam?
Nick: Yeah. I don't know. I guess I'm thinkin' about the deer, goin' to 'Nam. I like the trees, you know? I like the way the trees are on the mountains, all different. The way the trees are. I sound like some asshole, right?
Michael: I'll tell ya, Nick. You're the only guy I go huntin' with, you know. I like a guy with quick moves and speed. I ain't gonna hunt with no assholes.

Nick: I hope they send us where the bullets are flyin' and the fightin's the worst, huh?
Green Beret veteran: Fuck it.
Michael: Well, what's it like over there? Will you tell us anything?
Green Beret veteran: Fuck it.

Nick: Will you marry me?
Linda: Yeah.
Nick: You would? [She nods] What I mean is, when we get back from...when we get back. I don't know what the hell I mean.
Linda: What goes through your mind comes out your mouth.

Michael: Everything's going so fast. Hey Nick, do you think we'll ever come back?
Nick: From 'Nam?
Michael: Yeah.
Nick: You know somethin'? The whole thing - it's right here. I love this fuckin' place. [Michael laughs] I know that that sounds crazy. If anything happens Mike, you don't - don't leave me over there. You got, you gotta...Just don't leave me. You gotta promise me that, Mike.
Michael: Hey!
Nick: No man, you got, you gotta, you gotta promise definitely.
Michael: Hey Nicky...You got it, pal.

Michael: Every time he comes up, he's got no knife, he's got no jacket, he's got no pants, he's got no boots. All he's got is that stupid gun he carries around like John Wayne. Stanley, see this? This is this. This ain't somethin' else. This is this. From now on, you're on your own.
Stanley: I fixed you up a million times. I fixed him up a million times. I don't know how many times I must have fixed him up with girls. And nothing ever happens. Zero...Nobody ever knows what the fuck you're talkin' about. Huh? 'This is this.' What the hell is that supposed to mean? 'This is this.' I mean, is that some faggot soundin' bullshit or is that some faggot...There's times I swear I think you're a fuckin' faggot...Last week, he could have had that new red-headed waitress...He could have had it knocked. And look what he did. Look what he fuckin' did. Nothin'.

Nick: What do you think you are, God?
Michael: We gotta play with more bullets...That means we gotta play each other...You gotta listen to me. You wanta stay down here and die?...Go ahead Nickie. It's gonna be all right...Don't worry, in five minutes we're gonna be outa here...It's gonna be all right, Nickie, go ahead. Shoot. Shoot, Nickie.

Michael: What kind of beer would you like?
Linda: What? I don't know. I don't care. Any kind.
Michael: I'll get you a Rolling Rock.
Linda: Okay.
Michael: It's a good beer, it's the best around.

Linda: So, how are you, anyway?
Michael: I'm fine, OK. How are you?
Linda: Me? I'm OK. I'm fine. I go along, you know. Still workin' at the market. There's a million things to do. You sure you're all right, huh?
Michael: Yeah.
Linda: What about your wounds?
Michael: There's nothin', just healed. Just the usual complications, that's all.
Linda: But we heard...
Michael: No, that's not true. A lot of guys went through it.
Linda: Oh, I'm so glad you're alive. I'm so happy. I really don't know what I feel.

Stan: How does it feel to be shot?
Michael: Don't, don't hurt. That's what you want to know. And how's it been, doing OK?
Stan: Yeah, same old thing, you know. Nothin's changed. I'm gettin' more ass than a toilet seat and Axel here, he's gettin' better than ever.
Axel: Hey Stan, why don't you show him that gun - that little pussy thing you carry around in the back there. Look at that...
Michael: What's that for?
Stan: The same thing the other one was for.
Michael: And what was that?

Linda: Why don't we go to bed? Can't we just comfort each other?
Michael: No, I can't. Not here. I gotta get out of here. I'm sorry. I just gotta get out...Look, I don't know. I feel a lot of distance and I feel far away. I'll see ya later.

Steven: [holding up cash] This comes every month from Saigon. I don't understand...That place is gonna fall any day now.
Michael: It's Nicky, Steve.
Steven: Where is a guy like Nick gettin' money like this?

Michael: I came 12,000 miles back here to get you...What's the matter with you? Don't you recognize me?...Nicky, I love you, you're my friend. What are you doing? We don't have much time, Nick. [Nick pulls the trigger on a gun, clicking on an empty chamber] Is this what you want? Is this what you want? I love you, Nick. [Michael pulls the trigger, clicking on an empty chamber] Come on, Nicky, come home. Just come home. Home. Talk to me. [looking at Nick's track marks] What did you do to your arms? Do you remember the trees? Do you remember all the different ways of the trees? Do you remember that? Do you remember? Huh? The mountains? Do you remember all that?
Nick: One shot. [He smiles and laughs in recognition]
Michael: One shot, one shot.
[Nick pulls the trigger, shooting himself]
Michael: Nicky, Nicky, don't, Nick, no!!


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Simple English

The Deer Hunter is a 1978 movie. It told the story of 3 friends affected by the Vietnam War. It won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

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