Movie poster by Bill Gold
Directed by John Boorman
Produced by John Boorman
Written by Novel:
James Dickey
James Dickey
Starring Jon Voight
Burt Reynolds
Ned Beatty
Ronny Cox
James Dickey
Cinematography Vilmos Zsigmond
Editing by Tom Priestley
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) July 30, 1972
Running time 109 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2,000,000
Box office $46,122,355

Deliverance is a 1972 American thriller film produced and directed by John Boorman. Principal cast members include Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty in his film debut. The film is based on a 1970 novel of the same name by American author James Dickey, who has a small role in the film as the Sheriff. The screenplay was written by Dickey and an uncredited Boorman.

Widely acclaimed as a landmark picture, the film is noted for the memorable music scene near the beginning that sets the tone for what lies ahead: a trip into unknown and potentially dangerous territory. In 2008, Deliverance was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant. "It is also notable that residents of the rural south, and in particular the Southern Highlands, find the film portrayal of the populace to be largely inaccurate and highly offensive. Despite being born and reared in the South, Author Dickey had little actual experience in southern U.S. rural life or river rafting and had no documented basis for the mischaracterizations in the film. Some have attempted to classify his distorted characterizations of rural southerners as artistic commentary on the Jim Crow south, yet given that race plays no role in the film this view is inaccurate as well."[1]



Four Atlanta businessmen, named Lewis (Reynolds), Ed (Voight), Bobby (Beatty) and Drew (Cox), decide to canoe down the Cahulawassee River in the remote Georgia wilderness, expecting to have fun and see the glory of nature before the river valley is flooded by the construction of a dam. Lewis, an experienced outdoorsman, is the leader. Ed is also a veteran of several trips but lacks Lewis' machismo. Bobby and Drew are novices.

The four are clearly the outsiders in this rural location. The crude locals are unimpressed by the "city boys;" it is also implied that some of the locals are inbred. While attempting to secure drivers for their vehicles (to be delivered to the takeout point), Drew briefly connects with a local banjo-playing boy by joining him in an impromptu bluegrass jam. When they finish, however, the boy turns away without saying anything, refusing the effusive Drew's handshake. The four men exhibit a slightly condescending attitude toward the locals; Bobby, in particular, is very patronizing and even derides the locals to his companions for seeming to display genetic defects.

The men spend the day canoeing down the river in pairs before camping by the riverside at night. Shortly before they retire for bed, Lewis tells the others to be quiet and disappears into the dark woods to investigate a sound he heard. He returns shortly and says that he did not find anything. When asked whether he heard something or someone, he tells them he does not know. While traveling the next day, the group's two canoes are separated. Pulling ashore to get their bearings, Bobby and Ed encounter a pair of unkempt hillbillies emerging from the woods, one toothless and carrying a shotgun. After some tense conversation in which the hillbillies appear to be goading the others, Ed speculates that the two locals have a moonshine still hidden in the woods and Bobby amicably offers to buy some. The hillbillies are not moved and Bobby is forced at gunpoint to strip naked. Bobby is next chased, humiliated, ordered to "squeal like a pig" and is then violently sodomized. Ed is unable to help because he has been tied to a tree and is held by the toothless hillbilly.

Meanwhile, Lewis and Drew dock their canoe. Hearing the commotion, Lewis secretly sneaks up and kills the rapist with an arrow from his hunting bow; Ed grabs the shotgun as the other captor quickly vanishes into the woods. Lewis and Drew argue about whether to inform the authorities. Lewis insists that they would not receive a fair trial and that the jury would be composed of the dead man's friends and relatives. Bobby agrees and does not want the incident of his rape to become public. Lewis tells them that since the entire area would be flooded by a lake soon, the body will never be found and the escaped hillbilly could not inform the authorities since he had participated in the incident. The men vote 3-to-1 to side with Lewis' recommendation to bury the dead hillbilly's body and continue as though nothing had happened. During the digging, Drew, the lone dissenting voter, is clearly upset and having trouble coming to terms with the decision.

The four make a run for it downriver, cutting their trip short, but soon disaster strikes as the canoes reach a dangerous stretch of rapids. In the lead canoe, Ed repeatedly implores Drew to don his life jacket, but Drew ignores him without a word of explanation. As Drew and Ed reach the rapids, Drew's head appears to shake and he falls forward into the river.

After Drew disappears into the river, Ed loses control of his canoe and both canoes collide with the rocks, spilling Lewis, Bobby and Ed into the river. Lewis breaks his leg and the others are washed ashore alongside him. The badly-injured Lewis believes the toothless hillbilly shot Drew and is now stalking them. Later that night, under cover of darkness, Ed climbs a nearby rock face in order to dispatch the suspected shooter using his bow, while Bobby stays behind to look after Lewis. Ed reaches the top and hides out until the next morning, when he sees the man for whom he was looking standing on the cliff holding a rifle, looking down into the gorge where Lewis and Bobby are hiding. The man appears to be the hillbilly that escaped through the woods.

Ed, a champion archer who earlier lost his nerve while aiming at a deer, again freezes in spite of his clear shot. The man notices him and fires as the former champion clumsily releases his arrow. Ed falls to the ground in a panic and accidentally stabs himself with another of his arrows. The man reaches the wounded Ed and is about to kill him when he collapses, revealing Ed's arrow sticking through him. Ed remembers that the hillbilly who tried to assault him had no front teeth, and upon initial examination, the dead man seems to have all his teeth. Ed examines his victim's dentition more closely and discovers he has a partial, movable plate for his front two missing teeth. Ed lowers the body down the cliff with a rope and climbs down after it. His rope breaks and he falls in the river, but swims to shore and meets with Bobby and Lewis. Bobby asks more than once if Ed is certain the dead man is the same as the one they confronted earlier. Ed, clearly irritated and not completely sure himself, snaps at Bobby and asks him to confirm the man's identity.

Ed and Bobby weigh the dead hillbilly down with stones and drop him into the river. Later, they come upon Drew's grotesquely-contorted corpse and after being unable to find any definite gunshot wound, they also weigh it down into the river. Ed points out that they don't want the authorities examining Drew's body and possibly discovering a gunshot wound. Ed gives a short eulogy and sinks it in the river to ensure that it will never be found. With Lewis injured and Drew dead, Ed now becomes the leader, trying to ensure their story is consistent, knowing the local authorities will investigate.

When they finally reach their destination, the town of Aintry, which will soon be submerged by the river and is being evacuated, they take the injured Lewis to the local hospital while the sheriff comes to investigate the incident. One of the Deputies, named Arthur Queen, has a missing brother-in-law (ostensibly one of the hillbillies Lewis and Ed killed) and is highly suspicious. Ed and Bobby visit Lewis' hospital room to make sure Lewis' version of events is consistent with theirs. They are unsure if the apparently unconscious Lewis understands them, however as the doctors enter, Lewis appears to awaken, gives Ed and Bobby a knowing wink and says he remembers nothing.

Later, as the men prepare to drive home, the sheriff suddenly asks Ed why there were four life jackets when only Lewis, Ed and Bobby came out of the river. Stammering, Bobby suggests there may have been an extra one, then realizes his mistake. But Ed says no, that Drew was not wearing his life jacket and he does not know why. The sheriff remains suspicious, but having no evidence simply tells Ed, "Don't ever do nothin' like this again. Don't come back up here. I'd kinda like to see this town die peaceful," to which Ed readily agrees. The men vow to keep their story a secret for the rest of their lives, which proves to be psychologically burdensome for Ed; in the final scene, he awakes screaming from a nightmare in which a dead man's hand rises from the lake.



Deliverance was shot in the Tallulah Gorge southeast of Clayton, Georgia and on the Chattooga River, dividing the states of Georgia and South Carolina. Additional scenes were shot as well in Salem, South Carolina and Sylva, North Carolina. A scene was also shot at the Mount Carmel Baptist Church cemetery, which now lies 100 meters (330 feet) under the surface of Lake Jocassee, South Carolina.[3]

In the scene set at a rural gas station, character Drew Ballinger plays the instrumental "Dueling Banjos" on his guitar with a hillbilly youth named Lonnie (implied as being an inbred albino in the novel[citation needed]). Lonnie was portrayed by Billy Redden in the film, though a body double actually played the banjo.[4]

In addition to the movie's famous theme, there are also a number of sparse, brooding passages of music scattered throughout, including several played on a synthesizer. Some prints of the movie omit much of this extra music. Other than Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandel's credit for "Dueling Banjos," there is no credit for any of the soundtrack music. John Boorman's gold record for the "Dueling Banjos" hit single was later stolen from his house by the Dublin gangster Martin Cahill, a scene Boorman recreated in The General (1998), his biographical film about Cahill.

During the filming of the canoe scene, James Dickey engaged in a bitter argument with director John Boorman. The result was a brief fistfight (instigated by Dickey, who was inebriated) in which Boorman had his nose broken and four of his teeth shattered. Dickey was thrown off the set yet no charges were filed. The two made up and became good friends, culminating in Dickey's role as the sheriff at the end of the film.

Actor Ed O'Neill, who would later gain fame as Al Bundy on the American television series Married... with Children made his first film appearance near the end of the film as a sheriff's deputy.[2] The film also marks the screen debut of actor Ned Beatty.

The canoes that were used for the white water rafting trip in the film are now on display at the Burt Reynolds Museum, located at 100 North U.S. Highway 1, in Jupiter, Florida.

Differences from the novel

Although the film closely follows the novel which is written in first person, some sections are different. Examples include the character description of Ed (in the novel, Ed was bald and in his late 40s), the missing introduction (explaining why they decided to go on a canoe trip instead of playing golf), and an epilogue after the events. There is also no mention of the famous 'Squeal like a pig' sentence in the novel. In the film, only Bobby's line of work is mentioned (he is an insurance salesman). The novel additionally reveals that Ed is a graphic designer or art director for an advertising agency, Drew works as a sales representative for a large Atlanta-based soft drink manufacturer (most likely The Coca-Cola Company, though it's not referred to by name), and Lewis is simply an unspecified white-collar worker. The first section of the book describes a day at the office for Ed, which (except for the opening voice-over) is omitted from the movie.

Ned Beatty states that he created the famous "squeal piggy" line while he and actor Bill McKinney were improvising the scene.[5] James Dickey's son, Christopher Dickey, in his book, Summer of Deliverance, said that it was one of the crewmen who suggested that Ned Beatty's character, "Bobby", "squeal like a pig"—to add some backwoods horror to the scene and to make it more shocking. According to Boorman's running commentary for the HD DVD and Blu-ray editions, the studio wanted the scene shot two ways, one of which would be acceptable for TV. Boorman did not want to do this, and as "Squeal like a pig" was a good replacement for the (presumably obscene) dialog in the script, it was substituted, as it would work for both the theatrical and TV versions.


Critical reception

Deliverance was well received by critics and is widely regarded as one of the best films of 1972.[6][7][8][9] The film currently holds a 94% "Certified Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.[10]

The instrumental song "Dueling Banjos" won the 1974 Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance. The film was selected by The New York Times as one of The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made, while the viewers of Channel 4 in the United Kingdom voted it no. 45 in a list of The 100 Greatest Films.

Awards and nominations

Nominated for:

American Film Institute


  1. ^ NY Times,Kuczynski,Sept 22,1998;John Lane Chatooga (University of Georgia Press, 2004);Daily Caller,Mark Judge,1/19/2011
  2. ^ a b Maltin, Leonard (August 5, 2009). Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide. Signet. ISBN 0451227646. 
  3. ^ Simon, Anna (2009-02-20). "Cable network to detail history of Lake Jocassee". The Greenville News.,+2009. Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  4. ^ Heldenfels, Rich (2009-11-05). "Body double plays banjo". Akron Beacon Journal. Retrieved 2009-11-06. 
    "Regarding his debut film, Deliverance (1972), in which his character undergoes an unforgettably vivid sexual assault, Beatty said: 'The whole "Squeal Like a Pig" thing ... came from guess who.' As the audience laughed, he theatrically put his head in his hands and silently pointed to himself, before elaborating how director Boorman encouraged him to improvise the scene with his onscreen tormentor, Bill McKinney."
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External links

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  • Deliverance — Deliverance: Deliverance (альбом Opeth) Deliverance (альбом Space) …   Википедия

  • deliverance — c.1300, action of setting free in physical or spiritual senses, from O.Fr. deliverance (12c.), from délivrer (see DELIVER (Cf. deliver)). Formerly also with senses now restricted to DELIVERY (Cf. delivery) …   Etymology dictionary

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  • deliverance — ► NOUN 1) the process of being rescued or set free. 2) a formal or authoritative utterance …   English terms dictionary

  • deliverance — [di liv′ər əns] n. [ME deliveraunce: see DELIVER & ANCE] 1. a setting free; rescue or release 2. the fact or state of being freed 3. an opinion, judgment, etc. formally or publicly expressed …   English World dictionary

  • deliverance —    A form of spiritual warfare that includes EXORCISM of DEMONs, prayer, cleansing, and healing. Deliverance is practiced chiefly by Protestant denominations, especially Pentecostal and charismatic. Practices of deliverance began in the early… …   Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology

  • Deliverance — (Roget s Thesaurus) < N PARAG:Deliverance >N GRP: N 1 Sgm: N 1 deliverance deliverance extrication rescue Sgm: N 1 reprieve reprieve reprieval Sgm: N 1 respite respite Sgm: N 1 liberation liberation &c. 750 …   English dictionary for students

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