I am a great fan of the Native American culture. Unfortunately, the vast majority of movies about Native Americans have them either as nasty savages that kill innocent whites, or as "sweet innocent" natives who learn like children from the wisdom of the whites. Still, occasionally a movie surfaces that gives some truth and history of Native American cultures.
Click on any title to get a full length review of that movie.
Across the Wide Missouri -
Stars Clark Gable and Ricardo Montalban as a pair of trappers. Gable, the good guy, marries an Indian princess while Montalban causes trouble.
A Man Called Horse - 1970
Richard Harris stars as an English man captured by the Sioux in the 1800s. Things are not "all peace and harmony" - there is violence and blood - but there is also understanding.
Along the Navajo Trail - 1945
Roy Rogers stars as a US Marshall who is trying to figure out what happened to a government agent. Oddly enough, despite the name there are NO indians of any sort in this film - it's all about local ranchers and Spanish "gypsies" in wooden wagons.
Apache - 1954
Massai - an Apache loner - is played by Burt Lancaster. When he refuses to surrender with Geronimo, he is sent to Florida but takes off on his own.
Billy Jack - 1971
A green beret who is of Native American birth returns home - and runs into great bigotry.
Billy Jack Goes to Washington - 1977
Billy Jack is finally pardoned, and decides to go in and take on a new life.
Black Robe - 1991
Set in the early 1600s, this story tells of a missionary working in the wilderness of what now is eastern Canada. The missionary takes quite a while to learn what the natives are truly like, and the journey is an intriguing one to watch. Many scenes of Algonquin life and language.
Broken Arrow - 1950
Buffalo Bill and the Indians - 1976
Paul Newman is Buffalo Bill who is trying to get his side show going. He gets Sitting Bull to join in.
The Broken Chain - 1993
A story of the Iroquois fighting with the incoming settlers during Revolutionary times.
Captain Apache - 1971
Lee Van Cleef - a classic Western actor - stars as Captain Apache. This Native American works with the Union Army to figure out why the Indian commissioner was slain.
Chato's Land - 1971
A Native American comes under attack, and goes to every length to protect his family.
Cheyenne Autumn - 1964
Directed by John Ford, this story is one of the more honest looks at American Indian struggles.
Cheyenne Warrior - 1994
Set during the civil war, this movie stars Kelly Preston and tells of a white woman who is widowed and then encounters the Cheyenne tribe.
Clearcut - 1991
Loggers are trying to wipe out a forest on Native American soil - but there is some resistance to this idea.
Crazy Horse - 1996
The tale of a mighty Sioux warrior and his battles. Directed by John Irvin.
Cry Blood - Apache - 2001
A look into the politics of American Indians.
Dance Me Outside - 1994
A modern tale of life on a reservation.
Dances With Wolves - 1990
It's easy to throw stones at this Kevin Costner western as "not perfect" - but to be honest, he did really try his very best to get it right. Set in South Dakota, this was filmed on Lakota native soil and had the help of a nearby reservation with tens of thousands of Lakotas. Much of the film is spoken in native Lakota. The buffalo herd they used is the largest in the world. With all of the help and influence by the Lakotas, they at least had a great opportunity to showcase their culture, language, clothing and way of life. Yes, you have the "Good Lakota" and the "Bad Pawnee", but you do have to draw in the average viewer to watch a movie before you can begin to help educate them.
The Doe Boy - 2001
A hemophiliac boy who is also half white, half Native American struggles to grow to manhood.
The Education of Little Tree - 1997
A young boy of Cherokee roots is torn between his traditional roots and the culture of the new world.
The Fast Runner - 2001
This Inuit story pits a strong warrior against a powerful spirit.
Five Savage Men - 1971
A white schoolteacher is raped by 5 men when her stagecoach is attacked. An Apache warrior comes in to save her and nurses her back to health. He tries several times to return her to other whites, but she stays with him. Finally he trains her how to shoot and she tracks down and kills the rapists. Unfortunately, she goes mad, the sheriff shows up and shoots the Apache as a heathen. The Apache (and his few friends that you see briefly) are both very stereotyped and usually shown in western style clothing.
Fort Apache - 1948
Henry Fonda is an arrogant colonel who butts head with a more experienced soldier (John Wayne) and decides to take on Apache Chief Cochise. Compared with earlier movies which had Indians as "all bad", this one talks about how the Indians were mistreated by the whites.
Geronimo - 1993
Geronimo successfully hid out from cavalry for an entire year before being captured. Starring Robert Duvall, Gene Hackman and Jason Patric, the movie is great in showing the deceptions the US government foisted on the Apaches - but it's primarily about the cavalry soldiers. I would have liked to see more from the Apache's side.
Grand Avenue - 1996
A tale of Native Americans attempting to balance modern life with their traditional ways.
Grayeagle - 1977
Cheyennes in the mid 1800s kidnap a girl.
Grey Owl - 1999
A modern Native American story in the early 1900s.
Hondo - 1953
John Wayne stars as a loner half-Indian cowboy who falls for a quiet woman and her boy living in Apache territory. He's very sympathetic of the Apache, but ends up having to fight them to rescue the family.
How the West was Won - 1962
John Ford directs an epic western tracking three generations of the Prescotts.
I Will Fight No More - 1975
A truce is broken, and warfare results.
Incident at Oglala - 1992
The true story of Leonard Peltier who killed two FBI agents on his path.
Last of His Tribe - 1992
Another true story, this one taking place in the early 1900s.
Last of the Dogmen - 1995
A bounty hunter in search of escaped prisoners finds something else instead.
Last of the Mohicans - 1992
This classic tale has been remade many times. The 1992 version stars Daniel Day-Lewis in the main character of Hawkeye. The story is not authentic to the book - but in some ways that's good. The book was VERY stereotypical in its treatment of the Native Americans. The movie focusses on the fort attack - which was authentic - and on getting every detail they could of the tribes done properly.
Legends of the Fall - 1995
This epic story is set in the late 1800s and early 1900s, starring Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins is a veteran of the Indian Wars and is heartsick about what happened. He takes his 3 young boys, an Indian Chief and a mixed-race couple out to Montana to try to raise his family in peace. Of course it's not meant to last - soon a woman has all 3 brothers astir, and WWI brings death. The story is narrated by the Chief.
Little Big Man - 1970
Dustin Hoffman plays a man who is over 100, telling his life story to a researcher. With the wisdom of age he talks about his family being slain by Pawnee when he was 10, being raised by the Cheyenne, and how his life then went back and forth between white and Native American during his adult life.
Medicine River - 1993
A Native American going to his mother's funeral rediscovers his roots.
Naturally Native - 1998
Native American women working on a business plan for makeup run into bigots.
Navajo Blues - 1996
I've got mixed feelings about this. You've got a Vegas cop who is sent into witness protection in Navajo country. He meets up with 2 sisters - one is a cop, the other is documenting the life of the natives. He gets drawn into a crazy-man serial murderer and has to handle that as well as dodge the Vegas bad guys who want to do him in. There are many great scenes of Navajo artisans - and then very hokey acting and the crazy man's insanity. The music is very rock-pop and seems quite inappropriate in many places. So it's very much a balancing act here, to appreciate the bits of culture and ignore the rest.
One Little Indian - 1973
A deserter from the army (James Garner) decides to hide out in Indian territory. The namesake One Little Indian isn't even an indian, and there is little else in the movie that involves Indian culture.
Powwow Highway - 1989
A look into the relationships within a Native American community.
The Prophecy - 1995
Christopher Walken stars in this story of angels vs angels. Much of the story takes place in a Native American mining town. The only way the little girl is cured - after modern medicines have failed - is through the strong faith of the Native Americans. They perform a cleansing ritual to free her from the evil soul.
Renegades - 1989
Keifer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips star as a Philly cop and a Navajo who are thrown together by a robbery gone bad. Keifer was trying to find a bad cop and was undercover with robbers - and one of those robbers steals a tribal spear, killing Lou's brother in the process. Soon the two have to trust each other to take down the bad guys. The movie begins and ends on a reservation but is primarily shot in the Philly streets (well, Toronto streets). The only culture here is Lou's father who uses smoke to heal Keifer's gut-shot, and Lou's uncanny ability to track people through the streets guided only by his inner eye.
Savage Journey - 1982
Savage Journey details how Mormon church founders Brigham Young and Joseph Smith were driven from town to town - and finally out to Utah. Apparently Brigham first fought with the native americans then - but was responsible for saving Chief Walker and his followers when they became cornered. Only a tiny few scenes with the "locals" and all were quite stereotypical.
The Searchers - 1956
A classic tale of John Wayne trying to track down his niece (Natalie Wood) who was taken by Comanches.
Shadow of the Wolf - 1993
Conflict comes in all forms in this tale.
Sitting Bull - 1954
Skins - 2002
The Lakota Sioux are the tribe involved here, and the Vietnam War is the backdrop.
Smoke Signals - 1998
A modern trail of Native American nerds and tragedies.
Soldier Blue - 1970
The Song of Hiawatha - 1999
Based on the classic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, this tale is about a Ojibway member.
Spirit Rider - 1993
An Ojibway youth moves to the reservation to live with his grandfather, and learn about his traditions.
Stagecoach - 1939
The classic one that began them all. This classic "group of different people stuck together" stars John Wayne as the outlaw with a heart of gold. The group is attacked by Indians along their way to a new life. The Indians are barely mentioned - in fact the female Sioux with the Mexican trader in this version is more Mexican than Indian. The Indians are barely shown as speeding blurs that ride past the stagecoach.
Stagecoach - 1966
Starring Ann-Margret and Bing Crosby, this remake of the John Wayne classic has a group of stereotypical travelers on a stagecoach to Cheyenne. A Sioux war party, led by Crazy Horse, is the danger element. The Sioux have no "personality" at all - you pretty much never see one stationary, close up. They are always riding at top speed, yelling out war whoops and throwing spears. The most you can see of their outfits is that they are tan. The only Sioux you see close up is a female Sioux that the Chinese trader has taken as a wife. She, of course, does not speak. She just stands beside him as he proudly states that with her as his wife, he now is safer in this territory. It's interesting because this is in fact what many traders in the west did - take on local Native American wives in order to get through the land more safely and to use their wives' social contacts.
The Sunchaser - 1996
A man who is dying seeks out the Navajo healers to get better.
Tecumseh - The Last Warrior - 1995
Tecumseh was a Shawnee warrior who fought against the US government.
Tell Them Willie Boy Was Here - 1969
This story is based on a true tale, of a Pauite couple who is tracked down because of a justified slaying.
Thunderheart - 1992
A Sioux FBI investigator tries to track down a murderer. The story is based on real events.
The Trial of Billy Jack - 1974
Tom Laughlin returns in this sequel to Billy Jack. First, Billy Jack is in prison for the deeds in movie #1. The kids keep plowing forward with exposes of corruption, and when Billy Jack gets out of prison, he helps them out. Of course, struggles follow.
The Vanishing American - 1925
Zane Grey wrote the original story telling how a Navajo leader goes up against an anti-Indian bigot. This movie is silent, but still very compelling even in modern times.
War Party - 1989
A tale of reenactment - based on a battle between Blackfeet Native Americans and the US Cavalry.
Warrior Spirit - 1994
Two adventurers seek out a golden treasure.
White Comanche - 1968
A white dad and Comanche mom have twin sons - and the two lead very different lives.
Windtalkers - 1992
The Navajo Indians were famous in World War II for having a language that nobody could understand - and therefore a code that none could break.
Windwalker - 1980
The Cheyenne history is told in the words of a chief.
Winterhawk - 1976
The Blackfeet run into trouble with smallpox - and additional problems with the whites.
Young Guns II - 1990
Chavez - half Indian, half Mexican - is one of Billy the Kid's gang in this brat-pack sequel. He's the one that keeps the group from riding through an Apache burial ground, and calls out Navaho commands to his horse.
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