If you’re getting tired of watching TV shows with simplistic plots, maybe you should switch to movies based on real events. Here is a list of the best films about Native Americans.
This is a great way of immersing yourself into unique culture all while enjoying masterfully crafted stories with some outstanding acting performances. This list includes not only modern films, but the greatest classic movies about Native Americans, as well.
- Rating IMDB – 7.2
- Genre: Drama, Western
- US production / 2017
- Budget: $55,000,000
- Worldwide gross: $35,669,017
- Directed by Scott Cooper
- Cast: Scott Shepherd, Rosamund Pike, Ava Cooper, Stella Cooper, David Midthunder, Christian Bale, Rory Cochrane, Jonathan Majors, John Benjamin Hickey.
Joseph Blocker is morally tired of his job. He’s a U.S. Army captain, and this line of work is slowly taking its toll on him. It would me so much easier for Joseph were there no war between the settlers and Native Americans.
Soon Blocker would forget about it and go on a well-deserved retirement. But he has to complete one last order before it: Joseph is task with delivering the tribal chief and his family to another town. A simple enough task turns into a real challenge.
Most of the scenes were filmed outside. Thunderstorms and strong gusty winds prevented the crew from doing their work as monsoon season had started shortly before shooting. The filming had to be postponed for several weeks.
Woman Walks Ahead
- Rating IMDB – 6.6
- Genre: Drama, western, biography, history
- US production / 2017
- Worldwide gross: $80,912
- Directed by Susannah White
- Cast: Jessica Chastain, Louisa Krause, Boots Southerland, Chask Spencer, Ciarán Hinds, Kindall Charters, Sam Rockwell, Jacob Brown, Luce Raines, Rod Rondo.
Catherine Weldon lives and works in New York City, but suddenly she is faced with her husband’s death. Trying to numb the pain, she goes headlong into the work. Catherine travels to a Native American reservation in order to paint a portrait of the chief of the Lakota tribe, named Sitting Bull.
While doing her job, Catherine Weldon meets the chief of the tribe. He and the charming artist become close, but their lives are threatened by Catherine’s desire to help the tribe to defend its land.
The film is based on real events following the life of Caroline Weldon, an artist and activist committed to the cause of Native Americans.
The Last of the Mohicans
- Rating IMDB – 7.7
- Genre: Action, drama, melodrama, adventure, military
- US production / 1992
- Budget: $40,000,000
- Worldwide gross: $75,505,856
- Directed by Michael Mann
- Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Russell Means, Eric Schweig, Jodhi May, Stephen Waddington, Wes Studi, Maurice Roeves, Patrice Chereau, Edward Blatchford
The film is set during the British and French War. Three hunters from the Mohican Indian tribe show their courage by agreeing to help the colonel’s daughters escape to a British fort. At any moment, this team may be attacked by enemy warriors. Danger awaits at every turn.
Hawkeye falls in love with a girl named Cora. The feelings are mutual. Cora rejects the marriage proposal of British officer, choosing to be with a simple Mohican hunter.
The rough cut of this movie included an explicit sex scene with two lead actors (playing Uncas and Alice). After watching it, the director decided to cut the love scene, because it was so realistic that it resembled a scene from an adult movie.
Comanche Moon (miniseries)
- Rating IMDB – 7.2
- Genre: Drama, Western
- US production / 2008
- Budget: $27,000,000
- Directed by Simon Winser
- Cast: Val Kilmer, Steve Zahn, Karl Urban, Linda Cardellini, Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Griffiths, Ryan Merriman, Ray McKinnon, Keith Robinson, Wes Studi
Two rangers from Texas disrupt the ordinary life of the freedom-loving Comanches. The rangers must find a way to displace the indigenous people so that a new civilization can take their place and large cities can be built on vast lands.
The budget of this mini-series was $27,000,000. The majority of it went to depict the events that took place in Texas in the early 19th century as authentic as possible.
The Lone Ranger
- Rating IMDB – 6.4
- Genre: Western, Adventure, Action, Comedy
- US production / 2013
- Budget: $215,000,000
- Worldwide gross: $260,502,115
- Directed by Gore Verbinski
- Cast: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, Ruth Wilson, Barry Pepper, Helena Bonham Carter, Bryant Prince, Stephen Root, Leon Rippy
Those who have money and can build a railroad get power over the people. But some town people are not willing to let foreign builders onto their land. Tonto and John must not allow their town to become a center of crime and evil, so they intend to oppose it. Tonto ends up in prison, while his friends try to free him.
Many years pass, and the friendship between Tonto and John remains unbreakable. John’s contribution into a common people cause is recognized, but he still follows his only rule as the Lone Ranger – he never takes off his mask.
During the filming, Johnny Depp was injured. A dangerous scene could have ended in tragedy if the horse had stepped on the actor, but the clever animal simply stepped over him. Johnny Depp often recalled that lucky incident in interviews.
- Rating IMDB – 6.50
- Genre: Thriller, Adventure, Western
- US production / 2003
- Budget: $65,000,000
- Worldwide gross: $38,364,277
- Directed by Ron Howard
- Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Cate Blanchett, Evan Rachel Wood, Aaron Eckhart, Jenna Boyd, Val Kilmer, Sergio Calderon, Eric Schweig, Steve Reavis, Jay Tavare
Many years ago, Samuel Jones did something he regretted. He abandoned his family to live with the Indians. Samuel Jones put his desires above the interests of his family and left his young daughter behind. Now she holds a grudge against him.
Even his return does not make things better. Maggie is not going to patch the relationship with her father, as he was absent for almost all her life. But Maggie’s daughter got kidnapped, and she has no choice but to turn to her father for help. Will Samuel Jones be able to save his granddaughter?
Tommy Lee Jones and Eric Schweig had to learn a few phrases in the Apache language, and they managed to do it.
- Rating IMDB – 6.60
- Genre: Adventure
- Production Canada / 2013
- Directed by Michel Paulette
- Cast: Roseanne Supernault, Eric Schweig, Graham Greene, Tantu Cardinal, Flint Eagle, Peter Miller, Natar Ungalaak, Lameh Kadlu
Maina is a young and charming girl. She lives among a tribe of native North American Indians. Maina is used to the fact that Indians lead a strange way of life worshipping spirits and conducting rituals. The girl is forced to live with the Indians because her father moved here after breaking off a relationship with his previous wife.
One day Maina’s quiet life comes to an end. An enemy kills her father so that the girl can become his wife. Maina runs away. There is a lot of challenges that lie ahead of her, but she will be able to prevail and find a true love.
Following the movie’s release, there were a number of audience reviews pointing out that this is a movie about true love rather than Indians. Maina is based on a novel by Canadian writer Dominique Demer.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
- Rating IMDB – 7.10
- Genre: Drama, Western, History
- US production / 2007
- Directed by Yves Simonot
- Cast: Adam Beach, Aidan Quinn, August Schellenberg, Anna Paquin, Colm Feore, Fred Dalton Thompson, Chevez Ezaneh, Gordon Tootusis, Wes Studi, J.K. Simmons
There once was a bloody confrontation at Woonded Knee Creek, where most of the tribe’s warriors were killed.
The white men won a crushing victory, using firearms against the Native Americans armed with bows and spears, and finally broke the resistance of the chiefs.
The tribes had to make compromises and leave their homelands. Some of them decided to try to survive in the harsh modern world, but the Indians would forever lose any chance of returning home. They are no longer masters of these lands.
- Rating IMDB – 7.8
- Genre: Action, thriller, drama, adventure
- Production USA, Mexico, UK / 2006
- Budget: $40,000,000
- Worldwide gross: $120,654,337
- Directed by Mel Gibson
- Cast: Rudy Youngblood, Dahlia Hernandez, Jonathan Brewer, Morris Birdyellowhead, Carlos Emilio Baez, Ramirez Amilcar, Israel Contreras, Israel Rios, Maria Isabel Diaz, Espiridion Acosta Cache
Jaguar Paw lives in the jungle. He is happy with his beloved wife and child, but his calm and quiet life comes to an end when bloodthirsty invaders storm into the village. The young warrior manages to save his wife and child, but falls into a trap. His father is killed right in front of his eyes.
Jaguar Paw faces death at the hands of a priest, who beheads captives as a sacrifice to the gods. But the protagonist is not about to give up, and makes his escape.
For the director, it was important that the actors (and even the extras) look exactly like the Mesoamericans of the pre-Columbian era. During the casting, filming crew managed to find real descendants of Mayans who did not speak any other languages and had never been to big cities.
The New World
- Rating IMDB – 6.7
- Genre: Drama, melodrama, biography, history
- US, UK production / 2005
- Budget: $30,000,000
- Worldwide gross: $30,508,524
- Directed by Terrence Malick
- Cast: Colin Farrell, Christian Bale, Q’orianka Kilcher, Christopher Plummer, Wes Studi, David Thewlis, Noah Taylor, Ben Chaplin, Jonathan Pryce, August Schellenberg
John Smith is sentenced to death. But the luck is on his side, so he is pardoned. British government is interested in the colonizing new lands, so John, along with other people, sails to the island. The ship arrives at its destination, and the passengers are weary from the journey. They are exhausted and vulnerable.
The men are afraid of wild animals living and hunting nearby. John Smith finds himself in the woods, accidentally seeing a beautiful girl. It is the daughter of the chief of the local tribe. She saves John from a certain death, but they cannot be together.
The production of this film spanned over long 40 years. The director wrote the script in 1975, but during casting, he couldn’t find the right actress for the lead role. This is the main reason the shooting was postponed for a few decades.
- Rating IMDB – 5.9
- Genre: Drama
- US production / 2004
- Directed by Rick Schroder
- Cast: Eddie Spears, Russell Means, Julia Jones, Tim McGraw, Rick Schroder, Peter Green, Pooch Hall, Nathaniel Arcand, Wayne Knight, Sajino Grant
A young Navajo man named Black Cloud decides to go against the age-old traditions of his tribe and become a boxer. He has been in good health since childhood, and now his physical condition allows him to step into the ring.
Black Cloud falls in love with Sammy, the ex-girlfriend of the hot-tempered cowboy Eddie. There comes a huge trouble into the young boxer’s life.
Eddie Spears, who played the lead part, has been very careful about his physical fitness, because overeating and skipping workouts would negatively affect the filming process.
- Rating IMDB – 7.6
- Genre: Fantasy, drama
- Production USA, Canada, Germany / 2003
- Budget: $40,000,000
- Directed by Steve Barron
- Cast: August Schellenberg, Eddie Spears, Gary Farmer, John Trudell, Chask Spencer, Teneil Whiskeyjack, Alex Rice, Michael Greyes, Tantu Cardinal, Dakota House
Pete has lived peacefully for many years, and now he meets his old age. The only concern he has is that Pete has no one to pass the stories of his Indian tribe to. His seventeen-year-old grandson is only interested in money and owes his buddies a large sum of money.
One day Pete asks his grandson to take him to another state. The journey changes the young boy’s mind forever.
Following the film’s release, audiences thanked the director Steve Barron for the accurate portrayal of Native American life and traditions. The movie received good reviews.
Stolen Women, Captured Hearts
- Rating IMDB – 7.3
- Genre: Drama, Romance, Western
- US production / 1997
- Directed by Jerry London
- Cast: Janine Turner, Jean Louisa Kelly, Patrick Bergin, William Shockley, Michael Greyeyes, Rodney A. Grant, Saginaw Grant, William Lightning, Dennis Weaver, Kateri Walker
Anna travels to her fiancé, but her carriage is attacked by warriors of the Lakota tribe. One of the Indians falls in love with Anna and realizes that his prophecy has come true. The Indians only let the girls go because there is a pregnant woman among them who is due to give birth. Then Anna and another girl are kidnapped.
Anna begins to fall in love with the Indian, but suddenly the girls are rescued and are set free.
This movie is based on real events that took place in Kansas in the late 19th century.
- Rating IMDB – 7.6
- Genre: Fantasy, Drama, Adventure, Western
- USA, Germany, Japan production / 1995
- Budget: $9,000,000
- US fees: $1,037,847
- Directed by Jim Jarmusch
- Cast: Johnny Depp, Gary Farmer, Crispin Glover, Lance Henriksen, Michael Wincott, Eugene Beard, John Hurt, Robert Mitchum, Iggy Pop, Gabriel Byrne
William Blake moves to another city to work as an accountant, but finds out he’s too late. Another candidate has already taken his position. Blake walks into a bar where he meets a girl. They end up at her house, but her ex-boyfriend shows up. A bloody brawl ensues leaving Blake as the lone survivor. He is being hunted because he murdered a man.
Blake runs away and hides in the woods where he is found by a hermit Indian. The Native American takes the wounded young man as the incarnation of the English poet William Blake and decides to help him pass to the spirit world with honor.
Dead Man has an unusually large budget for the genre, and producers had to find a major portion of it through European investors. Unfortunately, the movie flopped at the box office.
Last of the Dogmen
- Rating IMDB – 7.0
- Genre: Adventure, Western
- Production USA, Mexico, Canada / 1995
- US fees: $7,024,389
- Directed by Tab Murphy
- Cast: Tom Berenger, Barbara Hershey, Kurtwood Smith, Steve Reavis, Andrew Miller, Gregory Scott Cummins, Mark Boone Junior, Helen Calahzen, Eugene Blackbeer, Dawn Lavan
Lewis tracks down dangerous criminals. At one point, just when he thinks he almost got them, the spy finds an Indian arrow. Lewis turns to Lillian for help.
She is an archaeologist who feels a great sympathy for Lewis. They are convinced that a lost world with hidden tribes might still exist. Lewis and Lillian set out in search of it.
The original title of the film was “Two People. One Mystery… Hidden for a Hundred Years”. The director came up with a shorter title, and this phrase became one of the taglines.
Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale
- Rating IMDB – 6.1
- Genre: Drama, adventure, family, biography
- Production USA, Canada / 1994
- Budget: $19,200,000
- Worldwide gross: $3,342,223
- Directed by Xavier Koller
- Cast: Adam Beach, Sheldon Peters Wolfchild, Irene Bedard, Eric Schweig, Leroy Peltier, Michael Gambon, Nathaniel Parker, Alex Norton, Mark Margolis, Julian Richings
The British sailors known for their prejudices against the Indians devise a plan to steal the young chief. They carry out their vile plan and take him to London to perform in a circus for money. The chief escapes and ends up in a monastery. There the man realizes that he is finally surrounded by good people.
This film has been called a historically inaccurate adventure drama.
Tecumseh: The Last Warrior
- Rating IMDB – 6.8
- Genre: Drama, Western, Biography
- US production / 1995
- Directed by Larry Elycann
- Cast: Jesse Borrego, David Clennon, Tantu Cardinal, Gregory Norman Cruz, Lorne Cardinal, Tyleen Forest Flower, Geri Arredondo, Lawrence Bain, Keith Flippen, Graham Harrington
The Americans are trying to take territory from the Shawnee Indians. Indian chief Tecumseh cannot allow foreigners to sneak into his territory. He suggests that the tribes unite against the enemy. Will they be able to stand their ground the invaders?
The movie received a low rating partly because of the abundance of fight scenes, brutality and violence.
- Rating IMDB – 7.1
- Genre: Drama, Adventure, War, History
- Production Canada, Australia / 1991
- US fees: $8,211,952
- Directed by Bruce Beresford
- Cast: Lother Bluto, Aden Young, Sandrine Holt, August Schellenberg, Tantu Cardinal, Billy Two Rivers, Lawrence Bain, Harrison Liu, Wesley Kote, Frank Wilson
LaForgue is a priest with an important mission: he has to convert the Huron Indians to the true faith. He moves to the distant lands. The road is dangerous, so the priest is going there accompanied with the chief, who brought his beautiful wife, a son and a daughter with him.
It was a great challenge to find investors for this film, as no one believed that the subject of religion could interest a modern viewer. Then a multiple Academy Awards winner Bruce Beresford agreed to direct Black Robe. Finding necessary funds was no longer a problem as everyone realized that this movie was going to be one of the greatest films about Native Americans.
Son of the Morning Star
- Rating IMDB – 7.4
- Genre: Western, biography, history
- US production / 1991
- Directed by Mike Robe
- Cast: Gary Cole, Rosanna Arquette, Stanley Anderson, Edward Blatchford, George Dickerson, Rodney A. Grant, Tom O’Brien, Terry O’Quinn, Nick Ramus, Tim Ransome
George Armstrong Custer is a violent man. He hides behind his so-called high morals while following the U.S. government orders and killing Native Americans mercilessly. In this war, the general dies with his unit, and his final battle takes place on the Little Bighorn River in 1876.
The film received Emmy Awards in three categories it was nominated in.
Dances with the Wolves
- Rating IMDB – 8.0
- Genre: Drama, Western, Adventure, War, History
- US, UK production / 1990
- Budget: $22,000,000
- Worldwide gross: $424,208,848
- Directed by Kevin Costner
- Cast: Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene, Rodney A. Grant, Floyd ‘Red Crow’ Westerman, Tantu Cardinal, Robert Pastorelli, Charles Rocket, Maury Chaikin, Jimmy Herman
An American Army lieutenant named John Dunbar is seriously wounded. He is now unable to continue to serve in his former position. He is assigned to another duty station, on the U.S. western border, where the conditions are even worse.
By chance, John meets some nomadic Native Americans. They are quite peaceful and offering their help, while John gradually realizes that it may be his ticket to a brand-new life.
The movie received several Oscar awards and a fair share of criticism for actors’ pronunciation of Sioux tribe language that was not authentic enough.