Opening

90% Guardians of the Galaxy Aug 01
81% Get On Up Aug 01
88% Calvary Aug 01
0% Behaving Badly Aug 01
36% Child Of God Aug 01

Top Box Office

59% Lucy $43.9M
62% Hercules $29.8M
91% Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes $16.8M
57% The Purge: Anarchy $10.5M
43% Planes: Fire And Rescue $9.5M
18% Sex Tape $6.1M
17% Transformers: Age of Extinction $4.7M
16% And So It Goes $4.6M
23% Tammy $3.5M
90% A Most Wanted Man $2.7M

Coming Soon

—— Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Aug 08
88% Step Up: All In Aug 08
—— Into The Storm Aug 08
—— The Hundred-Foot Journey Aug 08
87% What If Aug 08

Premieres Tonight

90% The Honorable Woman: Season 1

New Episodes Tonight

100% Defiance: Season 2
40% Dominion: Season 1
41% Gang Related: Season 1
86% Maron: Season 2
56% Married: Season 1
94% Rectify: Season 2
—— Rookie Blue: Season 5
39% Rush: Season 1
82% Satisfaction: Season 1
85% Welcome to Sweden: Season 1
41% Working the Engels: Season 1
77% You're the Worst: Season 1

Discuss Last Night's Shows

86% The Bridge (FX): Season 2
91% The Divide: Season 1
83% Extant: Season 1
—— Graceland: Season 2
—— Hot in Cleveland: Season 5
50% Jennifer Falls: Season 1
—— Motive: Season 2
69% Mystery Girls: Season 1
—— Rogue: Season 2
100% Suits: Season 4
38% Taxi Brooklyn: Season 1
—— Wilfred: Season 4
43% Young & Hungry: Season 1

Dances With Wolves (1990)

tomatometer

81

Average Rating: 7.3/10
Reviews Counted: 63
Fresh: 51 | Rotten: 12

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

75

Average Rating: 7/10
Critic Reviews: 16
Fresh: 12 | Rotten: 4

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

audience

87

liked it
Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 211,501

My Rating

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

PG-13,

Western, Drama, Action & Adventure

Michael Blake

Jun 17, 2003

Orion Pictures

Watch It Now

Cast

Latest News on Dances With Wolves

May 9, 2008:
Viggo Cutting in on Dances With Wolves Sequel?
Director Simon Wincer is rumored to be working on a sequel to Dances With Wolves -- with Viggo...
February 26, 2007:
How Does "The Departed" Rank Among Oscar's Best?
So Martin Scorsese finally has his long-overdue, much-deserved Oscar. But where does "The...

ADVERTISEMENT

Friend Ratings

No Friends? Inconceivable! Log in to see what your friends have to say.

All Critics (63) | Top Critics (16) | Fresh (51) | Rotten (12) | DVD (35)

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.

January 13, 2014 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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.

January 13, 2014 Full Review Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A slow-moving but well-acted western.

January 13, 2014 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Dances With Wolves is a clear-eyed vision. Authentic as an Edward Curtis photograph, lyrical as a George Catlin oil or a Karl Bodmer landscape, this is a film with a pure ring to it.

February 22, 2013 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Costner tells a personal story that never loses touch with the vast Western spaces encompassing and defining it. Dances With Wolves is an epic that breathes. And it's a beauty.

February 22, 2013 Full Review Source: Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone
Top Critic IconTop Critic

As a director, Costner is alive to the sweep of the country and the expansive spirit of the western-movie tradition.

February 20, 2009 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine | Comment (1)
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

In an age when most movies are made by people who used to shoot commercials or music videos, the panoramic vistas of Dances with Wolves are an enjoyable reminder of the potential of the big screen.

January 13, 2014 Full Review Source: Philadelphia Daily News
Philadelphia Daily News

Dances With Wolves runs a fraction more than three hours but justifies its running time.

January 13, 2014 Full Review Source: Baltimore Sun
Baltimore Sun

To say this movie is sporadically artful is to say that it is more interesting than most films around these days. But it is still a failure, if a glorious one.

January 13, 2014 Full Review Source: People Magazine
People Magazine

This is a marvel from beginning to end.

January 13, 2014 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

Once in a long time, a movie speaks to the truths of U.S. history and causes the filmgoer to see past events in a new light. Dances With Wolves is such a movie.

January 13, 2014 Full Review Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

For all its worthiness and pictorial beauty, the narrative is damaged somewhat by Costner's over-cautious, sentimentalised portrait of the Sioux as early eco-warriors.

February 22, 2013 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

This is a western in the grand tradition, smoothly directed by Kevin Costner, who also gives a sensitive performance in the leading role. The screenplay is often trite, however.

February 22, 2013 Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor

Costner went for broke with his large-scale, Panavision epic... [Blu-ray]

February 21, 2011 Full Review Source: Groucho Reviews
Groucho Reviews

a nuanced and thoughtful portrayal of cultures both clashing and finding common ground

January 22, 2011 Full Review Source: Q Network Film Desk
Q Network Film Desk

Dances with Wolves is as genuine an artistic triumph as they come; a spellbinding American classic that tastes the tears of a country in the midst of all its incomparable beauty.

January 20, 2011 Full Review Source: BrianOrndorf.com
BrianOrndorf.com

A masterful, painstakingly crafted adventure about the nature of acceptance, and the tragedy of human nature.

January 16, 2011 Full Review Source: IGN DVD
IGN DVD

A grand, sweeping journey of the heart.

January 2, 2011 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

Plodding, simplistic and overlong politically correct Western epic.

March 2, 2008 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews | Comments (10)
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

The film's real joy rests in Costner's meticulous attention to historical detail, creating a world that is both moving and credible.

February 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

Audience Reviews for Dances With Wolves

Costner's half-hearted media apology to the Indian nation for the atrocities committed against them in the name of unrivaled,
unapologetic, rapacious greed (for which the people of One Nation Under God have made good - not) makes for a nice pass of time even if the lead characters are ironically Caucasians (though adopted by Native Americans). My favorite sequence: the sweeping Remington inspired Buffalo Hunt.
May 28, 2013
ApeneckFletcher

Super Reviewer

It may be a clichéd complaint, but more often than not the Academy has got the Best Picture Oscar dead wrong. Sometimes, as with Crash, their mistake is obvious and the outcry is instant; on other occasions, as with Citizen Kane, both the Academy and the public have taken time to see the error of their ways. And then we have Dances with Wolves, which beat Goodfellas to the big gong to deny Martin Scorsese his Oscar for a third time. While not as crass a mistake as the others, time has not been kind to Kevin Costner's debut, which now seems long on principle but short on actual story.

The obvious way to prey on Dances with Wolves would be to attack Costner's subsequent career. His later efforts behind the camera have left a lot to be desired, with Waterworld running hugely over budget and The Postman being the dictionary definition of tedious. His acting style and drawling delivery suggest a man who takes himself far too seriously, rivalling only Nicolas Cage for stony-faced absurdity. But a quick glance at his back catalogue reveals a slightly more complicated picture. Lest we forget, Costner was once an admired and popular actor, who acquitted himself perfectly well in No Way Out, The Untouchables and Field of Dreams. And for all the gaping flaws in his directorial efforts, you could never accuse him of going in with anything but the very best intentions.

The most obvious quality of Dances with Wolves is that it is very even-handed towards its subject matter. It approaches the relationship between Native Americans and American soldiers with the same restraint and intelligence that Clint Eastwood applied to the subject of revenge in Unforgiven. There has clearly been a lot of effort expended by Costner and the writer Michael Blake to get away from the clichéd depiction of Native Americans as a backward, violent people, who deserved everything they got from the brave, civilised white men driving them off the land in the name of God and Progress.

You also have to applaud Costner's ambition as a director. There are few actors, let alone big stars, who would have taken on such a big project first time out. Costner was shooting in mostly external locations for four months, including several elaborate sequences with hundreds of real horses and buffalo. His commitment was such that he nearly broke his back from doing his own stunts, and stumped up over $3m of his own money to cover the costs incurred by bad weather. Costner was prepared to take risks with Dances with Wolves, and that deserves praise regardless of whether the film works or not.

A further point of admiration comes in Costner's decision to have much of the dialogue spoken in the Lakota language. The fact that the film grossed more than $400m worldwide, and $184m domestically, is a massive raspberry to the notion that Western audiences won't pay to watch films that aren't in the English language. But it also proves that the respect for the different cultures within the film is genuine, not just a device for boosting Costner's artistic standing. This remains the case even after Russell Means pointed out the flawed translations, which left all the men in the film speaking in the female Sioux dialect.

In terms of the admiration it generates, Dances with Wolves is in the same league as Battle of Britain in terms of pure good will. But like Battle of Britain, this admiration does not guarantee good drama, and little by little Costner's film begins to look earnest to the point of being dul. It ends up stuck halfway between Unforgiven and Heaven's Gate, being neither as gripping nor elegiac as the former, nor as wretchedly pretentious as the latter. It never becomes as well-meaningly dull as Battle of Britain, but its flaws in terms of pacing and emotion cannot help but prey on our minds.

The first 45 minutes of Dances with Wolves are very slow and very portentous. Costner is clearly pulling out all the stops to make us admire and believe in the character of John Dunbar, but he ends up both trying too hard and not enough. The opening battle sequence features Costner attempting suicide by riding straight at the Confederate front line with his arms held out in a messianic pose - a decision which results in sniggers or sneers rather than feelings of empathy. In the various scenes that follow, where Dunbar is sent out to the frontier, too much effort is expended trying to express his bravery and not enough made on showing him as a rounded human being.

When I reviewed (500) Days of Summer, I argued that the presence of a narrator in any kind of film creates an element of certainty which can sometimes work against dramatic tension. In the case of Dances with Wolves, one could argue it is necessary since the diary is integral to the later stages of the plot. But while it is partially justified on a narrative level, Costner's delivery of it is frankly third-rate. His readings feel rushed and increasingly desperate, as he tries to convey the gravity of the situation without much success.

The narration aside, there is precious little about Dances with Wolves which is rushed. At just over 3 hours long (4 hours in its Director's Cut), comparisons with Heaven's Gate are unavoidable; the project was even nicknamed 'Kevin's Gate' after the production delays were leaked to the press. Costner's film is nowhere near as baggy as Heaven's Gate, let alone as self-serving, but it is every bit as drawn out, especially in its final act. Had Kevin gone through with a pair of scissors and lost even 30 seconds from every scene, it would have made a world of difference.

The biggest problem with Dances with Wolves is that it constantly tells us how important the events are without doing enough to show us why this is the case. There are many beautiful or poignant images throughout, from the hundreds of dead buffalo lying on the plains to the couple's departure from the winter camp. But these images don't carry the weight that they should because we haven't invested enough in the characters to make them any more than pretty compositions.

The film is so respectful towards the Sioux that it is almost hesitant to scratch the surface and ask the difficult questions about how their society works, such as the relationship between fathers and sons, and the position of women. This is understandable up to a point, considering the negative depiction of Native Americans in Hollywood throughout the 20th century - a fact which, if you believe Marlon Brando, led him to turn down his second Oscar. But you would think that if Costner were brave enough to embark on something of such scale and ambition, the last thing he would be worried about was mildly offending people.

Fortunately, the film does pick up after the first 45 minutes and has moments where the action and characters do take flight. Many of these scenes find Costner willing to let his hair down, whether it's dancing with Two Socks around the camp fire or giving audiences a clear view of his naked bottom. It is hard not to get swept up in the chases scene across the plains, diligently matched by John Barry's stirring score. And some of the lighter moments within the camp help us to relax as well; when Dunbar interrupts Kicking Bird's nearby lovemaking, Graham Greene's facial expression says it all.

The romantic aspect of Dances with Wolves is well-played for an epic, if only because the central relationship develops at a reasonable rate. We don't get that agonising sensation as in Out of Africa, where we know the characters are meant to kiss and are begging them to get on with it. The scenes of Stands with a Fist interpreting between Dunbar and Kicking Bird are well-played, serving their purpose while conveying the sexual tension between the characters. Their relationship conveys the conflicted identity of the central characters and the possibility of future harmony between the nations.

Dances with Wolves is ultimately a very middling film. It's too long to adequately serve its story, but not so long that we lose all patience with it. Its respect for its characters undercuts the drama, but not to the extent that we sit there drifting into a coma. And its direction is uninvolving, but not in an artsy, egotistical way. Calling it an average or ordinary film is to belie Costner's ambition, but any higher praise is impossible in light of its flaws. It remains significant but not stirring, admirable but not engaging, important but not profound.
December 26, 2011
Daniel Mumby
Daniel Mumby

Super Reviewer

If DANCES WITH WOLVES were truncated by a half hour or so, it would have been much greater than it is. Just about every film has its boring moments, but with this one, the last forty minutes, give or take, are uninteresting. Do we really have to watch the main character and his Indian girlfriend make love for minutes on end? Do those battles need to be that endless? It gets tiring and extraneous. Try GLORY if you want to see the Civil War put to the screen in a fashion that is better than just decent.

Full Review: http://wp.me/p1Urcx-y3
December 18, 2011
spielberg00

Super Reviewer

    1. Lt. John W. Dunbar: If it wasn't for my companion, I believe I'd be having the time of my life.
    – Submitted by Adam O (10 months ago)
    1. Lt. John W. Dunbar: Dunbar, not Dumb Bear.
    – Submitted by Adam O (10 months ago)
    1. Stands With a Fist: My place is with you. I go where you go.
    – Submitted by Adam O (10 months ago)
    1. Kicking Bird: I was just thinking that of all the trails in this life, there are some that matter most. It is the trail of a true human being. I think you are on this trail, and it is good to see.
    – Submitted by Adam O (10 months ago)
    1. Lt. John W. Dunbar: The strangeness of this life cannot be measured: in trying to produce my own death, I was elevated to the status of a living hero.
    – Submitted by Adam O (10 months ago)
    1. Lt. John W. Dunbar: I've always wanted to see the frontier.
    – Submitted by Alex K (21 months ago)
View all quotes (11)

Discussion Forum

Discuss Dances With Wolves on our Movie forum!

What's Hot On RT

Total Recall
Total Recall

Nine Movies That Bring the Funk

Weekly Binge
Weekly Binge

Watch Arrested Development

SpongeBob's Back!
SpongeBob's Back!

See trailer for his 3D adventure

24 Frames
24 Frames

Photo gallery of great movie spaceships

Mad Max
Mad Max

See full trailer for Fury Road

Foreign Titles

  • Der mit dem Wolf tanzt (DE)
  • Danse Avec Les Loups (FR)
Find us on:                     
Help | About | Jobs | Critics Submission | Press | API | Licensing | Mobile