AFI Movie Club: THE DEER HUNTER – American Film Institute
The Deer Hunter Film Still - Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep



AFI named THE DEER HUNTER one of the great films in cinematic history – including the film on both 100 YEARS…100 MOVIES lists, as well as on the list of the most thrilling movies of all time. AFI also has honored two of the film’s stars – Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep – with the AFI Life Achievement Award.

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Watch Marianne Jean-Baptiste announce today’s film!


DID YOU KNOW? The DEER HUNTER marked John Cazale’s very last film. His friend and co-star Robert De Niro paid the insurance premium for Cazale – who was sick with terminal cancer at the time – because the studio could not afford to cover it and was threatening to recast the role. Despite Cazale’s short film career which included just five films, each of those works – THE GODFATHER I and II, THE CONVERSATION, DOG DAY AFTERNOON and THE DEER HUNTER – would go on to be nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award®.

DID YOU KNOW? Capturing the steel mill scenes proved problematic for the filmmakers. The producers negotiated for months and were forced to buy an additional $5 million in insurance before U.S. Steel allowed the production to shoot footage of cast members working at its central blast furnace in Cleveland, OH. Also, the operators of a steel mill in Weirton, WV, garnered the support of local government officials to prohibit filming at their plant; however, the governor at the time intervened and the mill was made accessible for shooting.

DID YOU KNOW? Robert De Niro and John Savage performed their own stunts during the scene in which the characters Mike and Steven drop into a river from a helicopter.

DID YOU KNOW? The production of THE DEER HUNTER also had to deal with physical ailments while filming. When shooting in Thailand, one crew member was hospitalized after an insect bite caused his legs and feet to swell, another displayed systems of typhoid and malaria, and many on the production – including star Robert De Niro – dealt with an illness that caused high fever and a lingering chest cold.

DID YOU KNOW? When producer Allan Carr took over the marketing for THE DEER HUNTER, he talked the studio into allowing the film to be played on a well-respected, local Los Angeles station called the Z Channel before it was released into theaters. Many of the Academy voters in LA subscribed to the Z Channel in the late 1970’s, which allowed voters to view the movie more easily. He also had the studio release the film to one theater in New York and one in LA for two weeks before the year’s end to qualify for the Academy Awards® – a new concept at the time.

DID YOU KNOW? The set in Kanchanaburi, Thailand had to be guarded by heavily armed military officers after the Thai government was overthrown by a coup d’état. The new government did grant the filmmakers permission to remain on location for the remaining three weeks of the shoot.

DID YOU KNOW? THE DEER HUNTER was nominated for nine Academy Awards® at the 1979 ceremony. The film walked away with five Oscars® that evening – including Best Film Editing, Best Sound, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Christopher Walken), Best Directing (Michael Cimino) and Best Picture.

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.


The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

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-How does the film portray male friendship in an atypical way for the time? How does the friendship of the characters played by Robert De Niro, John Savage, Christopher Walken and John Cazale evolve throughout the film?

-What do you think someone who is watching THE DEER HUNTER for the first time would take away about the Vietnam War and the era?

-Filmmakers had to convince the Thai government that the film was apolitical to be allowed to shoot in Thailand – do you think that is the case? Why or why not?

-A previous AFI Movie Club film of the day, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, also has the theme of soldiers’ lives being difficult when they return from war. How are these two films similar even though they were released 30 years apart? How do these films portray the soldier’s difficulties differently?

-When THE DEER HUNTER was released, the Russian Roulette scene was deemed controversial for its time, even being a reason that kept the film off network television. When looking back at the scene, is it still controversial? Why or why not?

-How does the film talk about the aftermath of war and post-traumatic stress disorder through the character of Nick? How was this a watershed moment for tackling the subject of PTSD at the time?

-How would you rate THE DEER HUNTER?

Watch filmmaker Jodie Foster talk about how the Russian roulette scene in THE DEER HUNTER impacted her in this exclusive video from the AFI Archive.

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AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies. Each day’s film is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to enrich your viewing experience.

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