Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Deer Hunter (1978)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Deer Hunter (1978)

In Michael Cimino's Best Picture-winning Vietnam-era film:

  • the opening scenes of the bonding friendship between the three major Russian-American characters in the steel-town of Clairton, Pennsylvania, all of whom were about to join the military:

    - Steven (John Savage), marrying Angela (Rutanya Alda)
    - Nick (Christopher Walken), with girlfriend Linda (Meryl Streep)
    - Michael Vronsky (Robert De Niro), a deer-hunter

  • the traditional Russian Orthodox wedding sequence of Steven to already-pregnant Angela, a rite-of-passage
  • their pre-Vietnam deer hunting trip scene with Michael's philosophical discussion about his "one-shot" ideal when shooting deer, and his "This is this" speech toward an unprepared Stan (John Cazale)
  • the tranquil scene at Welsh's Lounge, where the returning hunters listened somberly (on their last night) as friend John (George Dzundza) softly played a Chopin piece on the piano
"Russian Roulette" Sequence With VietCong
  • the controversial and horrifying Russian Roulette sequence when the three captive prisoners of the Vietnam War were forced to provide deadly entertainment for their sadistic captors, but Michael was able to persuade the Vietcong leader to load the gun with three bullets - allowing them to shoot back and escape
  • an additional round of Russian roulette for money in a Saigon gambling den when Michael spoke to his nihilistic, drug-addled buddy Nick about "one shot" - and he played a round to attempt a rescue, but it was Nick's last fateful game
Nick's Russian Roulette in a Saigon Gambling Den
  • the image of a grief-stricken Michael cradling his dying friend's bloodied head
  • and the final poignant scene at the breakfast wake when the young men sang "God Bless America" after Nick's death when his body was brought home - and they reverentially (freeze-framed) raised their beer mugs to Nick, as Michael toasted: "Here's to Nick"

The Wedding:
Steven with Angela

Deer-Hunting Sequence: "This is this!"

Final Scene: Raised Beer Mugs


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