8 Movies Like The Deer Hunter You Must See

Directed by Michael Cimino, ‘The Deer Hunter’ is a 1978 multiple Academy-award-winning war drama with the Vietnam War as the backdrop. The stellar cast includes Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, John Savage, John Cazale, and George Dzundza, along with others. The film shows three friends, Michael (De Niro), Steven (Savage), and Nick (Walken), who join the war out of the honor and respect it is supposed to bring them but instead are subjected to its horrors and even taken captive by the Viet Cong, the communist organization under North Vietnam. Even though they escape, it isn’t enough to pull them out of their traumatic experiences.

The motif of the horrors of war takes center stage in the film while the themes of love, friendship, and life revolve around it, telling us how the former affects the latter three. If you are among those who like to experience such narratives and consider yourself an ardent fan of war films, the following recommendations are for you. You can watch most of these movies similar to ‘The Deer Hunter’ on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.

8. Devotion (2022)

Directed by J. D. Dillard, ‘Devotion’ is set against the backdrop of the Korean War and showcases the friendship of Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors), the first Black aviator in the history of the US Navy, and naval aviator Tom Hudner (Glen Powell). The narrative takes us on an exploration of Jesse’s mental state and how Tom manages to get access to it, eventually forging a friendship that the world will remember forever.

Just like De Niro’s Michael returns to Vietnam to look for Walken’s Nick, Tom remains by Brown’s side until help arrives in the middle of a clearing amid the North Korean mountains where the latter’s jet crash lands. The theme of friendship in ‘Devotion’ thus runs parallel to that in ‘The Deer Hunter’ and underscores the love that is involved in war.

7. Platoon (1986)

‘Platoon’, directed by Vietnam War veteran Oliver Stone, is the first of the trio of the director’s films based on the Vietnam War. The other two are the 1989 film ‘Born on the Fourth of July’ and ‘Heaven & Earth (1993). The story showcases the conflict that is both within man and without. It deals with a soldier being stuck between two sergeants, one who is cynical, to say the least, and another who is more compassionate while coping, both physically and mentally, with the war at large.

The brutality of the war in this 1986 film is upheld, like in ‘The Deer Hunter’, but perhaps in a more visually disturbing manner that is more appropriate. Of course, we get the camaraderie among the soldiers but it is the innocence that takes the hit again like it does in the Michael Cimino directorial. Apart from the brilliant camerawork and storyline, the quality of the film is enhanced by the remarkable performances of Willem Dafoe, Charlie Sheen, Johnny Depp, Forest Whitaker, Tom Berenger, and Kevin Dillon.

6. Full Metal Jacket (1987)

The great Stanley Kubrick directed and co-wrote this war drama starring Ronald Lee Ermey, Matthew Modine, Arliss Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Adam Baldwin, among others. Young soldiers, namely Cowboy (Arliss Howard), Joker (Matthew Modine), and Gomer (Vincent D’Onofrio) befriend each other while they receive rigorous training along with the other recruits at a training facility in Parris Island. But only Cowboy and Joker make it to the war as Gomer kills himself after losing his sanity due to punishment during the training. Joker and Cowboy reunite in Phu Bai during the siege of Hue.

What makes this film similar to ‘The Deer Hunter’ is the microcosm and the macrocosm of war (the Vietnam War). On one hand, we have the innocence of the young soldiers, namely Cowboy (Arliss Howard), Joker (Matthew Modine), and Gomer (Vincent D’Onofrio), and on the other, we have the Vietnam War in one of its worst states.

5. 1917 (2019)

Directed and co-written by Sam Mendes, ‘1917’ sends Lance Corporals Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) into enemy territory to deliver a message that can save 1600 lives. Alongside MacKay and Chapman, the film also stars Richard Madden, Andrew Scott, and Benedict Cumberbatch, among others. What makes this film and ‘The Deer Hunter’ similar is the race-against-time motif.

Like Schofield and Blake, De Niro’s Michael also has to rush back to Vietnam to find Walken’s Nick, if he is even alive, that is. It’s the tension, as well as the patience, that keeps things moving as we wait to find out the result. One might say that one life opposed to 1600 lives is a ludicrous comparison, but let’s not forget the words imprinted on the ring that Oscar Schindler receives before fleeing in Steven Spielberg’s ‘Schindler’s List’ i.e. “whoever saves one life saves the world entire.”

4. Apocalypse Now (1979)

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, ‘Apocalypse Now’ deserves a mention in this list just for the way it showcases the Vietnam War and its brutality. Starring legends like Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, Dennis Hopper, Laurence Fishburne, Harrison Ford, and Jerry Ziesmer, among others, the narrative involves the experiences of an American Captain Benjamin Willard’s (Martin Sheen) journey through a river to Cambodia from South Vietnam on a secret mission to kill Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), a mad guy who is worshipped as a god by a particular tribe and uses his influence to kill innocent people. If you think the Russian roulette of ‘The Deer Hunter’ was horrifying, this film is bound to scare you.

3. All Quiet on the Western Front (2022)

Directed by Edward Berger, Netflix’s ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ uses the ideology of a war hero’s honor only to shatter it by exposing it to the reality of war. This is what relates it to ‘The Deer Hunter’. The 2022 movie centers upon Paul Baumer and his friends Albert and Muller, who enlist in the German army during World War I, aspiring to be patriots. But as soon as they join the war, they realize the mistake they have made. Bravery seems to be the last thing on everyone’s minds, as people all around are killed like cattle.

The aforementioned feeling is pretty much what Michael and his friends experience in Vietnam in ‘The Deer Hunter.’ Only, the Edward Berger directorial is more graphic, which pretty much sums up a war in itself. Apart from a gripping storyline and excellent cinematography, the epic anti-war film features great performances by a talented cast that includes Daniel Brühl, Felix Kammerer, Albrecht Schuch, Aaron Hilmer, Moritz Klaus, and Edin Hasanovic, among others.

2. Dunkirk (2017)

Waiting for death. This is what connects ‘The Deer Hunter’ and ‘Dunkirk’. Directed by Christopher Nolan, the biographical war film effectively shows how more than 300,000 Allied troops were evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk, where they had been cornered by the German army during World War II. The evacuation was carried out by civilian waterborne vessels, like boats and yachts, that brought the British soldiers back to their homeland.

However, we see the evacuation only at the end of the film. The rest is just an eternal wait for death because survival seems like a distant dream. The cast includes Harry Styles, Fionn Whitehead, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Barry Keoghan and others. The feeling of being trapped, being hopeless, and waiting for death become prevalent. This is quite like what Michael and his friends underwent after being captured by the Vietnamese guerilla.

1. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Steven Spielberg’s ‘Saving Private Ryan’ tops our list due to the way it magnifies the search for a comrade, which is what Michael does in ‘The Deer Hunter’ Set in France in the middle of World War II, the narrative involves Captain John Miller, who sets out with his men to search for Private James Ryan who has lost his three brothers in the war.

The cast includes Tom Hanks as Captain John Miller and Matt Damon as Private James Ryan, along with Tom Sizemore, Vin Diesel, Edward Burns, and Barry Pepper, among others. While in ‘The Deer Hunter’, the search for a fellow soldier is one of the sub-plots, in this film, it is the primary one. Spielberg leaves no stone unturned to showcase war that receives a perfect visual treatment as well as to explore each soldier’s personal journey.

Read More: Best War Movies of All Time