Often referred to as America’s “Indians”, the Native Americans were the first inhabitants of the country with an incredibly rich culture and history. However, even with this vibrant heritage, they were often depicted in American culture as the bad guys, becoming the bud of tasteless and culturally offensive jokes. But with the rise of cultural representation and with a newfound recognition in the 21st century, we’ve got a great collection of authentic Native American movies to enjoy. Let’s take a look at some of the best:
Powwow Highway (1989)
Based on David Seals’ novel of the same name, this comedy drama combined the hilarious antics of its protagonist Buddy Red Bow with the relevant social commentary on the controversial Native American land rights.
Dances With Wolves (1990)
This Kevin Costner epic western is the only film about Native Americans to win the Best Picture Oscar. Directed by, produced by, and starring Costner, the film follows a Union Army lieutenant’s dealings with a group of Lakota Indians. It is a film adaptation of the 1988 book of the same name by Michael Blake.
Smoke Signals (1998)
Based on a short story collection by Spokane-Coeur d’Alene writer Sherman Alexie, this film was directed by Cheyenne-Arapaho film director Chris Eyre. It is the funny and heartwarming coming-of-age story of Thomas and Victor who leave the Coeur d’Alene reservation to retrieve the remains of Victor’s long lost father.
Winter in the Blood (2013)
Directed by twin brothers Alex and Andrew Smith, this drama is an adaptation of Great Plains Indian writer James Welch’s 1974 novel. This surreal and jarring film takes an unflinching look at the problems of alcoholism on the reservation through the character of a half-Blackfeet Indian named Virgil.