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

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

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”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhgztjlLye0

“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”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpVNsegX94g

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!

Last Updated on October 7, 2021 by Jared McKiernan

About Paul G

Paul G is the founder PowWows.com, who wears many hats as a business coach, photographer, and collector of quirky shirts. Paul started PowWows.com in 1996 while pursuing his graduate degree. With a passion for travel, he and his family hav  traveled the world, capturing unforgettable memories and photos. When he's not coaching or clicking, he's indulging in the magic of Disney.


48 Comments on “Native American Movies We Love (That You Can Stream!)”

  • Avatar for Lynn

    Lynn

    says:

    I watched a documentary last night on Netflix called ‘Rumble’, it was very interesting, at least for me. It looks at rock music in the U.S. and Native Americans who have influenced the industry through the years beginning Link Wray.

  • Avatar for Mastinomama

    Mastinomama

    says:

    I’d like to recommend The Cherokee Word for Water, about the Bell Water Project and Wilma Mankiller (and Charlie Soap, of course).

  • Avatar for Stan

    Stan

    says:

    Does anyone know of a movie in the ’80s that maybe was set in pre-colonial Canada? It might even have been in a native language.

    • Avatar for Sherry Chiero

      Sherry Chiero

      says:

      Black Robe 1991 ? may be what you are looking for

  • Avatar for Ray Borntrager

    Ray Borntrager

    says:

    Also, the television series Dark Winds on AMC and Reservation Dogs on FX/Hulu are both really good shows

  • Avatar for Ray Borntrager

    Ray Borntrager

    says:

    Windwalker is a really good one as well

  • Avatar for C Prater

    C Prater

    says:

    “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.

  • Avatar for 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.

  • Avatar for Melanie Ibarra

    Melanie Ibarra

    says:

    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!

    • Avatar for Mastinomama

      Mastinomama

      says:

      Despite being German, I like this movie very much. Not just because of Graham Greene, who is a great actor, but I am a bit partial to the idea of “eye for an eye……”

      Another amazing movie not mentioned here is “The Cherokee Word for Water”, about the Bell Oklahoma Water Project.

  • Avatar for James

    James

    says:

    “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,

  • Avatar for dts110south

    dts110south

    says:

    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.

  • Avatar for Ernesto

    Ernesto

    says:

    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.

    • Avatar for David Hoyopatubbi

      David Hoyopatubbi

      says:

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

  • Avatar for Stacia Pedro

    Stacia Pedro

    says:

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

    • Avatar for Dan Grabowski

      Dan Grabowski

      says:

      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.

    • Avatar for Rosalie Donadio

      Rosalie Donadio

      says:

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

  • Avatar for Anna Stallard Edward

    Anna Stallard Edward

    says:

    My family has most of these on DVD’s Last of the Dog Men is one of my favorites! I am a dreamer, what else can I say! Your list is wonderful, but I have a couple I need to watch! Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Avatar for Alex

      Alex

      says:

      I literally didn’t find a single movie. Seriously take the list down you’re wasting people’s time

      • Avatar for Paul G

        Paul G

        says:

        Netflix has changed the line up. We are hoping to update it soon.

        • Avatar for rosalie donadio

          rosalie donadio

          says:

          I think they missed out on “Reservation Dogs” .. that would have lifted them into a better venue. Marketing men asleep at the wheel. Also Canada seems to have a great indigenous film industry and growing all the time.

      • Avatar for Mastinomama

        Mastinomama

        says:

        You can find several of this movies on YouTube.

    • Avatar for Linda Strawn

      Linda Strawn

      says:

      Love “Last of the Dog Men.”

  • Avatar for Liana

    Liana

    says:

    Dreamkeeper (2003) isn’t on Netflix? If not, somebody should petition it to be!
    That’s a beautiful movie that shows also how native culture has things in common to other cultures. At least I saw connections to Jack and the beanstalk. And I loved the story of the Big Dipper.
    Anyway, Dreamkeeper is a beautiful piece of art, culture, and entertainment.

  • Avatar for Gerald Hapeman

    Gerald Hapeman

    says:

    Aside for one or two, most of these movies listed are not on Netflix, at least in the United States zone. I check daily in hope for them… and others and they offer very little. Their list is very short.

    • Avatar for Paul G

      Paul G

      says:

      They were when we wrote it. Netflix keeps updating, sorry!

  • Avatar for Kwiisa

    Kwiisa

    says:

    We need these in Canada

    • Avatar for Daniel

      Daniel

      says:

      We need the best Canadian indigenous films South of the border!

  • Avatar for Al Manook

    Al Manook

    says:

    I also love “The Big Sky” (1952). Although Kirk Douglas has the lead, there’s the characters played by Dewey Martin and Elizabeth Threatt as romantic lovers. The movie is very entertaining, and has great production values. And the Indians are depicted with respect.

    Another story I loved back in the day, is “When the Legends Die”. Frederic Forrest plays a back then, modern Indian. He nails the part. Richard Widmark helps him adjust to mainstream society.
    Also, “I Heard the Owl Call My Name” is a tender story of Northwest natives who are visited by a Protestant clergyman. The young man doesn’t know he is terminally ill, and he immerses himself in the culture of the natives.

  • Avatar for Joseph Edward Najera

    Joseph Edward Najera

    says:

    Have you considered A Man Called Horse?

    • Avatar for Claudette

      Claudette

      says:

      I have most of the movies except for 2 or 3 I seen them all

  • Avatar for T

    T

    says:

    Cannot find any of the movies on netflix you talked about. WT?

    • Avatar for Paul G

      Paul G

      says:

      Only available in the US.

      • Avatar for Victoria S Parker

        i love La kota women everyone forgot about that movie based on true story . another movie is sioux city wich they are sad movies make you cry but its the truth.

    • Avatar for ROY Weaver

      ROY Weaver

      says:

      I CANNOT FIND ANY OF THE MOVIES ON NETFLIX I LIVE IN OHIO

  • Avatar for Evan

    Evan

    says:

    Some newer movies I’d recommend that are NA (hopefully still on netflix):

    Shana: The Wolf’s Music
    Bless Me, Ultima (though I might have seen it on someone’s Amazon acct)

  • Avatar for Tracey Stump

    Tracey Stump

    says:

    I searched throught netflix and cannot find the first 4 movies anywhere. Is there anyway someone could help me find the movies listed in this article?

  • Avatar for Bates

    Bates

    says:

    Non of the movies listed above are on Netflix, except for Hostiles.

    • Avatar for Glenda Ramon

      Glenda Ramon

      says:

      I couldn’t find either.🤨

      • Avatar for Annette

        Annette

        says:

        Unfortunately neither are on Canadian Nexflix…but I love Smoke signals

    • Avatar for Nina

      Nina

      says:

      I have looked on Neztflux and none if the movies you have listed is on tgere.

      • Avatar for Paul G

        Paul G

        says:

        You have to be in the US.

    • Avatar for Windsong

      Windsong

      says:

      Most of the movies listed are NOT available on Netflix in the USA, either. This article should be updated or deleted.

      • Avatar for Paul G

        Paul G

        says:

        Netflix is constantly updating. We will periodically update the list.

      • Avatar for Albeza

        Albeza

        says:

        I wrote down a list of movies I have not watched. Very interesting titles

        • Avatar for Grace/Oneida, Menominee

          Grace/Oneida, Menominee

          says:

          “Pow Wow Highway” was a favorite. I just watched “Skins” with Graham Greene and Eric Schweig. Also like the tv show, “Longmire”

          • Avatar for Tara Blackburn

            Tara Blackburn

            says:

            Yes! Pow Wow Highway is one of my favorite films of all time!
            I love anything with Graham Greene.
            I like Longmire too.
            And i love the Tony Hillerman series with Adam Beach and Wes Studi.
            Top notch.

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