The Deer Hunter is a 1978 American epic war drama film co-written and directed by Michael Cimino about a trio of Russian American steelworkers whose lives are changed forever after they fight in the Vietnam War. The three soldiers are played by Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, and John Savage, with John Cazale (in his final role), Meryl Streep, and George Dzundza playing supporting roles. The story takes place in Clairton, Pennsylvania, a small working class town on the Monongahela River south of Pittsburgh, and in Vietnam.
The film was based in part on an unproduced screenplay called The Man Who Came to Play by Louis Garfinkle and Quinn K. Redeker, about Las Vegas and Russian roulette. Producer Michael Deeley, who bought the script, hired writer/director Michael Cimino who, with Deric Washburn, rewrote the script, taking the Russian roulette element and placing it in the Vietnam War. The film went over-budget and over-schedule, and ended up costing $15 million. The scenes depicting Russian roulette were highly controversial after the film's release.
The film won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Michael Cimino, and Best Supporting Actor for Christopher Walken, and marked Meryl Streep's very first Academy Award nomination (for Best Supporting Actress); she would go on to become the most nominated actor in history. In 1996 it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", and was named the 53rd greatest American film of all time by the American Film Institute in 2007 in their 10th Anniversary Edition of the AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies list.