Best Picture Winners Part 51 (of 89): The Deer Hunter

Title: The Deer Hunter
Year:
1979
Starring: 
Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Cazale
Director: 
Michael Cimino
Runtime: 
3 hrs 3 mins

Is It Any Good?: With themes that were frighteningly relevant only 4 years removed from the Vietnam War conflict, and an unmatched intensity and stellar performances, this wasn’t merely a fitting way to end a decade of American cinema–it redefined it as a whole. Not only did Michael Cimino win Best Director, Christopher Walken took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, too. De Niro and Meryl Streep also received nominations. This is such a powerful film even today, and its 3-hour-plus runtime doesn’t seem to lag at all. This is an absolute testament to Cimino’s direction.

Memorable Quote: Michael: You wanna play games? All right, I’ll play your f****** games.

Competition: First up is Coming Home, another film that speaks volumes about the horrors of war, Vietnam in particular. Although this film was met with considerable backlash when it came out, specifically for its soundtrack, John Voight and Jane Fonda took home the two biggest acting awards of the night.

In Heaven Can Wait a football player gets whisked to Heaven too soon; a screwball comedy somehow is the result, one that has become an iconic piece of cinema, led by Warren Beatty. This is truly his film as he had a hand in everything: writing, directing, producing, and, of course, starring in it.

Midnight Express is the story of an American, of course, doing whatever he wants. This film won Best Adapted Screenplay for Oliver Stone. Often tense, perhaps a bit too tense, it features a nominated run by John Hurt and an often scene-stealing performance from Norbert Weisser.

Lastly, we have An Unmarried Woman; this little-known nominee is an utterly underrated dramedy. Paul Mazursky is the only director of a Best Picture nominee to not receive a Best Director nomination. Only Jill Clayburgh managed to scrap out a nomination for her strong work in leading this.

Next up we have the very first Best Picture of the 1980’s: Times They Are a-Changin’!

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