September Dawn

Critics Consensus

With its jarring editing, dull love story, and silly dialogue, September Dawn turns a horrific historical event into a banal movie.

15%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 54

49%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 9,270
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September Dawn Photos

Movie Info

Director Christopher Cain takes an up-close look at the devastation wrought by religious fanaticism with this romantic drama set against the backdrop of the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre. As a wagon train of westward-bound settlers makes its way across southern Utah, a confrontation with a congregation of Mormons soon leads to deadly consequences for all involved. Jon Voight, Lolita Davidovich, and Jon Gries co-star in a historical drama centered on the massacre, which continues to stir controversy over a century and a half after the fact. Terence Stamp and Dean Cain contribute small roles as Brigham Young and Joseph Smith, respectively -- who were not directly involved with the massacre but are pictured in flashbacks.

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Cast

Jon Voight
as Bishop Jacob Samuelson
Terence Stamp
as Brigham Young
Lolita Davidovich
as Nancy Dunlap
Trent Ford
as Jonathan Samuelson
Dean Cain
as Joseph Smith
Tamara Hope
as Emily Hudson
Jon Gries
as John D. Lee
Krisinda Cain
as Young Woman
Taylor Handley
as Micah Samuelson
Huntley Ritter
as Robert Humphries
Shaun Johnston
as Captain Fancher
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News & Interviews for September Dawn

Critic Reviews for September Dawn

All Critics (54) | Top Critics (20)

  • The villainous turns by Jon Voight (as a hard-hearted Mormon bishop) and Terence Stamp (as a bloodthirsty Brigham Young) would have been more fun if they weren't part of such a clumsy campaign to lay this tragedy at the church's doorstep.

    Dec 3, 2007 | Full Review…
  • The workmanlike craftsmanship of Cain's filmmaking almost (but never quite) smooths over the ham-fisted way he conceives the story.

    Aug 30, 2007 | Rating: 2.5/5 | Full Review…
  • A plodding and highly questionable history lesson.

    Aug 29, 2007 | Rating: D | Full Review…
  • With its complete lack of empathy for early Mormons and simplistic rendering of historical figures, September Dawn is that rare movie that actually deserves whatever condemnation might come from religious groups.

    Aug 27, 2007 | Rating: D | Full Review…

    Steven Hyden

    AV Club
    Top Critic
  • Religious and thematic issues aside, September Dawn is well-crafted as a revisionist Western with a message.

    Aug 24, 2007 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

    Ted Fry

    Seattle Times
    Top Critic
  • The maudlin, grotesque western September Dawn apes Schindler's List in hopes of creatinga Christian Holocaust picture.

    Aug 24, 2007 | Rating: 1.5/5

Audience Reviews for September Dawn

  • Jul 26, 2011
    September Dawn takes a horrific true story that could easily make for compelling drama and botches it near completely. The acting is mostly bad and always amateurish (save Terence Stamp), even Jon Voight was over-the-top. The script was terrible, with profoundly silly dialogue and a ridiculous love story. The whole film is filled with forced melodrama edited together in a distractingly choppy manner. Maybe a competent director will see fit to treat the material in a better manner in the future.
    Jeffrey M Super Reviewer
  • Apr 02, 2010
    The dramatization of the events surrounding the Mountain Meadows Massacre of the ill-fated wagon train pulls no punches nor waters down the horror of the events that occurred on that other September 11th (of 1857). My only hope is that the film portrayed what happened as accurately as possible and does not provoke the very anger and fear and paranoia it seems to be aiming to depict, on both sides of the fence. There is no defense for the men who committed the act for we can never know what it was like for either the victims or the perpetrators of such a heinous crime but to have this atrocity horribly blamed on the Pauite Indians is sad indeed. Jon Voight is darn scary in his role as an overzealous Mormon bishop and Terence Stamp gave a superb performance as well. I felt repulsed by the movie as I watched it but I'll recommend it for those avid "History Buff" fans.
    Deb S Super Reviewer
  • Mar 16, 2008
    The film is so clear cut in portraying a black and white scenario, it literally presents the Mormons as like-Nazis, and the wagon train as a pure, innocent, happy-go-lucky bunch. <br/>The Mormons who committed the massacre were fanatics, no doubt, but the movie portrays the events in its own fanatical way. <br/>Yes, on another September 11, another massacre took place in the name of religion. Now you have to watch the entire massacre take place and every person slaughtered in bloody glory on screen. That's the problem with shallow movies like this. They claim to be sympathetic to and meditative on the cause, but they entertain you with brutal violence.<br/>Not to mention the ear-cringing dialogue, cliched scenarios, and god-awful cinematography.<br/>At least the modern day tragedy that the film alludes to is evident.
    Edward B Super Reviewer
  • Mar 10, 2008
    My wife and I were flipping through internet ready movies looking for a comedy, and boy did we hit the jackpot! I almost considered giving the film 2 stars for its comedic value alone, but I figured I'd better not give it more than it truely deserves. First off, I will say I am a Mormon. This film in no way offended me, it just cracked me up. I seriously laughed out loud when the scene came on showing the wagon train Christians praying and thanking God for the help of the Mormons with smiles on their faces and the sun shining brightly before them, juxstiposed with the evil black dressed nazi-Mormons praying to curse and damn them to hell for "wearing pants"...I can't remember the last time we all sat around in church praying curses on people and damning them to Hell, but I'm sure we do it all the time. Granted, the Meadows Massacre was a horrible thing. The movie portrayed the history party true, and partly misleading, but don't all "historical dramas"? Every historical drama, whether it's Braveheart or Gladiator all tell half truths and fill in the rest to fit their agenda and make a story work. I have no problem with that, and I'm not even going to argue any facts. But as for a movie itself, it was awful! They easily could have told the story with a more unbiased viewpoint, which would have been just as interesting. Instead, they had to take as many pop shots at Mormons as possible. I love that the prophet suggests that every man should have 3 wives, even though an incredibly small percentage actually had more than one. I love that an apostle can take a man's wife because it was told to him in a vision (and then kill her later for trying to take her kids> WTF?) The crowing jewl of this disaster movie is when Jon Gries castrates someone and pins their balls to the wall. Five star laughs there. These people were crappy, and most of it was misrepresented and taken out of context, but they were just a radical group. And there is no proof that Brigham Young had anything to do with, and on the contrary proof that he did try and stop it...but let's not let facts muddle up a good story! Instead lets just put in the end that the church denies it like they're hiding it or something. And this whole doctrine they made up about killing people who do wrong is awesome. I love how in my church we can slit people's throats who do something wrong. The atonment of Christ? What's that? Why do what Christ says and forgive people through repentance when we can kill them? Anyone stupid enough to believes this junk deserves to enjoy this film. Well, I'm getting tired of this review, so I won't even go into how horrible the acting and what not was. I do think however that I want to dress up like the blood covered indian brother for Holloween. P.S. Jon Voight must have shot JFK, because he is a true sniper with that 1800's rifle.
    Curtis L Super Reviewer

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