Smoke Signals (1998) - Rotten Tomatoes

Smoke Signals (1998)

Smoke Signals



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Smoke Signals Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

The unavoidable synopsis -- two young American Indians leave the reservation to resolve their problems and to find themselves -- belies the poetry of this well-acted, well-directed and largehearted movie.more
Rating: PG-13 (For some intense images)
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Special Interest
Directed By:
Written By: Sherman Alexie
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jul 27, 1999
Miramax Films


Adam Beach
as Victor Joseph
Evan Adams
as Thomas Builds-the-Fi...
Irene Bedard
as Suzy Song
Tantoo Cardinal
as Arlene Joseph
John Trudell
as Randy Peone
Cody Lightning
as Young Victor Joseph
Simon R. Baker
as Young Thomas Builds-...
Monica Mojica
as Grandma Builds-the-F...
Leonard George
as Lester Fallsapart
Monique Mojica
as Grandma Builds-the-F...
Michael Greyeyes
as Junior Polatkin
Cynthia Geary
as Cathy The Gymnast
Tom Skerritt
as Police Chief
Todd Jamieson
as Jesuit No. 1
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Smoke Signals

Critic Reviews for Smoke Signals

All Critics (48) | Top Critics (11)

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Detroit News
Top Critic

It was shocking to realize that as late as 1998, this was still one of the few movies made by insiders, written, directed, and acted by Native Americans. The father-son narrative is conventional but it has humor and is well acted.

Full Review… | December 2, 2006

A brilliantly performed movie....Beach is a knockout

May 6, 2005

Native American themed story has great moments

October 23, 2004
Kansas City Kansan

Audience Reviews for Smoke Signals


Sherman Alexie is one of most important Native American fiction writers of the past century, and with this adaptation of his short story we see the real strife of these people, living in reservations. The film follows a young man (Beach) and an old friend (Adams) who take a road trip to put his father to rest. The film deals with prevalent issues in the Native American community including poverty, alcoholism, and racism from a heavily white population. Having Native American protagonists and a heavily NA cast is pretty unheard of in many films, even recently, and seeing this story made is really quite interesting. The story is a little rushed, as the journey takes a short amount of time. Most of what we see is Victor (Beach) trying to understand the legacy that his father has left for him. We see a transformation, but it goes by so fast that it's hard to savor exactly what has occurs before the story inevitably ends. We're also not sure what either Thomas or Victor will ultimately do now that this "adventure" has taken place. It just doesn't have the strength behind it that the original story invokes.

Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

I recently finished reading Sherman Alexie's "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" and felt compelled to revisit Smoke Signals for about the 8th or 9th time. I love this film a little more every time I view it, which is easy to do considering that the first time I saw it I just wasn't that impressed. I had felt that, in their quest to have the first "All Indian" movie, they had sacrificed a little quality and technical expertise. Maybe I still feel that's true but it's not something I notice much any more. Now I find myself engrossed in the rich characters, especially Arnold (Evan Adams). Arnold is a misfit and yet he might be the most 'indian' character in the entire ensemble. He's bright, he's introspective, and he's terribly, terribly honest. Even when he's embellishing stories he is still exposing truths.

Much like it's screenwriter, Smoke Signals is deceptively deep, intelligent and philosophical even if it's not perfectly crafted. .

Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer


All right...objectively, this is just not a very good movie. The two main characters are an unlikable prick and an unlikable nerd, respectively, and the themes are telegraphed and insultingly obvious. But Smoke Signals is important simply because of its lineage - and even though it's not that great, it's a difficult film to dislike. It's very earnest.

I guess if your only exposure to Native Americans in film is, like, Indian in the Cupboard, this movie would be well worth seeing. As a cinematic craft, not so much.

Drew Smith

Super Reviewer

Smoke Signals Quotes

Victor Joseph: You gotta look mean, or people won't respect you. White people will run all over you if you don't look mean. You gotta look like a warrior. You goth look like you just came back from killing a buffalo.
Thomas Builds-the-Fire: But our tribe never hunted buffalo. We were fishermen.
– Submitted by Frances H (3 years ago)
Thomas Builds-the-Fire: Hey Victor! I'm sorry 'bout your dad.
Victor Joseph: How'd you hear about it?
Thomas Builds-the-Fire: I heard it on the wind. I heard it from the birds. I felt it in the sunlight. And your mom was just in here cryin'.
– Submitted by Justin B (3 years ago)
Thomas Builds-the-Fire: Hey Victor! I remember the time your father took me to Denny's, and I had the Grand Slam Breakfast. Two eggs, two pancakes, a glass of milk, and of course my favorite, the bacon. Some days, it's a good day to die. And some days, it's a good day to have breakfast.
– Submitted by Justin B (3 years ago)
Thomas Builds-the-Fire: Hey Victor!
– Submitted by Yeleng Sleeps Y (4 years ago)

Discussion Forum

Discuss Smoke Signals on our Movie forum!