10 Best American Indian Movies Of All Time

Wednesday, January 26 by Shawn Lealos

The best American Indian movies of all time involve portraying the Native Americans in a positive light while remaining entertaining and thought provoking films. Some of the movies went on to win awards while others are remembered as curiosities but all live in the history of cinema as some of the best movies of all time.

  1. “Dances with Wolves” – Kevin Costner directed this movie, which was nominated for twelve Oscars, winning seven of them, making it one of the best American Indian movies of all time. The movie has one of the most realistic portrayals of American Indian life, stretching over three hours of running time.
  2. “Last of the Mohicans”Daniel Day-Lewis stars in this, one of the best American Indian movies of all time. Day-Lewis is Hawkeye, an adopted son of a Mohican Indian family called upon to fight in the French and Indian War. While the Michael Mann directed film was widely lauded, it only received one Oscar nomination, which it won for Best Sound..
  3. “Little Big Man”Dustin Hoffman plays Jack Crabbe in this, one of the best American Indian movies of all time. Jack was a child when his family was murdered by the Pawnees but he was taken in and raised by the Cheyenne. The movie shows Jack as he splits is between his Cheyenne family and the white men.
  4. “Fort Apache” – John Wayne stars in this western, which is one of the best American Indian movies of all time. The film, directed by legendary director John Ford, presents Wayne as a military captain who tries to warn his troupe of the power of the Apaches. The movie paints the Indians in a positive light but is also a message about revisionist history as written by the winners.
  5. “Nanook of the North” – Nanook of the North is one of the earliest known documentary films, created in 1922 and one of the best American Indian movies of all time. While the movie is not a true documentary, much of the events taking place were staged by filmmakers, it is a great look at the Inuit people in their natural environment.
  6. “The New World” – Oscar nominated filmmaker Terrence Malick directs this look at Pocahontas, one of the best American Indian movies of all time. Colin Farrell stars as Captain Smith while Christopher Plummer and Christian Bale co-star in this clash between Native Americans and English settlers.
  7. “The Fast Runner” – This movie is about the life and rituals of the Inuit, one of the best American Indian movies of all time. The movie is over three hours long and leisurely paced, not everyone’s cup of tea but worth it to anyone with the patience to sit through it.
  8. “Smoke Signals” – Chris Eyre directs this 1998 independent film, one of the best American Indian movies of all time. The movie is a story of a group of young Native American men who take a road trip when one of their father’s die.
  9. “Apache” – “Apache” follows the true story of an Apache warrior in the days following Geronimo’s final surrender, one of the best American Indian movies of all time. Burt Lancaster stars as Massai with themes of racism and individual freedom in the face of adversity.
  10. “Apocalypto” – “Apocalypto” tells the story of the South American Indians during the Mayan civilization, one of the best American Indian movies of all time. Mel Gibson directs the movie, in which all the actors speak in the dead language of the ancient Mayans.

Comments Closed

COMMENTS

  1. January 26, 2011 6:43 am

    Ziashyn

    you forgot “Pow Wow highway”


  2. January 26, 2011 6:43 am

    Burnt Swamp

    Your standards for what qualifies as Indigenous films is highly skewed. Who or what body/agency/institution actually picked these films based on the purported criteria stated above? How many of the films are actually written, directed, and/or cast actual Indigenous people? How many of the top-ten films actually circumvent any of the conventional stereotypes of Indigenous people? In fact, “The Fast Runner” and “Smoke Signals” are the only two films that don’t fall into this category. Equally important, how many Indigenous people qualify your film list as “Indigenous films” as opposed to films that have Indigenous-based themes in the films’ narratives?


  3. January 26, 2011 6:43 am

    John Comalatte

    Are you kidding me…this list is crap with the exception of: “Smoke Signals,” “The Last of the Mohicans,” and “The Fast Runner.”


  4. January 26, 2011 6:43 am

    uproar

    Another film I would add–”Black Robe”. An amazingly realistic film about the Haudenosaunee and their early experience with the Jesuit missionaries.


  5. January 26, 2011 6:43 am

    Uproar

    One film I’m glad isn’t on the list–”Skins”. A very bad film based on a very good book. Didn’t do it justice, not even close. I’m just really not impressed with Chris Ayres as a director….not sure I’d put “Smoke Signals” on the list. Cour d’Alene people with Lakota accents, obsessing about Little Big Horn even though the Cour d’Alene had nothing to do with it….because, well, Native Americans sit around all day, making numerous references to Little Big Horn regardless of what nation they are from….and they all live in tepees, too. Sorry, just seemed like a stereotype. The film really annoyed me.


  6. January 26, 2011 6:43 am

    Knifechief11

    There are many, many other films you missed and some on your list are just what i would expect mainstream people to pick!! Why not let Native American Indians pick? The’re list will be quite different! The New World? Are you serious? several of these movies had whites portraying Indians or had other flaws. Where is “Windwalker?” where is other independent films that truly portray us as real people? You do have” Smoke Signals” but where is “Pow-wow Highway?”