Dances With Wolves

1990

Dances With Wolves

Critics Consensus

A grand, sweeping epic with inarguably noble intentions and arresting cinematography, but one whose center, arguably, is not as weighty as it should be.

82%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 74

87%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 213,592
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Movie Info

A historical drama about the relationship between a Civil War soldier and a band of Sioux Indians, Kevin Costner's directorial debut was also a surprisingly popular hit, considering its length, period setting, and often somber tone. The film opens on a particularly dark note, as melancholy Union lieutenant John W. Dunbar attempts to kill himself on a suicide mission, but instead becomes an unintentional hero. His actions lead to his reassignment to a remote post in remote South Dakota, where he encounters the Sioux. Attracted by the natural simplicity of their lifestyle, he chooses to leave his former life behind to join them, taking on the name Dances with Wolves. Soon, Dances with Wolves has become a welcome member of the tribe and fallen in love with a white woman who has been raised amongst the tribe. His peaceful existence is threatened, however, when Union soldiers arrive with designs on the Sioux land. Some detractors have criticized the film's depiction of the tribes as simplistic; such objections did not dissuade audiences or the Hollywood establishment, however, which awarded the film seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. ~ Judd Blaise, Rovi

Cast

Kevin Costner
as Lt. John Dunbar
Mary McDonnell
as Stands With a Fist
Graham Greene (II)
as Kicking Bird
Rodney A. Grant
as Wind in His Hair
Tantoo Cardinal
as Black Shawl
Charles Rocket
as Lt. Elgin
Maury Chaykin
as Maj. Fambrough
Wes Studi
as Toughest Pawnee
Kirk Baltz
as Edwards
Jimmy Herman
as Stone Calf
Doris Leader Charge
as Pretty Shield
Tom Everett
as Sgt. Pepper
Larry Joshua
as Sgt. Bauer
Donald Horton
as General Tide
Annie Costner
as Christine
Elisa Daniel
as Christine's Mother
Percy White Plume
as Big Warrior
John Tail
as Escort Warrior
Steve Reevis
as Sioux No. 1/Warrior No. 1
Sheldon Wolfchild
as Sioux No. 2/Warrior No. 2
Redwing Ted Nez
as Sioux Warrior
Marvin Holy
as Sioux Warrior
Raymond Newholy
as Sioux Courier
David J. Fuller
as Kicking Bird's Son
Ryan White Bull
as Kicking Bird's Eldest Son
Otakuye Conroy
as Kicking Bird's Daughter
Maretta Big Crow
as Village Mother
William H. Burton
as General's Aide
Bill W. Curry
as Confederate Cavalryman
Nick Thompson
as Confederate Soldier
Carter Hanner
as Confederate Soldier
Kent Hays
as Wagon Driver
Robert Goldman
as Union Soldier
R.L. Curtin
as Ambush Wagon Driver
View All

News & Interviews for Dances With Wolves

Critic Reviews for Dances With Wolves

All Critics (74) | Top Critics (19) | Fresh (61) | Rotten (13)

  • By never falling into the trap of allowing spectacle to supersede character, Costner's Dances with Wolves restores depth, idealism, poignancy and even wonder to a genre that had long seemed moribund.

    Apr 26, 2018 | Full Review…

    Jay Carr

    Boston Globe
    Top Critic
  • It's an engrossing tale, and Costner directs with the confidence of a Hollywood veteran well aware that entertainment comes before earnestness.

    Feb 6, 2018 | Full Review…

    David Ansen

    Newsweek
    Top Critic
  • This is a big picture in love with our landscape as much as with the Sioux Indians who inhabit it.

    Feb 21, 2015 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • The important issues raised by the film- centered on the cultural, racial and moral struggle that took place on the American frontier-are glossed over in favor of a juvenile fantasy of male bonding around the campfire.

    Jan 13, 2014 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • This collective array of talent has yielded a western that is at once original and traditional. Dances With Wolves looks back to the masterworks of the past and, with its relevance to our present, it deserves to be ranked with them.

    Jan 13, 2014 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • A slow-moving but well-acted western.

    Jan 13, 2014 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Dances With Wolves

  • May 02, 2016
    Fuck this vapid shit. If you honestly like this retarded vanity project then you are too vulnerable to the hype and bullshit of hollywood to understand it, or any other awads bait peice of shit movie made. Goodfellas lost out to this peice of shit, and if that doesn't inspire a profound cynicism of the academy then nothing truly will.
    Super Reviewer
  • Feb 08, 2015
    I watched the extended version of this film, and I just have to say, any film that can run for FOUR HOURS and not come out the other end as boring pile of garbage, is worthy of some pretty serious praise. That said, Dances with Wolves is not really in my wheelhouse, and although it held my attention I can't see myself probably ever watching it again. Costner knows what he's about, and that's great, but a four hour film about American history with strong romance elements is never going to blow me away.
    Gimly M Super Reviewer
  • Apr 03, 2014
    Well, it's not a bad movie, but I didn't really buy into the hype about "Dances with Wolves". It could be entertaining, but it could have been more so. It was decently acted, but it could have had a better draw. Diving right into the story, it follows Lt. John Dunbar, a Civil War soldier who goes on an adventure in the deserted wilderness inhabited by Sioux Indians. When they first meet, there is hostility, of course, over race-related issues. The indians fear that the white man is coming and Dunbar warns them about it. All while being welcomed into their tribe, falling in love with a white woman known as Stands with a Fist, and developing a relationship with nature. All right, a couple of problems right off the bat. This story is absolutely nothing new, I've seen it before. Hollywood's inability to tell a fleshed out well-developed story revolving around race is surprising. It's always the innocent tribe and the greedy white man wanting to take over. There's no real explanation to this, only because they look different they are natural enemies. I'm sure actual historical accounts of this had a deeper meaning, but like other films that do this, it's just "They look different, so we don't like them". Second, Costner isn't bad, but his character isn't really that interesting. I'll get to the positives later, but he just seems sort of bland and a big chunk of the movie is just hearing him write in his diary with not so memorable lines. The third thing I want to bring up is that the film is much too long. And it's rare that I say that because it's just how movies work. It takes a while for the plot, scenery, and characters to fully come into place while also being entertaining. But is there really any need to make this 3 hours long? It's a pretty simple story with most of the characters not having that much intrigue, it could have been at least a little shorter. On top of that, it really had nothing to do with the Civil War, which to me was a disappointment. Now onto the positive aspects, one character that is interesting is Stands With a Fist. The film should really be about her, she's the one with a tragic back story of losing her family and being raised by the tribe. And her existing in the Sioux world creates more drama between the two opposing sides. She's more interesting than the typical pretty girl love interest that is usually in these movies. Next, when the story does revolve around the survival of the Sioux tribe, it gets to be interesting. The scene in particular when they hunt the buffalo is fun to watch, and the insight to a lot of the other cultural rituals they have can look great too. Another notable scene is where Dunbar, or Dances with Wolves, dances around the fire earning him his nickname as the wolf Twosocks comes up. That's one symbolism I got into was his relationship with the wolf, which did point back to the rivalry that the film was about in symbolizing how best to handle the enemy. But those scenes were still entertaining. It's not great, it's not terrible, it's just okay. I just really wanted to like this film more than I did, and for me it was kind of a mixed bag.
    Jackson W Super Reviewer
  • Jul 22, 2013
    Costner's post Wolves reputation has harmed the historical treatment of this film me thinks. It seemed ground breaking at the time but perhaps it was just a better version of Little Big Man. Nonetheless, I think there will be a revival of appreciation a few years hence.
    John B Super Reviewer

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