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Dances With Wolves Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 4.0

    out of 100

    Generally favorable reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100

    ReelViews James Berardinelli

    While no one is going to place Costner alongside Laurence Olivier in the acting department, he brings a likability to Dunbar that many better performers might not have been able to match.

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  • 100

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    This movie moves so confidently and looks so good it seems incredible that it's a directorial debut.

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  • 50

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    The movie is so busy turning the Sioux characters into photogenic saints that it never quite allows them the complications of human beings.

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  • 75

    out of 100

    USA Today Mike Clark

    Ultimately, this film is more interesting than rousing; missing is a John Ford-ian wealth of idiosyncratic characters. [9 Nov 1990, Life, 4D]

  • 88

    out of 100

    Chicago Tribune Gene Siskel

    A three-hour delight… The movie generates much of its power by being so life-affirming at a time when people feel nervous about the future. [9 Nov 1990, Friday, p.C]

  • See all Dances With Wolves reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Pause for kids 13 & under

A grand, sweeping journey with graphic violence.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that certain scenes in this film stretch the boundaries of a PG-13 rating and are extremely violent. Both Native Americans and white settlers are brutally killed, many times in close-up, with rifles, knives, arrows, hatchets, and in hand-to-hand combat. Blood flows in many scenes. Animals, including some who have been seen throughout as loyal companions to the humans, are viciously killed. At the same time, the picture painted of Native-Americans as a peace-loving, desperate to survive, family-oriented people broke much new ground in 1990 when this movie was made. There is some mild profanity in early scenes; some partial nudity and passionate kissing and embracing; and Native-Americans sharing a pipe is shown as an ongoing tribal custom.

  • Families can talk about the plight of the Native Americans and how their situation compares with other situations in the world right now. Was it okay to colonize land that the Native Americans had taken care of for so long? Was there a compromise that would have worked? What would the U.S. be like now if settlers and Native Americans had lived and learned from each other instead of one eradicating the other?
  • Why is there so much violence in this movie? Would the movie make the same impact without the graphic illustration of violence?

The good stuff
  • message true4

    Messages: Some strongly negative images and scenes are overpowered by what is ultimately strong positive messages: Animosity and prejudice are often based on fear and lack of awareness of the culture and values of the "other." By living among strangers and sharing their lives and aspirations, understanding and respect come naturally. Language is a vehicle which promotes such understanding. Some battles are waged as a means of survival; other battles are about power and subjugation. Native American tribes were fighting the oncoming white troops and settlers for access to their own land and resources which would sustain their way of life.

  • rolemodels true4

    Role models: John Jay Dunbar, as a survivor of the Civil War with little or no knowledge of the American frontier and the plight of Native Americans who inhabit it, is the role model for the film's audience. As Dunbar comes to view the frontier as it really is, the audience follows suit. Dunbar is open to a different way of life, and he is brave, smart, loyal and heroic. Most of the Native Americans in this movie are shown as devoted to family, eager to laugh, protect their way of life, and live in harmony, a vastly different picture of this people from many movies that came before it. With Dunbar the only exception, the white soldiers in this film are depicted as brutal and ignorant.

What to watch for
  • violence false5

    Violence: Intensely violent battle scenes between white soldiers and Native-Americans and between different tribes. Both participants and innocents (including some children) are shot with guns or arrows; they're knifed, scalped, killed with hatchets or in furious hand-to-hand combat. Human and animal blood flows throughout. Many animals (horses, dogs, and buffalos) are attacked and shown bleeding and dying. Indians ravage an innocent group of settlers; white soldiers beat, pummel, and ferociously kick the film's hero; the same soldiers gleefully attack a beloved wolf for the sport of it.

  • sex false3

    Sex: A Native-American couple, their bare shoulders visible, are briefly shown making love under the animal skins which cover them. There are several scenes which depict a couple who is deeply in love passionately kissing, embracing, and undressing. There is some nudity, including rear views of a naked male.

  • language false2

    Language: Some swearing early in the film: "Jesus Christ," "I just pissed in my pants," "Goddamn," "butt," "son-of-a-bitch," "hell," "bitch," and some fart sounds.

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not applicable

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false2

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: One character smokes a cigar. In numerous scenes the tribal ritual of smoking a pipe is shared by groups of Native-Americans and their guests. A few instances of alcohol consumption.