Tony Hillerman Movies

Sunday, April 3 by Samantha Assad

Tony Hillerman movies are suspenseful mysteries with cleverly woven Native American themes. Tony Hillerman, who won numerous awards for his Navajo Nation Police detective novels, saw his works translated into movies on both the big and small screens. "Dark Wind" had a wide release, while "Skinwalkers," "Coyote Waits" and "A Thief of Time" were TV movies made by PBS.

  1. "Dark Wind" (1991): Officer Jim Chee (Lou Diamond Philips) works for the Navajo police, helping to keep the peace on land used by both the Navajo and the Hopi Indians in Arizona. Cowboy Dashee (Gary Farmer), from the Hopi law enforcement, discovers a badly decayed body in the desert and decides the unknown victim is connected to a recent theft at a local reservation, but the reservation owner is positive a Navajo drug dealer is behind the robbery. Officer Chee must work with the Hopis and his instincts to reveal the trail to the real murderer and the identity of his victim. "Dark Wind" is based on the 1982 Hillerman novel of the same name.
  2. "Skinwalkers" (2002): Three medicine men in the Navajo community have been brutally killed, and it's up to Officer Jim Chee (Adam Beach) and Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn (Wes Studi) to find the person responsible in this adaptation of Hillerman's 1986 novel. Clues left behind at the scene of the murders lead the officers to believe a Navajo witchcraft practicer, or "skinwalker," was involved. Leaphorn does not believe in "evil superstitions," while Chee is mired in the old traditions, but both must work together to find the killer before they become victims themselves.
  3. "Coyote Waits" (2003): "Coyote Waits," based on the 1990 Hillerman novel, once again follows Lieutenant Leaphorn (Wes Studi) and Officer Chee (Adam Beach). This time, the two are investigating the murder of another officer, whose body was found in the desert. A drunk suspect wandering the road nearby seems like the obvious culprit, but not everything is as simple as it seems.
  4. "A Thief of Time" (2004): Leaphorn (Wes Studi) and Chee (Adam Beach) are knee-deep in the dark world of black market artifacts while trying to locate a missing anthropologist who appeared to be auctioning off rare pottery to the highest bidder. The film was based on Hillerman's 1988 novel.