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Oscars Challenge #93: Dances With Wolves (1990) Movie Review

Dances With Wolves might be one of the longest movies that won Best Picture. I made quite a mistake watching the extended version, which is almost 4 hours long.

Despite being lengthy and slow, Dances With Wolves revitalized Western filmmaking and influenced many filmmakers who wanted to venture into this genre.

Plot Overview

Lieutenant John J. Dunbar was wounded in a battle during the American Civil War. When a surgeon decides to amputate his leg, Dunbar escapes and chooses to die on the battlefield. He rides on his horse and rides into battle. Luckily he came out unscathed as the Confederate forces missed their target. He receives a citation for bravery and medical care to keep his leg. He is also given the choice of where he wants to be assigned. He decided to transfer to the western frontier because he wanted to see it before it disappeared.

Dunbar is transferred to Fort Hays. He was assigned by a superior that disliked him and decided to place him in the farthest outpost. Dunbar arrives at the outpost and finds it deserted. He proceeds to stay and guard it despite the threats of the natives.

He begins to rebuild the post and records his observations in his diary (which he also narrates). During his solitude, he finds peace and calmness. However, it was short-lived when he encountered his Sioux neighbors who tried to steal his supplies. He goes to their tribe and convinces them he does not want to hurt them. On his way back to the post, he encounters a white woman named Stands With A Fist. She was adopted into the Sioux and became the daughter of the tribe's medicine man, Kicking Bird.

Despite the tribe's hostility towards Lieutenant Dunbar, he becomes a part of their tribe after teaching them modern ways of living and warfare. He was also given the name, Dances With Wolves in the process. However, when the threat of the Union army and other tribes becomes imminent, Dunbar must choose between his old life or his newfound companions.


Dances With Wolves is a pretty exciting movie despite having a lengthy runtime. It has excellent wide-angle shots that feature the vastness of the area. It has a little touch of historical facts that people outside America might learn something, especially about the Native Indian tribes that once dominated their lands. However, the film depicted the Pawnee tribe as being aggressive and lawless, which offended several people.

One thing that the movie made me cringe is the monotone narration that circulates throughout the film. I am not saying that Kevin Costner's voice is terrible. It's just unfitting and may put off the greatness of the plot. It would be better if they had used an older version of his character.

Like many movies that feature a part of history, Dances With Wolves should be respected for what it is. It may not be your typical popcorn film, but it is still an essential watch.

Overall, the movie is lengthy and slow at times, but it has a lot of high notes that overshadow the bad ones. It's an incredible film that features a well-diverse set of characters and breathtaking places.

A good 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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