The Killing Fields

November 2nd, 1984


The Killing Fields

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A photographer is trapped in Cambodia during tyrant Pol Pot's bloody "Year Zero" cleansing campaign, which claimed the lives of two million "undesirable" civilians.

Release Year: 1984

Rating: 8.0/10 (26,487 voted)

Director: Roland Joffé

Stars: Sam Waterston, Haing S. Ngor, John Malkovich

Sydney Schanberg is a New York Times journalist covering the civil war in Cambodia. Together with local representative Dith Pran, they cover some of the tragedy and madness of the war. When the American forces leave, Dith Pran sends his family with them, but stays behind himself to help Schanberg cover the event. As an American, Schanberg won't have any trouble leaving the country, but the situation is different for Pran; he's a local, and the Khmer Rouge are moving in.

Sam Waterston - Sydney Schanberg
Haing S. Ngor - Dith Pran (as Dr. Haing S Ngor)
John Malkovich - Alan 'Al' Rockoff
Julian Sands - John Swain
Craig T. Nelson - Major Reeves
Spalding Gray - U.S. Consul
Bill Paterson - Dr. MacEntire
Athol Fugard - Dr. Sundesval
Graham Kennedy - Dougal
Katherine Krapum Chey - Ser Moeum
Oliver Pierpaoli - Titony
Edward Entero Chey - Sarun
Tom Bird - U.S. Military Advisor
Monirak Sisowath - Phat - Khmer Rouge Leader
Lambool Dtangpaibool - Phat's Son

Taglines: He was a reporter for the New York Times whose coverage of the Cambodian War would win him a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting. But the friend who made it possible was half the world away with his life in great danger... This is the story of war and friendship, the anguish of a country and of one man's will to live.

Release Date: 2 November 1984

Filming Locations: Bangkok, Thailand

Opening Weekend: $32,181 (USA) (4 November 1984) (1 Screen)

Gross: $34,609,720 (USA) (2 June 1985)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

All the actors seen wielding guns were trained by an ex-SAS officer.

Continuity: When Dith Pran is in the French embassy, he is wearing his watch which he previously gave to a Khmer soldier in order to be taken with the American photographers.

[first lines]
Sydney Schanberg: Cambodia. To many westerners it seemed a paradise. Another world, a secret world. But the war in neighboring Vietnam burst its borders, and the fighting soon spread to neutral Cambodia. In 1973 I went to cover this side-show struggle as a foreign correspondent of the New York Times...

User Review

The best war film ever made.


Rating: **** Out of ****

Hard to say, but I believe when it comes to the war genre, The Killing Fields manages to edge out even Saving Private Ryan, and without a doubt, there's no better war film out there that's done a better job of capturing the realistic details and emotional loss of the time period (that being, the 70's in Cambodia/Vietnam).

Thus, I've always considered it a little odd that no one I know has even heard of this film. When lists of the greatest war films are decided, I don't believe I've ever seen this film crack any list. And the reason is simple: The Killing Fields is often ignored because it doesn't come from a soldier's point of view, and neither does it feature any adrenaline-pumping battle sequences. The fact that a strong portion of the film (about 2/5's) comes entirely from a Cambodian man's viewpoint might throw off a few viewers here and there. And yet, the film does just as fine a job as any anti-war film in creating a frightenining, chaotic world.

The performances all around superb without exception. Haing S. Ngor, who was tragically killed a few years ago, delivers a riveting, emotionally wrenching turn as the guide who is trapped in Cambodia and forced to fight for his life. He deservingly won the Oscar, though it's a shame he was snubbed for the best actor award. Inarguably, he's the film's central character and he also has more screen time than top-billed Sam Waterston. Despite my complaint on that matter, Waterston is also excellent as the journalist with a guilty conscience.

The Killing Fields is a suspenseful and exhilarating experience, a journey through an apocalyptic landscape that features one shocking image after another. Watch, and you'll see why the film is so acclaimed.


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