For some reason, they just don’t make hunting scenes in movies like they used to.
We’re not sure if it’s the great Red-Blue divide in the United States, just a current phase liberal Hollywood is going through, or just plain bad movie-making. But for some reason the best movies of the last decade or so lack good hunting scenes.
Now, we’re not going to cheat. Other blogs have included man hunting man in their list of great hunting scenes, but we won’t do that. Why? Because man-hunting-man movies makes up most of what the studios churn out to begin with. Whether it’s a cop movie or a war film or just a good old disgruntled hit-man-living-by-a-code movie, there’s no shortage of man-hunting-man films.
That said, here’s our ranked list of the best hunting scenes in movies.
- Jurassic Park (1993)
One of the greatest stalking scenes in the history of cinema is African big game expert Robert Muldoon hunting down escaped velociraptors in “Jurassic Park.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t end so well for him. Simply put, he’s outflanked. He also shows some questionable skills, like loudly adjusting his shotgun at the worst possible moment. A true artist, though, he appreciates the skill of the kill even when it’s him. His last line before he’s eaten makes that clear: “Clever Girl,” he admiringly tells his velociraptor before he goes down.
2. Ghost and The Darkness (1996)
Based on the true story of Lieutenant-Colonel John Henry Patterson, an Irish engineer who hunted two lions that were eating railway workers in Tsavo, Kenya, the “Ghost and the Darkness” has an eerie quality in the way it depicts the legendary “Tsavo Man-Eaters.” The animals, like the velociraptors above, think tactically as they play a game of cat-and-mouse with hunters Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer. In real life, the killing was much more practical and less dramatic, with Patterson shooting and killing the lions from a tree stand. But what kind of movie would that have made? The film version of Patterson, played by Kilmer, takes a lot of cinematic risks in stalking the lions. Not realistic, but exciting.
3. Jeremiah Johnson (1972)
OK, if you know this movie the best scenes are star Robert Redford fighting off the Indian hordes. But there’s some good hunting in it, too. This scene is about stalking an elk using the cover of a horse. There are good tactics discussed here, especially for a Hollywood film, like the value of wind direction and the importance of patience.
4. The Deer Hunter (1978)
One of the amazing things about this film is how it engages with profound, long silences over its 3-hour running time. That’s the beauty, too, of its hunting scenes. They are played straight. The film, which came just a few years after the end of the Vietnam War when national wounds were still raw, uses an annual hunting trip to chart the pre- and post-war lives of its main characters. In this scene, Robert De Niro’s character simply stalks and kills a deer. Sighting it during a climb up a rocky mountain, he loses his first shot before re-positioning himself and killing it with a clean second shot.
5. Deliverance (2012)
Admit it: what you remember of this movie is “squeal like a pig.” This classic fish-out-of-water movie is about four city dwelling businessmen who take a canoe trip deep into the Georgia wilderness. Everything goes downhill after they encounter two hillbillies. One hillbilly is killed and the film becomes a chase to get out of the woods and down the dangerous river. In this scene, one of the city slickers, 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. OK, we promised no man-on-man hunting but we couldn’t find the deer clip.
6. The Hunter (2012)
This little-known 2012 move is about a mercenary hired by a biotech company to find a supposedly extinct Tasmanian tiger. Unfamiliar with his landscape, he begins to learn more about the people there and himself. He begins to question himself and the hunting of an endangered creature. The films raises important questions about the nature of hunting, and its role in conservation.
7. Dances With Wolves (1990)
Chances are you’ve seen this movie a dozen times or more if you’re a certain age, but we’ll explain it anyway. It’s about a Civil War lieutenant named John Dunbar who is dispatched to the western frontier before the mass onslaught of white settlers. He is ultimately befriended by the Sioux and becomes a member of their tribe. In this scene from the director’s cut — the preferred cut of the film — director and star Kevin Costner stages an incredible recreation of an Indian hunt of Buffalo. You’ve read about them, but you’ve never seen anything like this.
8. Avatar (2009)
Yes, it’s about an imaginary planet called Pandora in which an imaginary race hunts imaginary animals, but “Avatar” hunting scenes were based on the scene above in “Dances With Wolves,” director and writer James Cameron has admitted. Can you see the similarities?
9. Escanaba in da Moonlight (2001)
One thing you need to know about this one: Jeff Daniels knows this subject. He’s from Michigan, still lives there, and celebrates its life and culture. This is a comedy about hunters and their rituals. Reuben Soady isn’t a very good hunter. In Michigan, there’s now a tradition of watching this movie before deer hunting gun season. In this scene Daniels explains a spiritual remedy that will help the hunting party’s chances for the season.
10. Hatari! (1962)
Dude, it’s John Wayne and it’s a rhino hunt! ‘Nuff said. As a bonus, he actually uses the term “wildebeests”!