The Top 10 Native American Movies

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10. The New World

The New World is a 2005 drama/romance film written and directed by Terrence Malick, a historical adventure depicting the founding of the Jamestown, Virginia settlement and inspired by the historical figures Captain John Smith and Pocahontas. It is the fourth feature film written and directed by Malick.The cast includes Colin Farrell, Q’orianka Kilcher, Christopher Plummer, Christian Bale, August Schellenberg, Wes Studi, David Thewlis, and Yorick van Wageningen.


9. Pocahontas

Pocahontas is the 33rd animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series. It was produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and was originally released to selected theaters on June 16, 1995 by Walt Disney Pictures. It belongs to the era known as the Disney Renaissance that began in 1989 and ended in 1999.The film is the first animated feature Disney film to be based on a real historic character, based on the known history and also the folklore and legend that surround the Native American woman Pocahontas, and features a fictionalized account of her encounter with Englishman John Smith and the settlers that arrived from the Virginia Company.


8. Billy Jack

Billy Jack is a “Half-breed” American Cherokee Indian Green Beret Vietnam War veteran, hapkido master. Billy Jack must defend the hippie-themed Freedom School and its students from townspeople who do not understand or like the counterculture students. The school is organized by Jean Roberts.


7. Thunderheart

Thunderheart is a 1992 American contemporary western mystery film directed by Michael Apted from an original screenplay by John Fusco. The film is a loosely based fictional portrayal of events relating to the Wounded Knee incident in 1973. Followers of the American Indian Movement seized the South Dakota town of Wounded Knee in protest against federal government policy regarding Native Americans. Incorporated in the plot is the character of Ray Levoi, played by actor Val Kilmer, as an FBI agent with Sioux heritage investigating a murder on a Native American reservation. Sam Shepard, Graham Greene, Fred Ward and Sheila Tousey star in principal supporting roles.


6. Smoke Signals

The story centers on Victor Joseph (Adam Beach) and Thomas Builds-the-Fire (Evan Adams) on the Coeur D’Alene Indian Reservation in Plummer, Idaho. Thomas is an eccentric tribe storyteller and Victor is an angry, brooding local basketball star.The two young men are linked through Victor’s father, Arnold (Gary Farmer). Arnold rescued Thomas as an infant from a house fire that killed his parents.

Consequently, Thomas considers him a hero. On the other hand, Victor, who endures Arnold’s alcoholism, domestic violence, and eventually abandonment, regards his father with both deep love and bitter resentment. Thomas and Victor grow up together as neighbors and acquaintances, fighting with each other and simultaneously forming a close, albeit uneasy, alliance.


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5. Windwalker

Trevor Howard plays Windwalker, an aged Cheyenne warrior. As a husband and father, he helplessly watched the killing of his wife and the kidnapping of one of his sons during a raid by Crow warriors. After many years of searching for his lost son unsuccessfully, Windwalker dies, but the Great Spirit reawakens him for one final task: to answer the mystery about his missing son in order for him to have a peaceful afterlife.


4. Dances with Wolves

Dances with Wolves is a 1990 epic western film directed by and starring Kevin Costner. It is a film adaptation of the 1988 book of the same name by Michael Blake and tells the story of a Union Army Lieutenant who travels to the American frontier to find a military post, and his dealings with a group of Lakota Indians.


3. Little Big Man

Little Big Man is a 1970 American Western film directed by Arthur Penn and based on the 1964 comic novel by Thomas Berger. It is a picaresque comedy about a Caucasian boy raised by the Cheyenne nation during the 19th century. The film is largely concerned with contrasting the lives of American pioneers and Native Americans throughout the progression of the boy’s life.

The movie stars Dustin Hoffman, Chief Dan George, Faye Dunaway, Martin Balsam, Jeff Corey and Richard Mulligan. It is considered a revisionist Western, with Native Americans receiving a more sympathetic treatment and United States Cavalry soldiers depicted as villains.Despite its satiric approach, the film has tragic elements and a clear social conscience about prejudice and injustice. Little Big Man is considered an example of anti-establishment films of the period, protesting America’s involvement in the Vietnam War by portraying the U.S. Military negatively.


2. Black Robe

Set in 1634, the film begins in the tiny French settlement that will one day become Quebec City. Jesuit missionaries are trying to encourage the local Algonquin Indians to embrace Christianity, with thus far only limited results. Samuel de Champlain, founder of the settlement, sends Father LaForgue, a young Jesuit priest, to find a distant Catholic mission in a Huron village.

LaForgue is accompanied on his journey by a non-Jesuit assistant, Daniel, and a group of Algonquin Indians whom Champlain has ordered to guide him to the Huron village. This group includes Chomina (August Schellenberg) – an older, experienced traveler who has clairvoyant dreams; his wife (Tantoo Cardinal); and Annuka (Sandrine Holt), their daughter. As they journey across the lakes and forests, Daniel and Annuka fall in love, to the discomfort of the celibate LaForgue.


1. A Man Called Horse

The film is based on a short story, “A Man Called Horse”, published in 1968 in the book Indian Country by Dorothy M. Johnson. Partially spoken in Sioux, the film tells the history of an English aristocrat, John Morgan, who is captured by a Native American tribe.Initially enslaved and mocked by being treated as the animal of the title, Morgan comes to respect his captors’ culture and gain their respect. He is aided in understanding the Sioux by a captive, Batise, the tribe’s fool, who had tried to escape and was hamstrung behind one knee.


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