Where was The Deer Hunter filmed?
Cleveland, OH; Clairton, PA; Mingo Junction, OH; McKeesport, PA; Bangkok, Thailand; Pittsburg, PA; Weirton, WV; Lake Chelan, WA; Stuebenville, OH; Mount Baker, WA; Youngstown, OH; and others.
House, NatureScapes, Rustic, Clubs/Bars, Hospitals/Medical, Industrial, Religious
Americana/Anywhere America, Dated/Retro, Dated/50s-60s-70s-building, Factory/Manufacturing, Industrial, Rustic
About The Deer Hunter
The Deer Hunter is an epic drama that was released in 1978 and stars Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, and John Savage as three friends and steelworkers from Clairton, Pennsylvania. The three Slavic Americans work in a steel mill together, and you guessed it, also go deer hunting together, until the Vietnam War comes along and changes their lives forever. Spoiler alert, if you haven’t seen the film and want to be surprised, you should probably wait and finish reading this after you watch it.
The three friends all have various romantic entanglements as complementary plot lines to their other stories of working in the steel mill, as deer hunters, and then soldiers in the Vietnam War. Steven is engaged to Angela, while Nick and Mike are both in love with Linda, who is played by Meryl Streep. She ends up moving into their house with them, as her father is abusive. The romantic involvements don’t really have an opportunity to finish unfolding before the three men head off to war though.
The film received critical acclaim at the time it was filmed, with nine academy award nominations and five wins. Streep and Walken were both nominated for their supporting roles. But the story itself has some accuracy issues, including in the portrayal of the Vietnamese people and the war itself.
The Deer Hunter Locations
The Deer Hunter locations were authentic, it was all filmed on location, and they didn’t use sound stages at all. The town of Clairton, Pennsylvania was actually filmed in four different states – Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and Washington. The international filming locations for the Vietnam War were in Thailand. Locations in the United States are predominantly public spaces that welcome visitors, and many fans of the movie have visited them over the years.
The Deer Hunter production process spliced together all these locations to create the spaces portrayed in the film. Visiting a location, even after all these years, you can still see some of the same things they saw in the movie.
The wedding scene in The Deer Hunter
St. Theodosius Russian Orthodox Cathedral, Cleveland, OH
This historic St. Theodosius Russian Orthodox Cathedral is in Cleveland, Ohio, and was selected for filming the wedding scene. It’s considered one of the best Russian Orthodox churches, architecturally, in the United States. It was made famous by The Deer Hunter, especially after the film won Best Picture. Today, the location is on the National Register of Historic Places.
This is the scene where Steven marries Angela. Unbeknownst to him, Angela is carrying another man’s child, so it’s not exactly a happy wedding for the viewer, and we pick up on this vibe from Angela throughout. A fun fact is that the actual priest of the cathedral officiated the movie wedding. Filming took five days to complete.
Visit The Deer Hunter location by using the Line 25 bus, a taxi or other ride-share service, or private transportation.
The steel mill scene in The Deer Hunter
U.S. Steel Central Furnaces, Loraine, OH
The opening scenes of The Deer Hunter show the grueling work that the steel workers completed each day in the steel mill. These were actually shot on location at U.S. Steel Central Furnaces, who granted the film permission to use their Cleveland, Ohio facility.
The montage shows actual work done by steel workers and what daily life was like in the mill, setting up an accurate portrayal of the life that Mike, Nick and Steven led. The cinematography for the film was often praised, and this is one of the scenes that garners praise because they used an actual steel mill for their filming location.
Mike, Nick, and Steven are all Slavic Americans, and many immigrants ended up working in mills and factories, and then generations of their families after them continued on this same path.
You can get to the U.S. Steel Corporation by the red line of the Cleveland subway system or on bus lines 14, 15, 55, 8, and Healthline. Private transportation and ride-share services are other options.
The bar scene in The Deer Hunter
Mingo Junction, OH
One of the best scenes in The Deer Hunter may be the bar scene where an entire bar full of steel workers is singing along with Frank Valli and the Four Seasons to the song, “Can’t take my eyes off of you,” while they play pool and drink. Christopher Walken, playing Nick, is perhaps the best and most animated lip singer in the group. The funniest part of the scene is when the wife of one of the men comes in and drags him out of the bar. Everyone else laughs and keeps right on singing.
The final scene in The Deer Hunter shows them all in the bar again, this time after Nick’s funeral. Everyone is sad, and John, one of their friends, leads the group in singing “God Bless America.” Then, after the song concludes, Mike says, “To Nick,” and Steven does the same, followed by everyone else in unison.
The film’s producers took an empty storefront and created Welsh’s Bar for the film, it cost $25,000, which was a bit of money at the time. After the film, it did become a saloon for steel workers. It’s in Mingo Junction, a village in Ohio, on Main Street. The Steel Valley Regional Transit Authority has one bus route through Mingo Junction. Most people rely on ride-share services or private transportation to access the area.
The deer hunting scene in The Deer Hunter
Heather Meadows, Deming, WA
The movie’s title comes from the fact that they’re all deer hunters and enjoy hunting in the Pennsylvania forests together when they’re not at work. Three other friends go hunting with Mike, Nick, and Steven, although the trio of main characters are definitely closest with each other.
Mike says, “A deer has to be taken with one shot, I try to tell people that but they don’t listen.” This theme of one shot keeps recurring throughout the movie, including at the end. It ties into the Russian roulette theme as well, as each player takes one shot. Mike believes that the only correct way to take a deer is with one shot, it minimizes the suffering, and is more accurate. He also is an expert at harvesting a deer with only one shot before the war.
Perhaps as a way to show how much he was traumatized by the Vietnam War and his experiences there, he cannot harvest a deer with just one shot after returning. In one instance, he shoots at the sky instead of the deer. This all further demonstrates how different he is because of the war. Heartbreakingly, the friends that didn’t go to war don’t seem to understand at all everything that Mike and the others have been through.
The deer hunting scenes were all shot in Washington State, and again, some of the cinematographic acclaim the film earned is from the beauty of these scenes. The friends all extoll the virtues of the trees and how much they love being in nature too.
Heather Meadows at Mount Baker was used for the Allegheny Mountains deer hunting scene. You can get there by private transportation or ride-share service. Glacier, Washington is the closest town at 23 miles away and there aren’t many public transportation options.
The wedding reception scene in The Deer Hunter
Lemko Hall, Cleveland, OH
After the wedding, everyone heads over to the reception hall to celebrate, and they have a grand time. The three friends are in the bar while everyone else is dancing in the hall when a green beret comes in. They tell him that they’re heading to Vietnam and ask what it’s like, but his only reply to all their questions is "F*** it." They tell the bartender to give him another drink anyway.
As Steven and Angela are driving away, Mike and Nick are left together. Nick says to Mike, “… If anything happens Mike, don’t leave, don’t leave me over there. You got, you’ve got to, hey, just don’t leave me. You’ve got to promise me that, Mike. …”
This quote turns out to foreshadow what’s to come in the movie, as the three friends, and especially Mike and Nick, who lived together as roommates have ahead of them.
The extras in this scene were members of the local Russian immigrant community. They asked them all to bring wrapped empty boxes too, it saved the film crew on logistics. After filming the scene finished, they discovered that the extras had brought real gifts, and left them behind, although no one is quite sure who kept them.
The VA hospital scene in The Deer Hunter
Louis Stokes VA Medical Center, Cleveland, OH
The three men are held hostage in Vietnam, treated badly, and forced to play Russian roulette. They end up escaping, with Mike plotting their escape by asking for extra bullets for Russian roulette to up the ante of the game after Steven is thrown into the river. Mike and Nick successfully escape and float down the river on a log with Steven.
They’re rescued by an American helicopter, but Steven is so weak that he falls out, and Mike jumps in after him. The soldiers hold Nick back and the three are separated. Nick ends up going to a hospital, but is ultimately discharged for service, while the saga continues for Steven and Mike.
Upon his return to the United States, Mike finds Steven in the VA Hospital. He’s had both legs amputated and can’t use one of his arms. Steven refuses to go home to Angela. Mike says to him, “I’m gonna take you home.”
Steven replies, “Man, look, you promised me man. I don't fit! Mike, I'll - hey. I'm sorry. You do as your heart tells you.” In the end, Mike is successful in getting Steven to go home.
Mike also discovers while he’s visiting Steven that someone is sending him large amounts of cash from Vietnam. They figure that it has to be Nick – but wonder how he is getting the cash and guess that it’s by playing cards. Linda had also told Mike that Nick had deserted. Mike decides to head back to Vietnam to find Nick, because he promised not to leave him there.
Getting to the Louis Stokes VA Medical Center is easy; the subway red line goes through the area, as do bus lines 10 and 9. Ride-share services and private transportation are another option.
The Deer Hunter action scenes are violent and jarring, perhaps more so because of their proximity to the truth. It was one of the first movies to portray the Vietnam War in a negative light.
Mike does find Nick after wandering around Saigon right before it fell, and the United States withdrew its troops. Unfortunately, Nick is gambling and is a heroin addict, he doesn’t even recognize Mike.
They play one last game of Russian roulette, and Mike seems to get some of Nick’s memory back by talking about the one shot. Then, Nick is handed a gun for his next round of Russian roulette, and unfortunately, loses. Mike rushes to his side, calling his name and yelling “no,” but there is nothing to be done.
The Deer Hunter won the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Sound, and Best Supporting Actor (Walken as Nick). What resonated with viewers and reviewers alike was the realistic characters and topics they addressed. There is controversy surrounding the film and this should be considered, but it’s still ranked as one of the best films of all time.