The Killing of a Sacred Deer

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a 2017 psychological thriller film directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, from a screenplay by Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou. It stars Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone, and Bill Camp. The story is based on the ancient Greek tragedy Iphigenia at Aulis by Euripides.[2][3]

The Killing of a Sacred Deer
UK theatrical release poster
Directed byYorgos Lanthimos
Produced by
Written by
CinematographyThimios Bakatakis
Edited byYorgos Mavropsaridis
Distributed byCurzon Artificial Eye (United Kingdom)
Release date
  • May 22, 2017 (2017-05-22) (Cannes)
  • November 3, 2017 (2017-11-03) (United Kingdom and Ireland)
Running time
121 minutes
  • Ireland
  • United Kingdom
Box office$6.1 million[1]

The film follows a cardiac surgeon (Farrell) who secretly befriends a teenage boy (Keoghan) with a connection to his past. He introduces the boy to his family, who begin to fall mysteriously ill.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or in the main competition section at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. The film was theatrically released in the United States on October 20, 2017, by A24, and in the United Kingdom and Ireland on November 3, 2017, by Curzon Artificial Eye. It has received positive reviews, and grossed over $6 million worldwide.[1]


Steven Murphy, a skilled cardiothoracic surgeon, finishes an open heart surgery, and goes to a diner, where he meets a teenage boy named Martin. Afterward, Steven returns home to his wife, Anna, and their children, teenager Kim and younger son Bob. He later tells Anna that Martin's father died in a car accident ten years earlier, and that he has taken an interest in the boy to help him deal with his grief. Martin comes to the Murphy household for dinner; Kim seems rather taken with him.

Martin returns the favor by inviting Steven to his mother's home for dinner. After the meal, Steven tries to leave but Martin insists he watch a movie with them. Martin leaves halfway through, and his mother makes a romantic advance on Steven, who rebuffs her and goes home. Over the next few days, Martin's demands on Steven's time grow increasingly frequent and desperate, but Steven does not reply. One morning, Bob awakens and finds he cannot feel his legs; he has become paralyzed. Steven and Anna rush him to the hospital, where an examination reveals that nothing is physically wrong. Meanwhile, Kim visits Martin, seeking insight.

The next morning, Martin meets Steven and reveals the truth: his father did not die in the crash but during surgery that Steven himself performed after the accident. Martin blames Steven for his father's death. Martin explains that, to "balance" the act of destroying a family, Steven must kill one of the members of his own. If not, the Murphys will slowly die after four stages; paralysis is the first stage, followed by self-imposed starvation, bleeding from the eyes, and finally death. Steven attempts to dismiss these claims, but later finds that Bob is refusing food (the second stage). Soon after, Kim also loses the use of her legs and the will to eat.

Kim receives a call from Martin at the hospital. During the conversation, she regains the use of her legs, only to lose mobility again when the connection is broken. This convinces Anna that Martin has the power to follow through on his threats. She visits Martin to ask why she and her children must suffer for Steven's mistakes. Martin responds that "it's the only thing...that's close to justice". Anna, suspecting that her formerly alcoholic husband may have been drinking on the day of the operation, speaks to Steven's anesthesiologist, Matthew, who reveals that Steven did in fact have a few drinks that morning. Matthew bargains Anna into performing a sexual favor for him as payment for the information. After all tests are exhausted the hospital is at a loss for a solution, so Anna insists the children are transported back home, where they are tube-fed. Steven then kidnaps Martin, brutally beating him and demanding that he reverse the condition of the children. Martin is unaffected, merely warning Steven that time is running out.

Kim and Bob argue over who their father will choose, while Anna claims that killing one of the children is clearly the only option, as they can have another. Attempting to reach a decision, Steven meets with the school principal and questions which of his children is most academically gifted. Kim, having a crush on Martin, attempts to persuade him to heal her legs again so they may elope together; when unsuccessful, she attempts to save herself by escaping and crawling through the neighborhood. Steven and Anna retrieve her. As Steven disinfects her wounds, Kim attempts to persuade him of her true devotion. The next morning, Anna releases Martin as holding him captive was no use. Bob begins bleeding from the eyes (the final stage before imminent death), causing all to panic. Rather than choose, Steven binds Kim, Bob, and Anna to chairs, covers their heads, and pulls a woolen hat over his own face. He loads a rifle, spins in circles, and fires. The first two shots miss, but the third kills Bob.

Some time later, the family visits the same diner where Steven met with Martin. Martin enters and stares at them; he and the family briefly lock eyes. As the Murphys leave, Martin gazes after them, and Kim turns to look at Martin with a slight smile on her face.



On May 11, 2016, it was announced that Colin Farrell had been cast in the film, with Yorgos Lanthimos directing from a screenplay he had written with Efthymis Filipou. Film4 Productions and Element Pictures produced the project.[4] In June 2016, Nicole Kidman was cast in the film,[5] and in August 2016, Alicia Silverstone, Raffey Cassidy, Bill Camp, Barry Keoghan, and Sunny Suljic also joined.[6]


As of August 23, 2016, the film had begun principal photography in Cincinnati, filming at The Christ Hospital.[7] It was also shot in the Hyde Park and Northside neighborhoods.[8]


In May 2016, A24 acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film.[9] The same month, Haut et Court acquired French rights.[10] It had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on May 22, 2017.[11][12][13] Lanthimos and Filippou won the Best Screenplay award at the festival.[14]

The film was theatrically released in the United States on October 20, 2017[15][16] and in the United Kingdom and Ireland on November 3, 2017.


Critical response

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, The Killing of a Sacred Deer has an approval rating of 80% based on 265 reviews, with an average rating of 7.68/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Killing of a Sacred Deer continues director Yorgos Lanthimos' stubbornly idiosyncratic streak—and demonstrates again that he is a talent not to be ignored."[17] On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 73 out of 100, based on 45 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[18]

The Killing of a Sacred Deer was named as "one of the best horror movies of the year" in 2017 by Joey Keogh of Wicked Horror, who called the film "horror in its purest, most distilled form, freed from the shackles of jump scares or exposition." Keogh also stated that Keoghan is the film's "ace card," and that the actor "gives his best, most self-assured performance to date," as Martin, the "supremely frightening yet weirdly charismatic creation who makes even the act of eating spaghetti seem terrifying."[19] Zhuo-Ning Su of Awards Daily wrote in 2017 that the revenge thriller is "less complex than [Lanthimos'] previous work but [it] engrosses and unsettles all the same," adding that the film "palpably improves" in its second hour. While praising the cast, particularly Kidman, Su added that Keoghan "shines brightest as the plain but charismatic boy who's somehow not quite right." Calling his performance "vivid," and "fully realised."[20]

In a mixed review, Nicholas Bell of ION Cinema wrote in 2017 that the "mysterious, highly metaphorical" film, which he compared to "something from the Old Testament," "finds the director getting a bit too hung up on his own idiosyncrasies." Bell also criticized Lanthimos' and Filippou's "overtly precise dialogue" which he felt the characters were "straitjacketed" into. However he praised the director of photography Thimios Bakatakis and the score, calling it "eerie." Ultimately Bell summarised that the film was "interesting, but a bit too ambiguous to remain as uncomfortably off-putting as it hopes."[21]

Writing in a 5-star review for Bloody Disgusting, Trace Thurman wrote that Sacred Deer would be "the most unsettling film you see this year," particularly noting Lanthimos' direction and Bakatakis' cinematography which he said gave the film a "surreal, otherworldly quality." Thurman also praised the cast, writing that Farrell and Kidman "deliver their lines with a stilted coldness that sends chills up the spine." He called the younger actors "equally impressive, with Keoghan being the standout," noting his "eerie performance that you believe to be that of a psychopath."[22] However, also writing for Bloody Disgusting, Benedict Seal gave the film a one-star review, stating that it had "none of the escalating intrigue and tension" of the then-recently released The Gift and The Witch. Seal added that the film plays out "mechanically" after the reveal in the center of the film and referred to the visuals as "striking at times," but commented they "become monotonous and garish." Ultimately summing up the film as "the biggest bum note yet from one of the most overrated directors in the art-house world" and "an epic embarrassment."[23]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result Ref.
AACTA International Awards January 6, 2018 Best Supporting Actress Nicole Kidman Nominated [24]
Cannes Film Festival May 26, 2017 Palme D'Or Yorgos Lanthimos Nominated [25]
Best Screenplay Award Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou Won
European Film Awards December 10, 2017 Best European Actor Colin Farrell Nominated [26]
Best European Director Yorgos Lanthimos Nominated
Best European Screenwriter Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou Nominated
Evening Standard British Film Awards February 8, 2018 Best Supporting Actor Barry Keoghan Nominated [27]
Florida Film Critics Circle December 23, 2017 Best Supporting Actor Barry Keoghan Nominated [28]
Ghent International Film Festival Ghent October 20, 2017 Grand Prix – Best Film Yorgos Lanthimos Nominated [30]
Filmfest Hamburg October 14, 2017 Sichtwechsel Film Award Yorgos Lanthimos Nominated [31]
Independent Spirit Awards March 3, 2018 Best Supporting Male Barry Keoghan Nominated [32]
Best Cinematography Thimios Bakatakis Nominated
London Film Critics Circle January 28, 2018 British/Irish Actor of the Year Colin Farrell (also for The Beguiled) Nominated [33]
Seattle Film Critics Society December 18, 2017 Best Supporting Actor Barry Keoghan Nominated [34]
Villain of the Year Barry Keoghan (as Martin) Nominated
Sitges Film Festival October 14, 2017 Best Film The Killing of a Sacred Deer Nominated [35]
José Luis Guarner Critics' Award The Killing of a Sacred Deer Won


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