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Native American Movies We Love (That You Can Stream!)

Posted By Paul G July 11th, 2019 Last Updated on: February 16th, 2022

For movie fans with an interest in various indigenous tribes that have lived throughout the Americas for millennia, Netflix and other streaming platforms offer a sizable collection of Native American movies from which to choose. Although some films are decried for their Native American stereotypes and cliches, you'll find plenty with more accurate representations of Native culture and values. 

Below, you'll find some of our favorite Native American movies you can stream on HBO Max, Netflix, Prime Video and Disney+. Read a synopsis for each, view its average ratings on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes and watch each film's original trailer!

Note: This post was updated Oct. 7, 2021.


HBO Max

“Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”

“Bury My Heart on Wounded Knee” is based on the 1970s non-fiction book by Dee Brown.

The storyline focuses on the cultural extermination of the Sioux Indians in the 1880s by the U.S. Army. After their defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn, they continue to remove the Sioux from their rightful land. At the same time, Senator Dawes attempts to protect Native American rights with the introduction of important legislation. Other storylines are followed, including Anna Paquin’s character, Elaine Goodale, a schoolteacher in South Dakota, who joins the fight against the United State’s decision along with the Sioux. From another point of view, Lakota Chief Sitting Bull resists government pressure to give up their land. This Native American movie is full of action, a little romance, and is most importantly, based on true events that have since shaped indigenous communities. Best of all, it features one of our favorite Native American actors, Wes Studi.

How does it rank among viewers?

7.1 out of 10 stars on IMDB and a 78% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes


“Dead Man”

Dead Man” is an American Western film that made its debut in 1995. 

The film follows Johnny Depp, who plays accountant William Blake. While he is on the run for murdering a man, and on his adventure away from being locked up, he encounters Nobody, an Indigenous man, who believes Blake is the reincarnation of poet William Blake. Nobody guides Blake and prepares him for a journey into the spiritual world.

“Dead Man” has been categorized as a psychedelic Western—when you watch it, you will understand. 

A critic on Rotten Tomatoes who rated the movie a 9/10 writes, “If not the best American Western of the 1990s, then certainly the most original and unusual.”

How does it rank among viewers?

7.6 out of 10 stars on IMDB and an 88% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes


Netflix

“Smoke Signals”

This interesting and informative movie gave families the opportunity to sit down together and learn something about Native American culture. “Smoke Signals,” starring Adam Beach was released in 1998 and directed by Chris Eyre, who also did quite a few of the other movies listed here and was an instrumental player in “Reel Injun” as well.

This is a story that many young people know well. A hurt young man clings to memories of the past, struggles to survive after his parents are killed in a fire, and goes on a road trip of self-discovery. It blends serious meaning with comedy and adventure with a predominately native cast. This movie is the brainchild of Sherman Alexie, a prominent Spokane-Coeur d'Alene Native writer.

How does it rank among viewers?

7.2 out of 10 stars on IMDB and an 82% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes


“Windtalkers”

Windtalkers” is a dramatization based on a real story that took place during World War II.

Since Nicholas Cage is the big-name actor in this 2002 film, he gets top billing over the cast of Native Americans who share the screen including Peter Stormare and Adam Beach. 

During WWII, Navajo men were used by the US Marines to confuse the enemy with their native language, which was turned into a battle code. The movie itself is a fictionalized account, although the events truly happened. The movie focuses on the action and drama of the interpersonal relationship between the two men from different backgrounds who fight side-by-side to achieve the same goal. 

How does it rank among viewers?

6.1 out of 10 stars on IMDB and a 50% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes


“Dances With Wolves”

This classic Western Native American movie, which debuted in 1990, focuses on events that occurred during the Civil War. Kevin Costner stars in “Dances with Wolves” as a war soldier named Lieutenant John Dunbar, who builds a relationship with the Sioux tribe for an extended period of time while he stays at a faraway outpost. This friendship between a white military officer and the Native Americans does not fare well with the military. Despite the drama, some of the most beloved characteristics of this film include the gorgeous scenic shots, the lighthearted feel of many scenes, and how two cultures are able to blend together rather than clash like many other Westerns.

How does it rank among viewers?

8.0 out of 10 stars on IMDB and an 87% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes


Prime Video

“Wind River”

Writer and director of “Wind River,” Taylor Sheridan, said that he wrote the film to bring about awareness surrounding the issue of the highly disproportionate rate of Native girls and women who go missing each year and those who are raped and murdered. Categorized as a neo-Western murder mystery, the strong cast, including Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen, help bring this poignant film to life. Follow U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tracker (Olsen) and FBI agent (Renner) as they discover what happened to a young and murdered Native woman on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. 

How does it rank among viewers?

7.7 out of 10 stars on IMDB and a 90% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes


“Rhymes for Young Ghouls”

“Rhymes for Young Ghouls” follows a Mi'gMaq teenager in the 1970s when Indian children under the age of 16 years old were required to attend a residential school. Taken away from her Red Crow Mi'kmaq reservation, she was sent off to St. Dymphna’s, which, unfortunately, is not the best place for her, nor is it for the other young girls. Rape, abuse, and sadistic behaviors toward the Native girls were common, and the main culprit was the Indian agent who placed her there. Learn a little about the history and what it was like to be taken away from your family and home and placed in a residential school.

How does it rank among viewers?

6.5 out of 10 stars on IMDB and a 76% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes


“Indian Horse”

Based on the best-selling novel by Richard Wagamese, “Indian Horse,” which was produced by Clint Eastwood, follows Saul Indian Horse, a Native Canadian teenager as he pushes through his tumultuous years at a residential school in the 1970s. Saul finds hockey and great friends, who help him battle the stereotypes of being Native and his struggles with alcohol. This poignant sports film brings awareness to a portion of Canada’s shameful history surrounding Native Americans, such as racism. 

How does it rank among viewers?

7.3 out of 10 stars on IMDB and an 89% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes


Disney+

“Pocahontas”

We all grew up learning about Pocahontas, the daughter of an Algonquin chief, Chief Powhatan, who yearned to execute John Smith, an English adventurer. The Disney animated tale follows Pocahontas (Irene Bedard) and Captain John Smith (Mel Gibson) as the English settlers journey (or invade) the New World in seventeenth-century Virginia. While critics devoured this film for its blandness and cultural inaccuracy, it is still one of those classic Disney movies that you can joyfully sing along to with the kids. 

Interested in watching something a bit more realistic about Pocahontas? Check out the documentary “The True Story of Pocahontas” on the Smithsonian Channel

How does it rank among viewers?

6.7 out of 10 stars on IMDB and a 64% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes


“Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale”

This 1994 Disney Action/Drama starring Adam Beach as Squanto, is a fictional chronicle of his life before and during the arrival of the “Mayflower.” Again, similarly to the Disney version of “Pocahontas,” viewers must take this film with a grain of salt. It is meant for children and is family-friendly; therefore, it does not tell the story of what actually happened when settlers came to America. Even so, the film has enough action and excitement to keep you and your kids entertained. 

How does it rank among viewers?

6.0 out of 10 stars on IMDB and a 55% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes


“Buffalo Dreams”

Here is another Disney Channel original movie for the kiddos. New to a small New Mexico town, Josh Townsend is trying to fit in and find his place. Against his dad’s idea for a job, Josh decides to volunteer for the tribal buffalo reserve and work closely with the Navajo elder, John Blackhorse, and his grandson. Watch as Josh navigates common “new kid” troubles and figures out who his true friends are. 

How does it rank among viewers?

5.9 out of 10 stars on IMDB and a 62% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes


Of course, this is just a small sampling of all of the Native American movies and TV shows available to stream (Have you watched “Rutherford Falls” and Reservation Dogs“?). Thankfully, more and more indigenous media is emerging for our viewing pleasure as Native Americans gain more visibility in Hollywood and more Native actors, producers and writers take charge.

However, if you want to learn more about real history without the dramatics of Hollywood, consider spending time with an informative Native American documentary. These Native American movies focus on various aspects of life for the first people to call the land their home. While there are tons available, Netflix mostly offers a nice selection of general historical western-focused documentary series. One of the best ones offered on the platform is Ken Burns's “The American West.”

Also, if you truly wish to learn about the history or current lives of Native Americans, check out more modern documentaries, peruse tribal organization websites, or actually make the acquaintance of Native American Indians living today in the real world.

Did we leave your favorite Native American movie off this list? Tell us about it in the comments below!


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franklin archambault

my favorite is black robe and number two is powwow highway

C Prater

“The Rider” 2018 directed by Chloe Zhao. Fictional story of Lakota rodeo families in South Dakota. What makes this so good is that the actors are actual Lakota rodeo participants who live on reservations in South Dakota where this is filmed. I grew up on the Rosebud reservation of South Dakota and though I might be biased, this movie transported me home and made me feel as if I were a part of these intricate, layered, hard won lives.

Sally THOMAS

There is a good book that should be made into a dramatized documentary, IMO. Black Gun, Silver Star, the life and legend of Frontier Marshall Bass Reeves, by Art T Burton, published by the U of NE. It is a nonfiction collection of facts, documents, court recordings describing very well what law enforcement was like in Indian Territory and into the early days of OK statehood, before and just after Jim Crow laws were introduced. Bass was most probably the real Lone Ranger, but Hollywood thought that America wasn’t ready for the truth. Sound familiar? Perhaps now…the way racism and prejudice were confronted and dealt with at the time that blacks were escaping slavery and living in the Indian territories as well as the way that the indigenous people lived and were regarded is an eye opener.

George Baumann

I can recommend an excellent film that was first presented at the Toronto Film Festival in 2018. It is spoken entirely in the Haida language, with very good subtitles. For details, you can visit Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edge_of_the_Knife

GGbyTheSea

DawnLand documentary, watched for the 2nd time since Nov 2020.. about the “Residential schools” & foster systems affects on Native Families. Hard to watch, but IMPORTANT. TRUTH brings HEALING. I was in (at least) 15 foster “homes”, great need to find my Cherokee Relatives. This documentary ought to be taught in EVERY US School.

Melanie Ibarra

CLEARCUT with Graham Greene was one of my favorites…tho it was band from the video store near my home back in the early nineties. Ofcourse most white people couldnt appreciate it, but I thought Graham Greene was great in this movie. A far cry from his docile character in Dances with wolves!
My other favorite was ofcourse Last of the Mohicans with RUSSEL MEANS.
And Last of the Dogman with Steve Reevis.
And all of the Billy Jack movies too!

James

“The Revenant”, is really good, with great story a bear attack that you actually feel, great movie.
Love “Bury my heart at Wounded Knee”
Watched both these movies 100’s of times,

dts110south

As of 8/26/21, Indian Horse, The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open and Basketball or Nothing and The Grizzlies are all available on Netflix in Los Angeles.

Ernesto

You forgot to mention Soldier Blue (Candice Bergen, Peter Strauss, Donald Pleasence & Jorge Rivero) one of the best movies ever about the clash between the Native Americans and the American troops.

David Hoyopatubbi

dont think Sand Creek was much of a clash more like a massacre

Stacia Pedro

The same here none of the movies are on Netflix. except Hostiles.

Dan Grabowski

I notice, as usual, that the Robert Redford/PBS Tony Hillerman movies are missing. Totally authentic and current, these movies are very entertaining and show res life as is.
Titles are ” Skinwalkers”, ” Thief of Time” and ” Dark Wind “. All stress Dineh values.

Rosalie Donadio

There are a few films, listed here, on Amazon Prime but YouTube has so much more!

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