Dances with Wolves

Dances with Wolves

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Kevin Costner
Produced by
Screenplay by Michael Blake
Narrated by Kevin Costner
Music by John Barry
Cinematography Dean Semler
Editing by Neil Travis
Studio Tig Productions
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Release date(s) November 21, 1990 (1990-11-21)
Running time 175 minutes
236 minutes (Director's cut)
Country United States
Budget $22 million
Box office $424,208,848

Dances with Wolves is a 1990 epic western film directed by and starring Kevin Costner. It is a film adaptation of the 1988 book of the same name by Michael Blake and tells the story of a Union Army Lieutenant who travels to the American frontier to find a military post, and his dealings with a group of Lakota Indians.

Costner developed the film over five years, with a budget of $22 million. Dances with Wolves had high production values[1] and won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama.[2] Much of the dialogue is in the Lakota language with English subtitles. It was shot in South Dakota and Wyoming.

It is credited as a leading influence for the revitalization of the Western genre of filmmaking in Hollywood. In 2007, Dances with Wolves was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."[3]



In 1863, First Lieutenant John J. Dunbar (Kevin Costner) is injured in the American Civil War. Rather than having his leg amputated he takes a horse and rides adjacent to and in full view of the enemy front lines "in order to produce [his] own death." The Union army attacks while the Confederates are distracted by Dunbar's ride, and the battle ends up being a Confederate rout. Dunbar survives, receives a citation for bravery and is awarded the horse who carried him on the field that day, as well as his choice of posting. Dunbar requests a transfer to the western frontier so he can see it before it's gone. Dunbar arrives at his new post, Fort Sedgwick, but finds it abandoned and in disrepair. Despite being alone and the threat of nearby Native American tribes, he elects to stay and man the post himself. He soon begins the task of rebuilding and restocking the fort and seems to prefer the solitude afforded him. He records many of his observations in his diary.

Dunbar initially encounters his neighbors, a Sioux tribe, when several attempts are made to steal his horse and intimidate him. In response to these interactions, Dunbar decides to seek out the Sioux camp in an attempt to establish a dialogue. On his way, he comes across an injured Native American woman. She is Stands with a Fist (Mary McDonnell), the white, adopted daughter of Kicking Bird, the tribe's medicine man (Graham Greene). Dunbar returns her to the tribe's camp to be treated, which dramatically changes the Sioux's attitude toward him. Eventually, Dunbar establishes a rapport with Kicking Bird, though the language barrier frustrates them; Stands with a Fist reluctantly acts as a translator.

Dunbar finds himself drawn to the lifestyle and customs of the tribe and begins spending most of his time with them. He becomes a hero among the Sioux and is accepted as an honored guest after he locates a migrating herd of buffalo and participates in the hunt. When at Fort Sedgwick, Dunbar also befriends a wolf he dubs "Two Socks" for its white forepaws. One day, the Sioux observe Dunbar and Two Socks chasing each other in play and promptly give him his Sioux name "Dances with Wolves". During this time, Dunbar also forges a romantic relationship with Stands with a Fist and helps defend the village from an attack by the rival Pawnee tribe. Dunbar eventually wins Kicking Bird's approval to marry Stands with a Fist, and he abandons Fort Sedgwick forever.

Because of the growing Pawnee and white threat, Chief Ten Bears (Floyd Red Crow Westerman) decides it is time to move the village to its winter camp. Dunbar decides to accompany them and returns to Fort Sedgwick to retrieve his journal. However, when he arrives he finds it re-occupied by the U.S. Army. Because Dunbar is dressed in Sioux clothing, the soldiers mistake him for a hostile warrior and open fire, killing his horse and capturing him. When Dunbar refuses to assist them in serving as an interpreter to the local tribes, the Army decides to put him on trial for treason and transport him back east as a prisoner.

While traveling in an armed caravan the soldiers of the escort shoot Two Socks when the wolf attempts to follow Dunbar. The Sioux subsequently attack the convoy, killing all the soldiers and freeing Dunbar. Dunbar decides to leave the Sioux with Stands with a Fist since his status as a perceived traitor puts the tribe in danger. After they leave, U.S. troops are seen searching the mountains but are unable to locate them, while a lone wolf (implied to be a surviving Two Socks) howls in the distance. An epilogue text states that thirteen years afterwards, the last remnants of free Sioux were subjugated to the American government, ending the conquest of the Western frontier states.



Originally written as a spec script by Michael Blake, it went unsold in the mid-1980s. It was Kevin Costner who, in early 1986 (when he was relatively unknown), encouraged Blake to turn the screenplay into a novel, to improve its chances of being adapted into a film. The novel manuscript of Dances with Wolves was rejected by numerous publishers but finally published in paperback in 1988. As a novel, the rights were purchased by Costner, with an eye to his directing it.[5] Actual production lasted for four months, from July 18 to November 23, 1989. Most of the movie was filmed on location in South Dakota, mainly near Pierre and Rapid City, with a few scenes filmed in Wyoming. Specific locations included the Badlands National Park, the Black Hills, the Sage Creek Wilderness Area, and the Belle Fourche River area. The buffalo hunt scenes were filmed at the Triple U Buffalo Ranch outside Fort Pierre, South Dakota, as were the Fort Sedgwick scenes, the set being constructed on the property.[6]

Production delays were numerous, because of South Dakota's unpredictable weather, the difficulty of "directing" barely trainable wolves, and the complexity of the Indian battle scenes. Particularly arduous was the film's centerpiece buffalo hunt sequence: this elaborate chase was filmed over three weeks using 100 Indian stunt riders and an actual stampeding herd of several thousand buffalo. During one shot, Costner (who did almost all of his own horseback riding) was "T-boned" by another rider and knocked off his horse, nearly breaking his back. The accident is captured in The Creation of an Epic, the behind-the-scenes documentary on the Dances with Wolves Special Edition DVD.

According to the documentary, none of the buffalo were computer animated (CGI was then in its infancy) and only a few were animatronic or otherwise fabricated. In fact, Costner and crew employed the largest domestically owned buffalo ranch, with two of the domesticated buffalo being borrowed from Neil Young; this was the herd used for the buffalo hunt sequence.

Budget overruns were inevitable, owing to Costner's breaking several unspoken Hollywood "rules" for first-time directors: traditionally, they avoid both shooting outside and working with children and animals as much as possible. As a result, late in the production Costner was forced to add $3 million personally in out-of-pocket money to the film's original $15-million budget. Referring to the infamous fiasco of Michael Cimino's 1980 Heaven's Gate, considered the most mismanaged Western in film history, Costner's project was satirically dubbed "Kevin's Gate" by Hollywood critics and pundits skeptical of a three-hour, partially subtitled Western by a novice filmmaker.[5]

The film changed the novel's Comanche Indians to Sioux, because of the larger number of Sioux speakers.[citation needed] Lakota Sioux language instructor Doris Leader Charge (1931–2001) was the on-set Lakota dialogue coach and also portrayed Pretty Shield, wife of Chief Ten Bears, portrayed by Floyd Red Crow Westerman.[5]

Despite portraying the adopted daughter of Graham Greene's character Kicking Bird, Mary McDonnell, then 37, was actually two months older than Greene, and less than two years younger than Tantoo Cardinal, the actress playing her adoptive mother. In addition, McDonnell was extremely nervous about shooting her sex scene with Kevin Costner, requesting it be toned down to a more modest version than what was scripted.[5]


Defying expectation, Dances with Wolves proved instantly popular at the box office, eventually garnering $184 million in U.S. box office sales, and $424 million in total sales worldwide.[7] The movie won the Best Picture Academy Award against strong competition, notably Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas.

As of 2008, the film holds a positive review score of 76% on Rotten Tomatoes.[8] Because of the film's popular and lasting impact, the Sioux Nation adopted Costner as an honorary member.[9]

In 2007, the Library of Congress selected Dances with Wolves for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.[3]

A special extended edition of the film containing 40 minutes of previously deleted scenes was completed for ABC TV, airing as a two-night miniseries in the fall of 1993.[citation needed] This version was subsequently released to laserdisc, DVD, and Blu-ray. This longer version is commonly and mistakenly confused as Costner's "director's cut" of the film, but he had little input on it, and stated in an interview with Entertainment Weekly in 2005 that he did not work on the extended version at all.[10]

Native American activist and actor Russell Means was less kind about some aspects of the film's technical accuracy. In 2009, he said "Remember Lawrence of Arabia? That was Lawrence of the Plains. The odd thing about making that movie is that they had a woman teaching the actors the Lakota language, but Lakota has a male-gendered language and a female-gendered language. Some of the Indians and Kevin Costner were speaking in the feminine way. When I went to see it with a bunch of Lakota guys, we were laughing."[11]

Awards and honors

63rd Academy Awards: In addition to becoming the first Western film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture since 1931's Cimarron,[12] Dances with Wolves won the following additional Oscars:[13]

Dances with Wolves was also nominated in the following categories:

American Film Institute recognition:

  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies - #75
  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains:
    • Lt. John W. Dunbar - Nominated Hero[14]
  • AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores - Nominated[15]
  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers - #59
  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) - Nominated[16]
  • AFI's 10 Top 10 - Nominated Western and Epic Film[17]

Other accolades:


The Holy Road, a well-received sequel novel by Michael Blake, the author of both the original Dances with Wolves novel and the movie screenplay, was published in 2001.[19] It picks up eleven years after Dances with Wolves. John Dunbar is still married to Stands with a Fist and they have three children. Stands with a Fist and one of the children are kidnapped by a party of white rangers and Dances with Wolves must mount a rescue mission. As of 2007, Blake was writing a film adaptation, although Kevin Costner was not yet attached to the project.[20] In the end, however, Costner stated he would not take part in this production. Viggo Mortensen has been rumored to be attached to the project, playing Dunbar.[21]

Historical references

St. David's Field, Tennessee does not exist nor did it in 1863. As the opening battle is a minor portion of the film, it was considered undesirable to name an actual historical battle, which might result in knowledgeable viewers taking exception to fictional events.[citation needed]

Fort Sedgwick, Colorado was erected as Camp Rankin and renamed for General John Sedgwick (1813–1864). Sedgwick was killed May 9, 1864, at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia. Fort Sedgwick served as an army post from July 1864 to May 1871. John Sedgwick did erect a fort in Kansas in 1860.

Fort Hays, Kansas was named for General Alexander Hays (1819–1864). Hays was killed May 5, 1864, in the Battle of the Wilderness, Virginia. Fort Hays served as an army post from October 11, 1865, to November 8, 1889.

There was a real John Dunbar who worked as a missionary for the Pawnee in the 1830s–40s, and sided with the Indians in a dispute with government farmers and a local Indian agent.[22] It is unclear if the name "John Dunbar" was chosen as a corollary to the real historical figure.

The fictional Lieutenant John Dunbar of 1863 is correctly shown in the film wearing a gold bar on his officer shoulder straps, indicating his rank as a First Lieutenant. From 1836 to 1872, the rank of First Lieutenant was indicated by a gold bar; after 1872, the rank was indicated by a silver bar. Similarly, Captain Cargill is correctly depicted wearing a pair of gold bars, indicating the rank of Captain at that time.[23]

The description at the finale is correct; 13 years after the film is set, the last band of free Sioux were forced into a humiliating surrender at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, and the dominance and prevalence of the Plains Indians was over.

Home video editions

The first Laserdisc release of Dances with Wolves was on 15 November 1991 by Orion Home Video on a two-disc extended play laserdisc set.[citation needed]

The first Dances with Wolves VHS version was released in 1991. Dances with Wolves has been released to several VHS versions. The limited collector's edition set comes with two VHS tapes, six high gloss 14" x 11" Lobby Photos, Dances with Wolves The Illustrated Story Of The Epic Film book, and an organized collector's edition storage case.

Dances with Wolves has been released to DVD on four occasions. The first on November 17, 1998 on a single disc. The second on February 16, 1999 as a two disc set with a DTS Soundtrack. The third was released on May 20, 2003 as a two-disc set featuring the Extended Edition. The fourth was released on May 25, 2004 as a single disc in full frame.

Dances with Wolves has been released on Blu-ray in Germany on the 5th of December 2008, in France on the April 15, 2009, in the United Kingdom on the October 26, 2009, and in the United States on January 11, 2011. The German, French, and American releases feature the Extended Edition, while the British release features the theatrical cut.[citation needed]


  • John Barry composed the Oscar-winning score. It was issued in 1990 initially and again in 1995 with bonus tracks and in 2004 with the score "in its entirety" (although, in reality, approximately 25 minutes of the score is still missing from the 2004 release).[citation needed]
  • Peter Buffett scored and choreographed the "fire dance" scene.


  • Blake, Michael. Dances with Wolves. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-449-00075-3. 
  • Blake, Michael. The Holy Road. ZOVA Books. ISBN 978-0615510576. 


  1. ^ "Dances with Wolves: Overview" (plot/stars/gross, related films), allmovie, 2007, webpage: amovie12092
  2. ^ "Dances with Wolves", IMDb, 2007.
  3. ^ a b 2007 list of films inducted into the National Film Registry
  4. ^ IMDb: Dances with Wolves (1990), Trivia
  5. ^ a b c d "Dances with Wolves". IMDB. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  6. ^ "Dances with Wolves" -
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Dances with Wolves". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-07-19. 
  9. ^ Svetkey, Benjamin (1991-03-08). "Little big movie". Entertainment Weekly.,,313535,00.html. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  10. ^ Willman, Chris. "True Western", Entertainment Weekly, 23 January 2004.
  11. ^ "Russell Means Interview with Dan Skye of High Times". Russell Means Freedom. Retrieved 2011-03-02. 
  12. ^ Angela Errigo (2008). Steven Jay Schneider. ed. 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. London: Quintessence. p. 786. ISBN 076416151-2. 
  13. ^ "The 63rd Academy Awards (1991) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-10-20. 
  14. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains Nominees
  15. ^ AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees
  16. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ballot
  17. ^ AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
  18. ^ "Berlinale: 1991 Prize Winners". Retrieved 2011-03-22. 
  19. ^ Blake, Michael (2001). The Holy Road, Random House. ISBN 0-375-76040-7
  20. ^ Blake, Michael. "The official website of Michael Blake". Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  21. ^ "". 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  22. ^ Waldo R. Wedel, The Dunbar Allis Letters on the Pawnee (New York: Garland Press, 1985).
  23. ^ US Army Institute of Heraldry - History of Officer Rank Insignia

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Dances with Wolves — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Dances with Wolves Título Bailando con lobos Danza con lobos Ficha técnica Dirección Kevin Costner Guión Michael Blake …   Wikipedia Español

  • Dances with Wolves — Filmdaten Deutscher Titel: Der mit dem Wolf tanzt Originaltitel: Dances with Wolves Produktionsland: USA Erscheinungsjahr: 1990 Länge: Director s Cut: 173 Minuten; Langfassung: 227 Minuten Originalsprache …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Dances with Wolves — Danse avec les loups Danse avec les loups Titre original Dances with Wolves Réalisation Kevin Costner Acteurs principaux Kevin Costner Mary McDonnell Graham Greene Rodney Grant Scénario Michael Blake Musique John Barry …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Dances with Wolves — …   Википедия

  • Dances with Wolves — 1990 Academy Award winning film directed by and starring Kevin Costner …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Dances with Wolves (soundtrack) — Dances With Wolves Soundtrack album by John Barry Released 1990 Length 18 at 53:18 …   Wikipedia

  • DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990) —    Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene, Kevin Costner (director)    Costner’s alternative Western ushered in a new era of Westerns after the antimyth Westerns of the 1960s through the 1980s had played out their course and made their… …   Westerns in Cinema

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  • Dances With the Wolves —    Voir Danse avec les loups …   Dictionnaire mondial des Films

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