Whether they are hunting for survival or hunting for meat, these unforgettable movie characters and their scenes stand out from the rest.
Man as the hunter or man as the hunted—it’s kill or be killed. Those of us who have spent a lifetime in the field understand that the decision to pull the trigger or loose the arrow is not always an easy one.
Decide what you would do in these life or death situations.
1. The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
Shipwreck survivors Robert Rainsford and Eve Trowbridge (Fay Wray) Land on a remote tropical island belonging to evil Count Zoroff. Unbeknownst to them, the legendary big game hunter is tired of the usual prey and has decided that they will be his next target.
In this scene, the victims have seemingly beaten the evil Count to his self-imposed deadline of 4 o’clock. It is at that point the mad Zoroff unleashes his ultimate weapon, and releases the dogs on them. Rainsford appears to be killed, but it’s not the last that we’ve seen of him.
Now it’s Zoroff that is the hunted.
2. Apocalypto (2006)
Jaguar Paw and his peaceful tribe are attacked by Mayan warriors seeking human sacrifices for their sun god. After being taken to the city, and ultimately all the way to the alter to be killed, he is rescued by a full solar eclipse. Thinking that their god is appeased, the warriors are ordered to take the prisoners and release them. Little do they know that this release is only a sport where the prisoners are killed by the warriors.
Jaguar Paw survives by killing the captain’s son, infuriating him. The pursuit that follows is the epitome of what it means to hunt or be hunted.
3. Deliverance (1972)
John Boorman directed this film about instincts, particularly the instinct to survive, in which four city dwelling businessmen, Lewis, Ed, Bobby, and Drew decide to take a canoe trip deep into the Georgia wilderness. Things take a savage turn when two hillbillies appear in the woods; one carrying a gun. After attacking them, one of the hillbillies is killed with a bow and arrow, and the other runs.
The city men run for it down the river. One of them is shot and the wooden canoe is smashed in the rapids. Lewis believes the shooter is now stalking them.
Ed, who is a champion archer and earlier had lost his nerve while aiming at a deer, sees the hillbilly on the edge of the cliff. He again freezes in spite of the clear shot. The hillbilly notices Ed and fires his rifle at him as he clumsily releases his arrow.
The result is a testament to “I didn’t see that coming.” Should he have pulled out the arrow?
4. The Hunter (2012)
A mercenary hired by an evil bio-tech company sets out to find the supposedly extinct Tasmanian tiger. After arriving in Tasmania, he finds himself on the edge of wilderness that no man should tackle alone. After clashing with local loggers, he begins to learn more about the people there and himself. An unexpected development sends him reeling and he begins to question why indeed he would ever pursue such a creature.
This scene reminds us of all the times we’ve had a shot, but questioned taking it.
And how we felt afterward.
5. Hatari (1962)
Howard Hawks and John Wayne team up in this rousing adventure about catching African wild game for the zoos of the world. In the opening scene, the “hunters” attempt to capture an African Rhino. The hunt goes awry when the animal fights back. The power of the Rhino is spectacular.
This scene shows that all animals that are hunted are not necessarily killed, but are not interested in being captured either. Sometimes they fight back, proving that the hunt is not always a success.
6. Dances With Wolves (1990)
A Civil War lieutenant named John Dunbar is posted in the western frontier in a time before the arrival of the white man. He is ultimately befriended by the Sioux and becomes a member of their tribe.
In a stunning scene reminiscent of the Indian hunts of old, Dunbar rides with his new friends and hunts buffalo on horseback.
Many of the kills are dubious one-shot drops with a primitive bow, including a pass through spear shot, but the spectacle of the hunt is what resounds here.
Imagine trying to aim from the back of a running horse.
7. Jaws (1975)
One of the most-watched films of its time, Jaws had both some of the best actors of the day, and maybe its most famous director. The John Williams score will always be remembered as the music that told us “It’s not safe to go in the water.”
In this scene Chief Brody (played by Roy Scheider) is stuck with the unenviable task of chumming the water to attract the shark. In his reaction to seeing it he utters the iconic line “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
This is where they begin to realize that they are now the hunted.
8. No Country For Old Men
In this clip the tables are turned, and it’s Llewelyn Moss versus Anton Chigurh. Llewelyn has the money and Anton, the merciless killer, wants it back. This mad-dog has killed everyone who has even thought to get in his way. Llewelyn thinks he is ready for Anton, but Anton is truly a dangerous hunter.
It’s interesting how Llewelyn sets up “on stand” in the room. Like many of us that hear a sound or somehow detect the quarry, he picks up his weapon and gets ready. Suddenly all his senses are alert and aware. He cuts the light, quiets himself and gets ready for the shot.
The only problem is, the man he is hunting is doing the same thing.
These scenes are the cinematic version of the hunt. Not all of these movies are hunting-specific films, but in the world of Hollywood and beyond, the stories are well versed with references to our great sport. The lasting version of man is that he is a survivor. We’ve spent our entire existence here on earth as hunters and gatherers of some sort.
Survival is what we do best.