The 1978 epic war drama The Deer Hunter is currently streaming on Netflix. Directed by Michael Cimino, the movie is primarily set in a small industrial town in Pennsylvania and follows a group of friends who are profoundly affected by their experiences during the Vietnam War. It stars Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage, John Cazale (in his final role), Meryl Streep, and George Dzundza.
Robert De Niro leads an award-winning cast in The Deer Hunter, one of the greatest Vietnam movies of all time, currently streaming on Netflix.
The Deer Hunter is divided into three acts, each representing a different phase of the characters’ lives. The first act focuses on the wedding of Steven (John Savage) and serves as an introduction to the close-knit group of friends. This segment establishes their strong bond, love of deer hunting, and their anticipation of deployment to Vietnam.
The second act of The Deer Hunter takes place during the Vietnam War, when the friends are captured by the Viet Cong (an armed communist organization and movement in South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia) while on a mission. They are subjected to harrowing experiences, including forced Russian roulette games, which deeply affect them.
The Deer Hunter’s third act brings the surviving friends back to their hometown, where they struggle to reacclimatize to civilian life. Michael (Robert De Niro) becomes obsessed with finding Nick (Christopher Walken), who is still missing, and the film explores the emotional and psychological scars the war has left on all of them.
The Deer Hunter was made on a budget of around $15 million. It was initially released in limited theaters and later expanded its distribution. The film performed exceptionally well at the box office, grossing over $48 million domestically. It also did well internationally, solidifying its commercial success. Upon its release, the film also received widespread critical acclaim but wasn’t without its detractors.
Several prominent critics slammed The Deer Hunter for presenting simplistic, prejudiced, and historically inaccurate portrayals of the Viet Cong and America’s role in the Vietnam War. The film’s central theme involving the Viet Cong compelling American prisoners to engage in Russian Roulette was widely denounced for lacking historical grounding.
Several prominent critics slammed The Deer Hunter for presenting simplistic, prejudiced, and historically inaccurate portrayals of the Viet Cong and America’s role in the Vietnam War.
Although director Michael Cimino denied these allegations, he provided no documented evidence to counter them. Still, The Deer Hunter won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Christopher Walken won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Nick. Meryl Streep was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Linda.
Interestingly, the infamous Russian roulette scenes were not featured in the original script but were added by Michael Cimino to intensify the drama. The deer hunting scenes were shot in the mountains of Washington State, and the production faced many challenges due to the remote locations. John Cazale, who played Stan, tragically passed away shortly after filming and never saw the film’s release.
There have been conflicting accounts of how The Deer Hunter was developed, with Michael Cimino, writer Deric Washburn, and producers Barry Spikings and Michael Deeley offering different versions. In 1968, EMI Films was established by Barry Spikings and Deeley, with the latter acquiring the initial draft of a script titled “The Man Who Came to Play” by Louis A. Garfinkle and Quinn K. Redeker for $19,000.
This script revolved around people playing Russian Roulette in Las Vegas. Deeley recognized its brilliance but saw the need for practical adaptation. At the time, addressing the Vietnam War in Hollywood was challenging, as studios believed Americans wouldn’t be interested. Cimino, known for his work on 1974’s Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, was chosen after a search for a suitable director.
The Deer Hunter was a hit upon release, earning $48 million at the box office, but has become an all-time classic.
Cimino collaborated with Washburn, who had worked with him previously. The director claimed that he extensively revised The Deer Hunter script, but Washburn disputed this, insisting he played a significant role in shaping the story. The screenplay credits went through an arbitration process, with Washburn ultimately receiving the sole screenwriter credit. Garfinkle and Redeker received a shared story credit.
Additionally, The Deer Hunter had a significant impact on Robert De Niro’s career. While he was already established as a talented actor before the film, De Niro’s portrayal of Michael Vronsky earned him widespread critical acclaim. The complexity and depth he brought to the character showcased his exceptional acting skills, solidifying his status as a top-tier talent.
Fans can relive the classic war drama The Deer Hunter on Netflix.