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Film / Dances with Wolves

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Dances with Wolves is an epic Western film adapted from Michael Blake's book of the same title. Directed/produced by and starring Kevin Costner (in his feature directorial debut) and written by Blake, it was released on November 9, 1990.

Set in 1863, United States Army lieutenant John J. Dunbar (Costner) is positioned in a fort on the expanding western frontier. Due to unfortunate circumstances, Dunbar becomes the only person occupying the fort and befriends a wild wolf while waiting for reinforcements to come. After some brief hostilities, he also comes into good terms with a neighboring Lakota community who nickname him "Dances With Wolves" for his relationship with the wolf who hangs around the fort, whom he names "Two Socks".

The film also stars Mary McDonnell as Stands with a Fist, Graham Greene as Kicking Bird, Floyd Kanghi Dutanote  Westerman as Ten Bears, and Rodney A. Grant as Wind in His Hair.

Since this movie is a classic, it shouldn't be too hard to find a longer description that spoils the whole story. If seven Academy Awards (including Best Picture) don't tell you, it's worth a view. One further testament to the movie's excellent balance of fiction and historical accuracy — not to mention cultural sensitivity — is the fact that Kevin Costner was adopted as an honorary member of the Lakota Nation.

Also, this movie is not a musical.

This film provides examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Major Fambrough is implied to be one as when he opens his desk drawer, bottles of presumably liquor clink and rattle.
  • Anachronism Stew: Generally averted, though the film makes some of the same mistakes modern reenactors do. Though Dunbar's clothes are all period, the way he wears them is sometimes more modern than might be expected of the time period (especially when he goes to meet Stands With a Fist at the river, and his outfit just sort of looks like Kevin Costner is visiting the stockyards).
  • Annoying Arrows: Played With. It takes six arrows to kill Timmons and he still lives long enough to be scalped - alive. (Truth in Television- some Plains tribes transfixed their defeated enemies with multiple arrows this way, denying them a quick "warrior's death".) In other situations, one arrow is usually enough, but no guarantee of instant death.
  • Artistic License – History: Although more accurate than previous films in its depiction of the West and Indigenous peoples, it still has inaccuracies:
    • The European-American settlers are shown hunting bison solely to take their skins. This was not yet the case in 1865, and would only begin in 1871. At that point, settlers still hunted bison also for their meat.
    • The Lakota are portrayed as simply defending themselves, and the Pawnee as evil allies of the US government. However, it was actually the Lakota who had been the aggressors against the Pawnee, moving into the Plains in the late 1700's from the northeast, and still perpetrating massacres of Pawnee in 1843. This is actually why other tribes, such as the Pawnee, Arikara and Absarokanote , were allies of the US government against the Lakota (not that it helped them later) since the Lakota had been pushing them out of their land. While the Pawnee could be brutal, they were no more so than the Lakota. This is due to the Sliding Scale of Antagonist Vileness, in order to define clearly good and bad guys based on their respective tribal affiliation, without complicating matters.
    • Fort Hays (misspelled as "Fort Hayes") is featured. The film starts in 1863, but Fort Hays wasn't established until 1865 and didn't receive its current name until the following year.
    • Ten Bears produces a conquistador helmet to explain that his tribe drove out a Spanish invasion in ancient times. Contact with the Spanish Empire might have been actually possible because back then the Lakota people lived in the lower Mississippi region (only later they migrated toward what's today Dakota), but historically, no attempt of Spanish expansion over there was trumped by being decisively mauled by the natives. It can be assumed, though, that the tribe's oral memories might have become embellished over generations in-universe until picturing an entire invasion where they were only skirmishes.note 
  • Asshole Victim:
    • The parents of Stands With a Fist, all things considered. From what little is shown, they've decided it a wise choice to antagonize a group of Pawnees and treat them like dirt, despite the tense situation, while essentially squatting on the tribe's land. It escalates into Too Dumb to Live when they face the natives unarmed, trying to shoo them away like dogs and then turn their backs on the Pawnees.
    • No tears were shed over Spivey (who gets strangled and drowned by Dunbar) and Sergeant Bauer (who gets a Tomahawk to the heart from Smiles a Lot), considering they abused Dunbar as a captive and killed Two-Socks during the transport. Not to mention Spivey lied and stole Dunbar's journal and uses it as toilet paper.
  • Awesome McCoolname: In the extended cut, Dunbar, upon learning their names, takes note in his journal narration about the peculiar choice of names for Kicking Bird and Stands With a Fist. In her case, he even smirks after figuring out why she is called that.
  • Badass Native: Wind In His Hair is probably the best fighter of the tribe, in a pure awesome way.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • John makes a huge bonfire to burn the rotted deer corpses he finds. The next scene shows a Pawnee warrior saying, "Only a white man would make a fire for everyone to see!" as they prepare to attack. But it turns out they were watching Timmons, who had built a campfire. His end is suitably horrifying.
    • Notably, when John first encounters an armed Lakota scout — namely, the shaman Kicking Bird - the scout tries to steal Cisco, but the moment John discovers him, he quickly mounts his own horse and rides out, leaving a buck-naked John wondering what just happened. As he rides away, you see his bow and quiver - he could have easily done to John what the Pawnee did to Timmons, but Kicking Bird instead goes back to the Sioux camp and proposes they parlay with him.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The Sioux Resuce Party come to Dunbar's rescue and take out the squad of soldiers transporting him.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Dances With Wolves is saved by the Sioux, but Cisco and Two Socks are dead, and he feels that he has to go off with Stands With a Fist to live on their own away from the tribe. If that weren't enough, the Sioux have already gone when the military's Pawnee scouts find their winter camp, but we are then told that 13 years later, the last of the free Sioux were forced to surrender to the United States Government.
  • Blown Across the Room: When the Pawnees decide to sneak up to the camp, they never expect the Sioux to have rifles. One of them ends up being literally blown out of a tipi he just entered.
  • Braids, Beads and Buckskins: Justified.
  • Cavalry Officer: Both good and bad ones appear, given the frontier setting.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Major Fambrough, whom John Dunbar gets reassigned to, addresses those around him in medieval terms and soils himself in front of John while declaring that no one can do anything about it and then shoots himself in the head as John is leaving.
  • Coitus Uninterruptus: Well, sort of, Kicking Bird and his wife do pause to give Dunbar a "What are you staring at?" look until he minds his own business.
  • Cool, Clear Water: Averted at the last second, as John notices a lake he's about to take water from is surrounded/filled with animal corpses.
  • Cool Old Guy: Ten Bears. While he usually says little, he pays John the highest honor that he can - by offering to smoke with him a while to try and keep him from leaving the tribe.
  • Dangerous Deserter: John is treated as one when the Army re-establishes itself at Soldier Fort/ Fort Sedgwick.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • In the movie, Stone Calf meets his end in the battle against the Pawnee. He survives in the novel, eventually becoming a part of Those Two Guys with Wind in His Hair.
    • Spivey's book counterpart survives the novel due to not being part of Dunbar's escort in the novel.
    • Major Farmborough is institutionalized after trying to give orders like a king, while in the film, he is Driven to Suicide by his depression and delusions.
  • Defiant to the End: When surrounded, Wes Studi's Pawnee war leader lets out a defiant whoop before the Sioux shoot him down with more than a dozen rifles.
  • Dirty Coward: When the platoon of soldiers who captured John is under attack by the Sioux, Bauer immediately passes himself off as a corpse in order to make his escape, even as Edwards is screaming for the man to come to his aid less than a few feet away, however, Bauer doesn't get that far anyway...
  • The Dog Bites Back: After being captured and abused as a prisoner along with being forced to watch his animal companions get killed before being rescued, John wastes no time helping the Sioux rescue party take out his captors especially strangling Corporeal Spivey to death and drowning him.
  • Dramatic Irony: John goes back to the fort to retrieve his journal, fearing it would have been found and would have led someone to the Sioux, and all the death and hardship that follows is because of this decision. The audience sees, but John doesn't, that his journal was found by a thieving, illiterate Jerkass who would have destroyed it himself eventually anyway... wiping his ass with it.
  • Dress Hits Floor: Mary McDonnell shows off a damn good combo of this and Toplessness from the Back.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • John in the beginning, after learning he's going to have his foot amputated. The Confederates manage to miss him even though he charges right past them. May appear to be Truth in Television on account of older weapons, but muskets issued at the time were rifled, not the inaccurate smoothbore weapons of previous decades. Even then, smoothbore muskets would be accurate at those ranges.
    • Major Fambrough, early in the film. The book provides more context: he feels his life is meaningless, being given a desolate outpost in a forgotten corner of the frontier. His career was lackluster and has stalled, he was a lonely lifelong bachelor, struggled with alcoholism, and was implied to be in the early stages of a degenerative neurological affliction.
    • Implied to be the case for Stands With a Fist just prior to John finding her on the prairie, having cut her wrist in despair for the death of her husband.
  • Dub Text: The censors removed a scene where Dances with Wolves and Wind in his Hair debate the size of a buffalo, because they thought it was referring to the former's penis. This probably also adds to the Ho Yay. Also, the Lakota language coach was a woman, and nobody seemed to have realized that there are male and female Lakota pronunciations and styles — meaning it's a trap! The overall effect for Lakota-speaking audiences was a bunch of Klingon warriors talking like a ladies' Saturday afternoon tea social.
  • Either "World Domination", or Something About Bananas: Happens a couple of times as John attempts to learn the Sioux language.
  • Enemy Eats Your Lunch: After the Pawnee kill Timmons, one of them eats a boiled egg they take from him.
  • Epic Movie: From the scope to the vast scenery to the soundtrack, the movie is huge.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Dunbar grows his hair longer and eventually shaves his mustache, as a sign of him becoming more like the Sioux.
  • Fan Disservice: Kicking Bird and his wife having sex in front of Dunbar.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The Sioux don't get to keep their freedom and lifestyle for long.
  • Foreign Queasine: Eating the raw heart of a buffalo does not seem to be a pleasant experience for John Dunbar.
  • Field Promotion: John receives one after his suicidal charge/heroism.
  • The Ghost: Captain Cargill, the first commander of Fort Sedgwick is this in the final cut, being absent when Dunbar returns. He does appear in the extended version, and the original novel, which shows his command being plagued by squalor, and desertion, and Cargill eventually giving up any hope of relief and deciding to take his remaining men home (thanking them for staying as long as they did) and accept any potential consequences for the decision, with them leaving, out of one valley, at the same time Dunbar and Timmons are arriving with the supplies, through an adjoining valley.
  • Going Native: John Dunbar, who later becomes Dances With Wolves of the Lakota Sioux.
  • Hate Sink:
    • The film doesn't really have a true villain, but you can definitely hate the squad of Union soldiers that captures John Dunbar (especially Corporal Spivey). With the exception of Lt. Elgin and the mustached sergeant, they're a bunch of sadistic Jerk Asses who kill Cisco right underneath John, and later kill Two Socks just for fun. To a lesser extent, the Pawnee, who are also mostly depicted as dog-kicking machines as they kill innocents and shoot dogs with arrows.
    • Oh, but the special place in Hell should be reserved for Corporal Spivey. If it wasn't for him, Dunbar would have his journal, and therefore a record of all of his activities. Without it, there's no proof that Dunbar was at Fort Sedgewick, let alone what he did to make peaceful contact with the local Sioux. And why does Spivey steal the journal in the first place? No reason. Especially since he can't even read. And if it wasn't enough already, he had the nerve to try to steal from the imprisoned Dunbar for the second time, thinking he's sleeping. Worst of it all, Spivey has no reason to keep the journal hidden once its importance is explained nor it wouldn't be hard for him to find an excuse why he kept it for himself. He never returns it, not even considering doing so, despite knowing Dunbar is going to be hanged without the notebook supporting his story.
  • Hidden Depths: John would make an amazing ethnographer with his insight on many subjects, keen observations and the way he tries to document as much as possible. Yet, to the Army, he is most valuable as someone actually willing to be posted at the frontier.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: The Sioux. No wonder they made Costner a member of the tribe.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: The Pawnee tribe should sue for slander (see Artistic License – History).
  • Indian Maiden: Played with. Stands With a Fist is a white woman who was taken by the Pawnee as a small child and has lived with the Indians (first the Pawnee, then the Lakota) most of her life.
  • Injun Country: Featuring the Sioux and Pawnee tribes, deconstructs a good number of Cowboys and Indians and other Western Indian tropes while pursuing realism.
  • Insatiable Newlyweds: Implied with John/Dances With Wolves and Stands With a Fist. Kicking Bird teases him about not having seen him much since their wedding—"we call you the busy bee". John sheepishly admits that aside from being an example of this trope, that they are trying for a baby.
  • Jerkass: The soldiers at Fort Hayes, especially Corporal Spivey, who lies about finding John's/Dances With Wolves' journal and then later uses it to help out at the latrine. Lt Elgin is the exception.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Sergeant Bauer of all people makes the more or less valid inference that John has gone native and was intending upon desertion.
    Bauer: You turned injun, didn't ya?
  • Kick the Dog: The Pawnee shoots dogs with arrows, and the soldiers that eventually occupy the fort never miss an opportunity to kick any dog they find. Their opening act is to kill Dunbar's beloved horse, leaving the body to be picked by crows. Eventually, they kill Two Socks in front of John just for the fun of it. And it's completely ignored that the magical Sioux ate dogs in religious festivals.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The squad of soldiers who abused Dances with Wolves and killed Two Socks and Cisco are dispatched in a particularly brutal fashion by the Sioux rescue party who unknowingly avenged the two animals that were cruelly killed. Lt Elgin's fate is a somewhat positive example— he's rewarded for his fair treatment of Dances with Wolves with a swift and almost instantaneous death.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Subverted in the film's opening scene, when Dunbar, despondent over having to lose his foot, decides to charge the Confederate lines solo on a horse so that he dies honorably. Instead, his comrades take advantage of the distraction to break the stalemate; his reward is any posting he wants, which sets up the rest of the film.
  • Magical Native American: Averted with Kicking Bird, the tribe's medicine man, who goes off in a sulk if something happens that he doesn't see coming, like Dances With Wolves hooking up with Stands With a Fist.
  • Men of Sherwood: The men and boys of the Lakota tribe prove to be a brave and well-coordinated fighting force and only lose one person in the two battles they engage in; though admittedly in the first they catch their enemy by surprise by being armed with rifles, and in the second it's a flat-out surprise ambush.
  • Mighty Whitey: Subverted with a vengeance. Rather than being superior to the Sioux, John works for the entire span of the story to get acknowledged by them as part of the tribe, struggling with their culture and language while adapting. He never takes any special position and, in several particular instances, is given an inferior role and duties due to being an outsider. By the end of the story, he needs to be saved by the rest of the tribe, in the process also endangering its existence.
  • Manly Facial Hair: Elgin's escort has one Spear Carrier sergeant with a prominent mustache who gets an impressive showing in the movie despite being unnamed and uncredited. He is scouting ahead with Elgin when the other soldiers started shooting at Two Socks and abusing Dunbar and joins the lieutenant in making them stop at gunpoint. When the Indians attack the wagon, he's also the only man to really put up a fight, taking an arrow to the chest, but riding forward, firing, before a second arrow strikes him.
  • Mirror Character: It is chilling when you realize that Lieutenant Elgin (young, dashing, heroic, dutiful, compassionate) is almost a carbon copy of Lieutenant John Dunbar not so long ago. (He is the first killed in the Sioux ambush/rescue.)
  • Naked First Impression: Kicking Bird first meets Dunbar while the latter is walking back to camp after bathing in a stream, not having bothered to put on some clothes in the meantime.
  • Name That Unfolds Like Lotus Blossom: All the Native Americans (except Otter). While this does somewhat reflect real life Indian naming conventions, the actual names are usually much less poetic than the movie kind. Take for example that fierce Comanche warrior Toboibita, whose name translates roughly as "A Group of Men Standing on a Hill"
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Lt. Elgin stops the other soldiers from going up a hill, which saves the Sioux on the other side.
  • Noble Savage: All of the Sioux are shown in this light; none of the Pawnee are.
    • They show a darker side as well. There's a scene (in the extended version at least) where the Sioux have just killed a group of white men who were wastefully hunting buffalo for only their skins. We're left to wonder whether the white men really deserved to die for what they had done, and Dunbar is disturbed to see severed white hands and the Sioux celebrating with abandon.
    • Some of the Pawnee are also shown to be, at the least, not quite as battle-crazed as their leader, with one of them grumbling to the other "He will not stop until we're all dead." This hints that the Pawnee are not somehow just inherently more violent and evil than the Sioux, but more that they feel beholden to follow their Blood Knight leader.
  • No Name Given: Wes Studi's character, who is only credited as "Toughest Pawnee", and Lt. Elgin's commanding officer.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Dunbar's deployment to Fort Sedgewick, where the mystery of the desertion of the fort builds, while the brutality of the Pawnee is shown as Timmons is killed. Because the only people who knew of Dunbar's deployment were Major Fambrough (who killed himself) and Timmons (who died on the way back), no one knew Dunbar was even AT Fort Sedgewick, let alone that he was waiting on a relief force that would never come. So until the Sioux enter the picture, tension builds as Dunbar rebuilds the fort.
  • Nothing Left to Do but Die: When Dunbar meets Famborough, it's immediately apparent that the Major's world-weariness and disillusionment with his own life has already made him quite unhinged, but Dunbar's request to see the frontier sends him right over the edge. He completely loses his mind at the thought of a noble young soldier going on a "knight's errand" into the wilds. Famborough pisses in his pants, then toasts both their "journeys" and promptly blows his brains out.
  • One-Man Army: Subverted. After the third attempt by the Sioux to steal his horse, John determines to ride out to the Sioux encampment in full colors to make a spirited resistance. Instead he runs into Stands With a Fist, wounded and bleeding, and carries her back to the Sioux encampment, not as a soldier but as a rescuer. This does not go unnoticed by Kicking Bird, who makes sure John is allowed to leave unmolested.
  • One Sided Battle: After John's seeming heroics (actually attempted suicide), the Union troops attack and rout the Confederates.
    • Also apparent when the Sioux defeat the Pawnee, using the guns John had.
    • The Sioux Rescue Party and Dunbar took out all of the soldiers that were transporting the latter.
  • Only Useful as Toilet Paper: After Dunbar goes native, his journal is found by some illiterate soldiers and used for toilet paper.
  • Oscar Bait: And it worked, bringing home seven awards including Best Picture. Subverted during production where the media and most of Hollywood thought the film would crash and burn, dubbing it 'Kevin's Gate' in reference to Heaven's Gate
  • Poor Communication Kills: Lieutenant Dunbar was deployed to Fort Sedgewick by Major Fambrough, as the Major's last order, since the Major immediately committed suicide once Dunbar was away. The only copy of said order was given to Dunbar to give to the CO of Fort Sedgewick, which turned out to be Dunbar himself when he found the fort deserted. The only other person who knew about the deployment of Dunbar was Timmons, a local frontiersman who was killed by Pawnee warriors on the way back from dropping off Dunbar's supplies. Further complicating matters, when forces finally came to Fort Sedgewick to relieve it, Dunbar was gone, and the only proof he was even there, his diary, was stolen by a corporal of the relief contingent, so when Dunbar returned, there was no proof of him not deserting, but in fact forging strong ties with the locals.
  • Race Lift: The Comanche of the book was replaced with Lakota Sioux due to the scarcity of buffalo in New Mexico and the difficulty of finding people who could speak Comanche. The greater abundance of buffalo in South Dakota, and the larger number of people who could speak the relevant language, made the Lakota Sioux more ideal for the film's purposes. Not that it mattered. The so-called 'Comanche' of the novel were actually generic Plains Indians.
  • Raised by Natives: Stands With a Fist.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Lt. Elgin, who heads the squad that captures Dunbar, tries to keep his men in line, and ensure Dunbar is treated humanely. Unfortunately, nobody told the Sioux rescue party this, and he's the first to die in their raid albeit a quick one.
  • Re-Cut: An Extended Cut was shown in the UK that adds practically an hour to the runtime. While the focus on John Dunbar is lost, all the characters get a buttload of development. Also, the precise reason why the Army camp was deserted is explained. This is the version of the film most widely available on DVD and Blu-ray, with the original cut being relegated to a Pan & Scan DVD until Shout Factory released both cuts on Blu-ray in 2019.
  • Reunion Kiss: More like Reunion Epic Makeout. She literally tackles him to the ground.
  • Robbing the Dead: The wagon driver who transports Lieutenant Dunbar to Fort Sedgewick. After he's killed by a Sioux war party, one of the party is seen eating Timmons' beloved pickled eggs.
  • Running Gag: The Sioux's repeated attempts to steal Cisco, John's horse. The first time, with Kicking Bird, ends with a buck-naked John chasing him away. The second, a trio of Sioux children tries it. The third time brings Wind in His Hair's war party. They all end the same way - when Cisco shucks the Sioux, usually leaving at least one of them injured, and runs back to the fort to be with John.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Timmons is killed early to show that the Pawnee are a deadly threat.
  • Scenery Porn: From the rolling Great Plains to the mountains near the end, the film is gorgeous.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: A few of the confederate soldiers break away and run as the Union troop charge and they find themselves out of ammo.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: John after he's told he'll need to have his leg amputated.
  • Shirtless Scene: Pretty much all the Sioux men, but Costner gets naked.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Downplayed in the movie, but the odious Timmons becomes a fairly important character when you realize that in the beginning he's the last person alive who knows that Dunbar is stationed at Fort Sedgewick. If it weren't for his death at the hands of the Pawnee, the entire story might have had a completely different outcome.
  • Soldier vs. Warrior: Despite being a career officer with a hefty experience behind his belt, Dunbar is not considered "ready" to be a warrior when Sioux organize their war party. Both sides acknowledge the reasoning behind this decision without any hard feelings.
  • Stock Scream: The Pawnee blown out of the tipi uses the classic Wilhelm.
  • Stock Sound Effects: Has anyone heard Timmons' fart somewhere before?
  • Suicide by Cop: John enlists the aid of the enemy army to help him deal with his life situation. They succeed, but not in the way he imagined they would.
  • That Man Is Dead: (In Lakota language) "My name is Dances With Wolves, and I have nothing to say to you."
  • These Hands Have Killed: The young adolescent brought on the raiding party to rescue Dunbar buries his axe in the asshole sergeant, then suffers a Heroic BSoD.
  • Those Two Guys: Technically, the boys are those three guys, but still...
  • Toilet Paper Substitute: Corporal Spivey uses John Dunbar's journal, which could save John's life, as toilet paper.
  • Token Minority Couple: Played With. Sitting Bird's wife thinks Dances with Wolves and Stands with a Fist would be good together since they're both white. It should be noted that her deceased husband was likely Sioux.
  • Tonto Talk: Averted. Though Dunbar/Dances with Wolves doesn't speak a lot of English with the members of the tribe who aren't Stands with a Fist, he and Kicking Bird exchange short conversations most notably when Kicking Bird gives Dances with Wolves a sendoff after the latter decides to leave the tribe. While Kicking Bird's speech is slow and halting, his syntax is largely correct.
  • Translation Convention: Averted. While shooting half of the movie in Lakota was ridiculed during the production, it turned out to be a fantastic choice from a stylistic standpoint. Both critics and audiences praised how much more real it felt thanks to Sioux talking in their language and John struggling with it.note 
  • Uncertain Doom: Christine/Stands With a Fist's friend or cousin Willie, is last seen readying a rifle to try and fight the Pawnee attacking the farm, as he tells her to run, and while his ultimate fate is unknown, it's unlikely that he prevailed, and even less likely that they were inclined to show him any mercy.
  • Vanity Project: Kevin Costner directed, produced and starred in this film, however, it is regarded as being a well-done vanity project that managed to win four awards.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: While the sadistic Spivey and cowardly Bauer were clearly meant to be Asshole Victims, the rest of the Union Soldiers who captured Dunbar and transport him to be court-martialed and probably executed for treason were just doing their duty in dealing with an officer who had deserted his post and joined a perceived enemy.
  • War Is Hell: Unfortunately, John learns too late that it really doesn't make that much of a difference if it's Union vs. Confederates or Sioux vs. Pawnee. It's always a messy, brutal, senseless waste of human life. However, he also notes that while the "modern" war seemed utterly pointless, the battles on the plains have a more immediate and understandable reason, such as getting food or defending your friends and family against an attack.
  • Wham Line: Foregone conclusion to the audience, but for most of the film Dunbar evades telling Kicking Bird how many white people are coming in the expansion of the United States until he finally answers: "Like the stars."
  • Would Hurt a Child: Sergeant Bauer doesn't say anything or even blink - he just points his revolver right into Smiles A Lot's face and pulls the trigger. The only reason the boy survives is because the gun was previously submerged in the river, so Bauer pistol-whips him instead, preparing to ride away on one of the Sioux horses.