Deliverance

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Deliverance Movie Poster Image
Classic '70s adventure has brutal, disturbing violence.
  • R
  • 1972
  • 109 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie raises concerns about the environment, and man's relation to nature and survival against the backdrop of a river and surrounding forests and towns that are about to be flooded when a hydroelectric dam is finished being built. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The four main characters are different embodiments of manhood, relate to the wilderness in differing ways, and are all broken down by their experiences. There are no real positive role models as they struggle to survive. 

Violence

A man on a weekend canoe trip through the backwoods of Georgia is raped at riflepoint and forced to "squeal like a pig" by a "mountain man" while his friend is tied to a tree. Characters killed with bows and arrows, shotguns. Dead bodies. Intense peril. A man breaks his leg; his thigh bone sticks out of the skin. A man accidentally pierces his side with an arrow. Blood. 

Sex

Brief nudity -- male buttocks. A joke, a play on words around the phrase "get your rocks off." 

Language

Variations on "f--k." "S--t." "Son of a bitch." "Ass." "Hell." "For Christ's sake." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Whiskey drinking. Beer drinking. Cigar smoking. Pipe smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Deliverance is a classic 1972 movie based on the James Dickey novel about four Atlanta men who get more than they bargained for on a weekend canoe trip into rural Georgia. There's profanity (including "f--k" and its variations) and drinking and smoking. There's brief nudity (male buttocks). In its most infamous scene, a man is raped by another man and forced to "squeal like a pig" while his friend is tied to a tree. From that moment on, the action is intense and violent, with killings, dead bodies, and gruesome injuries, such as a broken leg in which the bone is sticking through the thigh, and an accidental piercing from an arrow into a man's side. While the intense violence is intended to raise broader points about civilization, survival, man's relation to nature, and the degradation of the environment, as well as what happens when people are reduced to a state of survival, the brutality contained in this movie makes it best for older teens and adults. 

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What's the story?

In DELIVERANCE, Lewis (Burt Reynolds) is an alpha male lover of the great outdoors who wants to take his three friends -- Ed (Jon Voight), Bobby (Ned Beatty), and Drew -- on a weekend canoe trip down a river. This river, in the most backwoods region of Northern Georgia, is about to be flooded, along with the woods and the towns around it, by a hydroelectric dam, and Lewis wants to experience it before it's gone for good. But he and the other three men get much more than they bargained for when a confrontation with two of the local mountain men turns brutal. Now, the four men are in a struggle for survival as they face danger and death at nearly every turn in the river -- not just from the rapids, but from those who want to kill them. In shock and survival mode, they must find a way back to civilization. 

Is it any good?

In a decade filled with movies about dystopia, entropy, and man's capacity for survival when civilization is nowhere to be found, this is one of the best films of the 1970s. While its most infamous scene and the line "squeal like a pig, boy!" have become a part of the pop culture landscape, Deliverance is so much more than this scene which, taken out of context, has become little more than a stale cliche at the expense of "rednecks." This movie, just like the James Dickey novel, strips the characters of the civilization that defines them and makes them human, to the point where even the "Hemingway hero" Lewis (played with a range by Burt Reynolds not seen in his later movies) is reduced to shock, panic, and weeping. The end result is as provoking and engaging as it is unforgettable. 

While very much a product of a decade of malaise and the sense that the world was in a state of decay and institutions were powerless to stop it, Deliverance, like Taxi Driver, transcends the era in which it was made. Four decades later, it is recognized as a classic film, and rightfully so. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in Deliverance. How was violence used to illustrate the broader points of the movie? 

  • What were some of the conflicts and themes of the movie? How were they presented in the action and in the dialogue? 

  • What would be the challenges in adapting a novel like Deliverance into a film? 

  • Is the movie still relevant? Why or why not?

Movie details

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