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For other uses, see Deliverance (disambiguation).
Deliverance poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Bill Gold
Directed by John Boorman
Produced by John Boorman
Screenplay by James Dickey
John Boorman
Based on Deliverance 
by James Dickey
Starring Jon Voight
Burt Reynolds
Ned Beatty
Ronny Cox
Cinematography Vilmos Zsigmond
Edited by Tom Priestley
Elmer Productions
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • July 30, 1972 (1972-07-30)
Running time 110 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2 million
Box office $46,122,355[1]

Deliverance is a 1972 American dramatic thriller film produced and directed by John Boorman and starring Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, and Ronny Cox, with the latter two making their feature film debuts. The film is based on the 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 both for the memorable music scene near the beginning, with one of the city men duelling on guitar with a strange country boy playing banjo, that sets the tone for what lies ahead—a trip into unknown and potentially dangerous territory—and for its notorious male rape scene. 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".


Four Atlanta businessmen, Lewis Medlock (Burt Reynolds), Ed Gentry (Jon Voight), Bobby Trippe (Ned Beatty), and Drew Ballinger (Ronny Cox), decide to canoe down a river in the remote northern Georgia wilderness, expecting to have fun and see the glory of nature before the fictional Cahulawassee River valley is flooded by 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 men encounter friction with the "mountain men" locals, some of whom appear to be inbred. The locals are suspicious of the city men, and the four middle-class men feel superior to them. Bobby appears contemptuous of them for being uneducated and uncouth. Playing guitar, Drew bonds with a local teenager when they engage in an impromptu rendition of "Dueling Banjos." The boy frowns and turns away when Drew offers his hand in a congratulatory gesture. The boy next appears on a footbridge over the river as the men are beginning their trip. He watches the men as they canoe under the bridge, not responding to a friendly wave by Drew.

When the men break for their first night on the river, Lewis leaves to investigate a strange noise in the woods but returns having found nothing. The next day their two canoes become separated on the river. Bobby and Ed pull ashore to try and get their bearings. The two are accosted by a pair of shotgun-wielding mountain men. They claim the city men have accused them of running a still and making moonshine whiskey. The hillbillies tie Ed to a tree and violently rape Bobby, ordering the overweight man to "squeal like a pig". As the attackers prepare to rape Ed, Lewis and Drew arrive on the scene. Using his bow, Lewis kills the man who raped Bobby, Ed grabs the shotgun and scares off the other man while Drew chases him with a paddle.

The men argue about how to proceed. Drew insists that they have to report the events to the police but Lewis argues otherwise. He says, "these people are all related," pointing out that a police investigation or jury would likely include the dead man's friends and relatives, to the detriment of the vacation group. Ed agrees with Lewis, and Bobby says he does not want his rape to be made public. The four men bury the body, reasoning that the valley's flooding will cover up any evidence. They figure the man who escaped will not go to the authorities because he took part in the rape.

The four make a run for it downriver, cutting their trip short. As they reach a dangerous stretch of rapids, Drew suddenly falls out of the lead canoe and disappears, causing Ed to lose control and smash both boats on the rocks. Lewis breaks his leg in the spill and he, Bobby and Ed make it to shore. Lewis believes that the man who escaped is stalking them and shot Drew from the bluffs above the river. That night, Ed makes his way up the bluffs with a bow and arrow. The next morning he sees a man, whom he believes to be the escaped hillbilly, holding a gun and looking down into the ravine. Ed shoots an arrow at the man, killing him. He slips, wounding himself with one of his arrows. When he checks the body, Ed is no longer sure that he killed the man from the earlier incident. He carries the body down to the shore, but Bobby cannot positively identify the man either. Ed and Bobby weigh the body down with rocks and sink it in the river. Further downriver, they recover Drew's drowned body; his head wound may have been caused by a gunshot, but they can't tell for sure. So they weight the body down and sink it into the river.

They finally reach their destination of Aintry. The town will soon be flooded by the new lake, and all the people and their houses are being relocated. The local sheriff seems suspicious of the city men's story that Drew drowned on the river; he says that a deputy of his is missing a relative who had gone out hunting in the area. Lacking evidence, the sheriff releases the men, but gives them a warning never to come back again. They leave, vowing to keep the events of the trip a secret for the rest of their lives. In the final scene, Ed awakens screaming from a nightmare in which a dead man's hand rises from a lake.



Deliverance was shot primarily in Rabun County in northeastern Georgia. The canoe scenes were filmed in the Tallulah Gorge southeast of Clayton and on the Chattooga River. This river divides the northeastern corner of Georgia from the northwestern corner of South Carolina. Additional scenes were shot in Salem, South Carolina.

A scene was also shot at the Mount Carmel Baptist Church cemetery. This site has since been flooded and lies 130 feet under the surface of Lake Jocassee, on the border between Oconee and Pickens counties in South Carolina.[2][3]

During the filming of the canoe scene, author James Dickey showed up inebriated and got into a bitter argument with producer-director John Boorman, who had rewritten Dickey's script. They had a brief fistfight in which Boorman's nose was broken and four of his teeth shattered. Dickey was thrown off the set, but no charges were filed against him. The two reconciled and became good friends, and Boorman gave Dickey a cameo role as the sheriff at the end of the film.

Notorious line[edit]

Several people have been credited with the now-famous line including the phrase, "squeal like a pig." Ned Beatty said he thought of it while he and actor McKinney were improvising the scene.[4]

James Dickey's son, Christopher Dickey, in his memoir about the film production, Summer of Deliverance, said that one of the crewmen suggested that Beatty's character, Bobby, "squeal like a pig," to add some backwoods horror to the scene and make it more shocking.[page needed] According to Boorman's running commentary on the home media releases, the studio wanted the scene shot two ways, one of which would be acceptable for TV. Boorman did not want to do this. He decided that the phrase "squeal like a pig", suggested by Frank Rickman, a Clayton native, was a good replacement for the dialog in the script. It would work for both the theatrical and TV versions.[citation needed]


The film's soundtrack brought new attention to the noted banjo work, which had been recorded numerous times since 1955. Only Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandel were originally credited for "Dueling Banjos." Noted songwriter and producer Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith, who wrote the original piece, "Feudin' Banjos" (1955), and recorded it with five-string banjo player Don Reno, filed a lawsuit for songwriting credit and a percentage of royalties. He was awarded both in a landmark copyright infringement case.

No credit was given for the film score. The film has 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.

Boorman was given a gold record for the "Dueling Banjos" hit single; this was later stolen from his house by the Dublin gangster Martin Cahill. Boorman recreated this scene in The General (1998), his biographical film about Cahill.


Deliverance was a box office success in the United States, becoming the fifth-highest grossing film of 1972 after grossing a domestic total of over $46 million.[1] The film's financial success continued the following year, when it went on to earn $18 million in North American "distributor rentals" (receipts).[5]

Critical reception[edit]

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]

Not all reviews were positive. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times said:

Dickey, who wrote the original novel and the screenplay, lards this plot with a lot of significance -- universal, local, whatever happens to be on the market. He is clearly under the impression that he is telling us something about the nature of man, and particularly civilized man's ability to survive primitive challenges[…] But I don't think it works that way.[…] What the movie totally fails at, however, is its attempt to make some kind of significant statement about its action.[…] Dickey has given us here is a fantasy about violence, not a realistic consideration of it.[…] It's possible to consider civilized men in a confrontation with the wilderness without throwing in rapes, cowboy-and-Indian stunts and pure exploitative sensationalism.[11]

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 #45 in a list of The 100 Greatest Films.

Awards and nominations[edit]


American Film Institute lists[edit]

Influence of the film[edit]

  • Then-governor Jimmy Carter established a state film commission to encourage production companies to film in Georgia. Due to tax incentives enacted in the last decade, the state has "become one of the top five production destinations in the U.S."[15]
  • The canoes used in the film are displayed at the Burt Reynolds Museum, located at 100 North U.S. Highway 1, in Jupiter, Florida. One of the canoes used (and signed by Ronny Cox) is on display in the Tallulah Falls Railroad Museum, Dillard, Georgia.
  • Following the film, tourism increased to Rabun County by the tens of thousands. By 2012, tourism was the largest source of revenue in the county.[15] Jon Voight's stunt double for this film, Claude Terry, later purchased equipment used in the movie from Warner Brothers. He founded what is now the oldest whitewater rafting adventure company on the Chattooga River, Southeastern Expeditions.[16] By 2012 rafting had developed as a $20 million industry in the region.[15]
  • People with money have built vacation and second homes around the area's lakes.[15]
  • In June 2012, Rabun County held a Chattooga River Festival to encourage preservation of the river and its environment. It noted the 40th anniversary of the filming of Deliverance in the area, which aroused controversy.[15]
  • In 2012, producer Cory Welles and director Kevin Walker decided to make the documentary, The Deliverance of Rabun County, to explore the effects of the landmark film on people in the county. They heard a wide range of opinions, particularly resentment at how the country people were portrayed. Others are pragmatic and looking at the benefits of increased tourism and related businesses.[15]

See also[edit]

  • Survival film, about the film genre, with a list of related films


  1. ^ a b "Deliverance, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 21, 2012. 
  2. ^ Simon, Anna (2009-02-20). "Cable network to detail history of Lake Jocassee". The Greenville News. Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  3. ^ 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."
  5. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974 p 19
  6. ^ "Greatest Films of 1972". Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  7. ^ "The Best Movies of 1972 by Rank". Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  8. ^ "Best Films of the 1970s". Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  9. ^ IMDb: Year: 1972
  10. ^ "Deliverance". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  11. ^ "Deliverance." Chicago Sun-Times.
  12. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees
  13. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees
  14. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ballot
  15. ^ a b c d e f Cory Welles, "40 years later, 'Deliverance' causes mixed feelings in Georgia", Marketplace, 22 August 2012, accessed 27 August 2014
  16. ^ Southeastern Expeditions. Retrieved 8/19/2013.

External links[edit]