Hollywood rarely releases films where hunting is part of the main plot, and when they do, the resulting movies often fail to capture what so many of us love about hunting. With that said, there are a few classic films that any hunter should watch, and we’ve collected five of the best and most recognizable below for your perusal.
1. The Deer Hunter: Though it’s every bit as much of a war film as it is a hunting film – it centers its events around the Vietnam War – this 1978 masterpiece is a must see for anyone looking for the best that hunting films have to offer. The titular sharp-shooting deer hunter, Mike, played by a fully in-his-prime Robert DeNiro, translates his hunting skills to survival in Vietnam. But the highlight of the film is Christopher Walken, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as Mike’s troubled friend and war ally, Nick. The film also won Best Picture and Best Director at the 1978 Academy Awards, and is as close as mainstream Hollywood has gotten at capturing the serene wonder of hunting.
2. The Ghost and the Darkness: It doesn’t have the critical clout or Oscar prestige of the The Deer Hunter, but The Ghost and the Darkness is a staple in the realm of great hunting films. Based on a true story of a dangerous pair of lions, which killed an estimated 35 workers in Kenya during the 1898 construction of the Uganda-Mombassa Railway, The Ghost and the Darkness is a stirring, thrilling, and occasionally downright horrifying look at what it’s like to hunt dangerous, exotic game. The film may be heavily fictionalized, but if you are looking for an enjoyable hunting film and not a pitch-perfect historical account, you will find a lot to like here. Strong performances from Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer anchor the film and make it a favorite among hunting enthusiasts.
3. Escanaba in de Moonlight: Based on the play of the same name, this 2001 hunting comedy immortalizes the “Yooper” traditions of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, one of the most illustrious hunting territories in the United States. Written, directed, and starred in by actor Jeff Daniels, Escanaba in de Moonlight makes fun of hunting traditions and superstitions while still serving as a love letter to hunting in general. Laughs and triumphant hunting moments are both plentiful.
4. The Mountain Men: Not to be confused with the recent television series of the same name, The Mountain Men is an old-fashioned adventure film whose characters spend much of their time trapping beavers in the mountains. It’s not a hunting movie in the same way that Escanaba in de Moonlight or The Ghost and the Darkness are, but The Mountain Men is so grounded in the great outdoors and in the overall hunting culture that hunters will be hard-pressed not to enjoy the film’s western aesthetic. Plus, the great Charlton Heston plays the lead.
5. Moby Dick: Many classify this 1956 adaptation of the classic Herman Melville novel as a fishing film, but since the titular whale is, in fact, a mammal, we felt inclined to include it here. Following the epic journey of Captain Ahab (played by Gregory Peck) to hunt the great white whale that almost took his life, Moby Dick is a stirring tale of obsession and persistence, themes that many great hunters could parallel to their own quests for the perfect buck.