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Nick: "I don't think about that much with one shot anymore, Mike."
Michael: "You have to think about one shot. One shot is what it's all about. A deer's gotta be taken with one shot."
A 1978 film directed, co-written, and co-produced by Michael Cimino, his last film before the infamous disaster Heavens Gate. It won Five Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and for Christopher Walken as Best Supporting Actor.
In the 1960's, three friends, Nick (Christopher Walken), Michael (Robert De Niro), and Steven (John Savage) are enlisted to fight in Vietnam just as Steven weds his girlfriend, Angela. Nick and Michael, who both love the same woman, Linda (Meryl Streep), celebrate their last days of freedom by going deer hunting. When they do go to war, the experience is very much a nightmare; eventually, they are imprisoned by the Viet Cong and are forced to play Russian Roulette. The trio escape their captors, but they don't really escape the consequences of the war.
- Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Played straight at first, when Linda runs into Michael's arms for comfort when they are both convinced that her boyfriend Nick is dead. Brutally subverted later on when Michael locates Nick in Saigon and tries to bring him home, only to watch Nick die right before his eyes. He never makes it home at all.
- Abusive Parents: Linda's father, who beats her in a drunken rage.
- All-Star Cast
- An Arm and a Leg: Steven loses both his legs in the evac from the river.
- Catch Phrase: "Fuckin' A!"
- Christianity Is Catholic: Averted. The characters are Eastern Catholics (specifically Ruthenian Greek Catholics), and many things reflect that (e.g. using music from the Eastern Orthodox tradition--which is similar--in the wedding scenes).
- Death Seeker: Nick.
- Den of Iniquity: The gambler's den in Saigon where the Vietnamese play Russian Roulette with expatriates.
- Enforced Method Acting: At Cimino's request, Christopher Walken spat in Robert DeNiro's face during Nick and Michael's last encounter. Needless to say, DeNiro wasn't prepared for that. Also, the slapping during the Russian Roulette scenes was real.
- Also subverted: Per Robert DeNiro's suggestion, a real charge was placed in the gun during the Russian Roulette scenes to heighten the tension. The crew made sure, however, that the actors wouldn't get the bullet for real.
- Robert de Niro worked in a real steel mill as an ordinary steelworker at a blast furnace for nine months under a false name, to get a grasp of a steeler's life. Chuck Aspegren was a real-life steelworker before his acting career.
- The bamboo cages in the river scenes actually contained live rats.
- Executive Meddling: An example of someone actually subverting it. When John Cazale's condition became known to the studio heads, they tried to get him replaced, but Cimino and Meryl Streep (Cazale's fiancée) threatened to walk off the set.
- Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Michael slaps Nick in the face to get him to play Russian roulette, knowing the alternative is being put in a rathole to die.
- Heroic BSOD: Nick, after assuming the other two died in Vietnam.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Linda was Meryl Streep's second film role, and her first Oscar-nominated one.
- John Cazale's final film was nominated (and won) for Best Picture. Every film he starred in - just five feature-length when he lived - had been nominated for Best Picture.
- Holiday in Cambodia: The Saigon scenes (actually filmed in Bangkok).
- I Know You Are in There Somewhere Fight: A very cruel subversion: Michael successfully snaps Nick out of his Heroic BSOD by reminding him of their earlier deer hunt. Nick then takes his turn on the roulette table...and gets the bullet.
- Meaningful Funeral: Nick's.
- Me Love You Long Time: The scenes with the Vietnamese prostitute (who has her child in the room with her).
- No One Gets Left Behind: Michael jumps back in the river after being rescued by the helicopter to help Steven.
- Nick makes Michael promise not to leave him in Vietnam. After the war, he goes back to find him.
- Nothing Is the Same Anymore: For all three of the heroes after the war ends.
- Pittsburgh: Where the story begins.
- Pretty Little Headshots: A fairly Egregious example when Michael shoots his Vietnamese captor in the head at point-blank range.
- Real Life Relative: John Cazale was engaged to Meryl Streep during the film and would remain so until his death.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Michael gives one to Stanley while holding a gun to his face.
- Russian Roulette: One of its most prominent depictions in film.
- Scenery Porn: The mountain scenes. True, they're supposed to be the Appalachians when they're really the Cascades, but the incredible scenery makes up for the geography error.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Steven.
- And Nick.
- Shotgun Wedding: Steven and Angela's.
- Steel Mill: The protagonists are steelworkers.
- The Vietnam War
- Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer consists purely of 5 second clips of the film, from start to finish, with a black screen saying "The Deer Hunter" in between. It cuts away before Nick shoots himself in the final game of Russian roulette, but plays the sound of a gunshot, making it fairly clear what happens.
- War Is Hell: So much that Michael can't even bring himself to shoot a deer after returning from Vietnam and instead suffers a breakdown.
- What Could Have Been: In an original draft of the script, Nick lived and Michael played the Russian Roulette.
- What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: The music that plays during the deer hunting scene would not be out of place accompanying the birth of Jesus.
- Wretched Hive: Bangkok, of course.