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Thunderheart (1992)


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Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 2
Fresh: 1 | Rotten: 1



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Average Rating: 3.4/5
User Ratings: 11,907

My Rating

Movie Info

Actor Robert De Niro started a production company to make films just like this one: stories which were unpopular with the establishment and which are unlikely to make a big splash at the box-office. Even so, this is a first-class production, and the filmmakers were the first to receive permission to film on the Pine Ridge (Sioux) Reservation in South Dakota, likely due to director Michael Apted's having previously made an accurate and sensitive documentary about Indian political prisoner Leonard

Nov 7, 2000

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

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All Critics (20) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (13) | Rotten (2) | DVD (3)

Behind the fiction... is a very real history of conflict between Indian activists and the FBI, which culminated in the Wounded Knee siege of 1973...

May 23, 2010 Full Review Source: Turner Classic Movies Online
Turner Classic Movies Online

A fascinating murder mystery story that at the same time brings to our attention the plight of the modern Indians living on the reservation.

May 21, 2010 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Unique film set on Native American reservation and featuring Val Kilmer.

October 16, 2008

One of the best films Val Kilmer has done

July 23, 2008

Enables us to ponder the validity of both the seen and the unseen powers in this world.

August 29, 2002 Full Review Source: Spirituality and Practice
Spirituality and Practice

Audience Reviews for Thunderheart

No dead horse should be continually beaten (not to mention that anyone who beats a live horse should be shot). I believe this. But, EVERY time I see this movie I remember that Kilmer is probably most celebrated for his Doc Holliday performance in Tombstone, and I do agree that his performance is stunning, there. But I tell you true, Kilmer's BEST acting job is right here. I never get tired of watching him grow in this role. Previously: I've been on Flixster for a good little while, so what with my age and all, I'm sometimes very unsure about whether I've commented on a particular movie. I just watched this one for probably at least the tenth time -- although my gut tells me it's more like twenty times -- and I just had to check Flixster to see if I'd actually ever said anything about it. Amazing! I have never said a word about it. I'm sincerely surprised. Even with a favorite movie, you probably understand well that it's sometimes hard to watch it TOO many times, right? I mean it is very interesting, even with some of my very favorite movies, that I'll sometimes start watching them and say to myself something along the lines of, "Ah, maybe not tonight." With Thunderheart, it is never that way for me. I can watch it, and watch it, and then even put up with commercial interruptions, like tonight, to watch it again. I'm not sure how well I can explain all the reasons why I love this movie, but you know me -- I'll give it a shot : ) Val Kilmer is superior as Doc Holliiday in Tombstone, I think some of you might agree. But the beauty of that work, for me, takes a second seat to his performance in this movie. There is something about his difficulty with delivering some of the lines here with conviction -- "I'm sorry I dragged your family into this," for instance -- that is never a problem he has with his world-weary Doc Holliday. You are, I'm sure, very familiar with the hackneyed term "coming of age." Doc Holliday, thanks to Kilmer's performance, you know darn well came of age looong before the events chronicled in Tombstone. That performance of a man who has lived life to the fullest, seen it all, done it all, is perfection. Ray Levoi, on the other hand, is coming of age right before your very eyes. I love the less polished performance here because it lends itself -- almost as if he intended it to be that way -- to the way he is discovering himself, who he is, how he should live, how he should act. Okay, I was going to go into a whole list of reasons why I love this movie, but I'm sure very few people have even read this far. Bottom line: This movie is so good that I'm adding it to my Top 100 list right now, and I'm going to be curious to see what movie I decide to drop from that list in order to make place for Thunderheart. If you've not watched this before, please give it a try. Me? I don't think I will ever get tired of watching it.
February 20, 2013

Super Reviewer

An FBI investigation of a murder mystery is made interesting by its unusual locale: a dusty and rundown Native American reservation in the Dakotas. Noirish qualities emerge when the murder, and the investigation, are shown to be cover-ups for something darker, but the "Indian" connection is what makes for entertainment here.
September 2, 2012

Super Reviewer

An FBI agent investigates a murder on a Lakota reservation.
Thunderheart is a textbook example of how a skilled filmmaker can use a familiar genre to attempt to make a political point. The mystery and the message are interwoven expertly. However, as much as the film attempts to show Native life as it was, and still is in many places, (people living in near squalor with high incidents of alcoholism and violence), the last shot summarizes the feel I got through other parts of the film. I'm not giving anything away when I say that in the final moment, we see a busy highway that is far removed from the Res. It is as though Natives are still unwelcome in modernity, separated radically from it, even though thoroughly modern lives either are or can be lived by the people we just met. The film's heart is in the right place, exposing the degradation to which many of these people are subjected, but there is still something of a "noble savage" feel to how the film treats Natives. Add to this the fact that Fred Ward plays in a character in "red face," as the saying goes, and we can see how Natives are still subjects to some degree.
Also, I wondered about why Sam Shepard's character, Cooch, constantly sent Val Kilmer's character, Ray, to advance the investigation alone. It seemed unrealistic.
The performances are all fine; though, I think Val Kilmer was too stoic. If we are to buy the fact that a grizzled FBI veteran so quickly recovers his Native roots, I think more work needs to be done by the actor to make this transition obvious.
Overall, Thunderheart is a well-told story even with a few relatively minor flaws.
July 26, 2011
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

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