Dances with Wolves- Movie Meaning and Ending Explained



Dances with Wolves- Movie Meaning and Ending Explained


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Dances with Wolves is a 1991 American drama film directed by Kevin Costner and written by Michael Blake. The film is based on the novel by Robert Swindells. Set in 1890s North Dakota, the film depicts an encounter between a U.S. Cavalry scout named John Dunbar (Costner) and a malevolent Native American called ‘Blackfoot’ (played by Graham Greene).

The film Dances with Wolves (1992) is a look at the life of Sergeant John Dunbar and his relationship with an Indian scout, played by Kevin Costner. The movie follows their relationship over the course of eight years on the frontier, ending in the American Civil War.

Dances with Wolves- Movie Meaning and Ending Explained

Meaning of Dances with Wolves

The movie has a wide range of possible interpretations due to its complex and multi-layered plot. Possible themes that could be explored include the impact of colonialism on Native Americans, relations between different cultures, and human values in difficult circumstances.

The movie is widely seen as a triumphant story about the triumph of good over evil. John Dunbar represents everything that is best in humanity, and his encounter with Blackfoot ultimately leads to the warrior’s redemption and understanding of the natural world. The Native Americans in the film are portrayed sympathetically, as victims of centuries of oppression.

Some believe that the movie’s overall message is that violence and hatred are never justified, no matter what the circumstances. Others feel that the film ultimately celebrates Indian culture and values, emphasizing the spiritual aspects of Native American life in contrast to a Euro-centric perspective.

Ending of Dances with Wolves

The ending of the movie is particularly ambiguous, with Dunbar potentially fighting in the Civil War and becoming a national hero. Some viewers have interpreted this as a positive outcome, while others have seen it as an indication that Dunbar has lost his innocence and is no longer content with simple life on the frontier.

The overall message of Dances with Wolves is one of peace and understanding between different individuals. John Dunbar becomes close with the Indian scout, learning about their culture and helping to improve their lives. The two men eventually join forces in the American Civil War, fighting together against their common enemy – slavery.

Key characters of Dances with Wolves

Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner

Kevin goes to Vietnam and becomes the leader of an indigenous tribe called Sioux Indians. They are led by Chief Yellow Hawk who has been responsible for many massacres on Black people before he became their chief. This includes his own son being murdered by White settlers, which Costner’s character avenges him with Kevin Costner’s heroic role as War Cloud in the film Dances with Wolves.

John Dunbar

John Dunbar

The film received critical acclaim for being a fresh take on the genre of Westerns but had trouble getting its release back home in America due to politics involving Costar john mc Donnell as John Dunbar during his involvement with the American Indian Movement at that time which hindered it from becoming ABC broadcast material.

Mary Mcdonnell

Mary Mcdonnell

The white woman (mary mc Donnell) had been adopted as a little girl by the tribe of Sioux Indians. The white woman falls in love with Dunbar and decides to join his people, not knowing that she is being shunned for having an affair with another man.

Events of Dances with Wolves

The buffalo

The buffalo are not the main character. They’re just buffalo that the characters hunt at some point. There’s also no particular meaning or conclusion to Dances with Wolves, other than that it was about real people in an environment for which there is no perfect solution between hunting and peace.

The civil war

The civil war depicted in this movie has become especially relevant as many people interpret it to be happening now, with Trump’s presidency representing ‘the rise of fascism’ today. Furthermore, similarities with Nazi Germany are also noted: although much more subtle than other films that release during World War 2 (such as “Schindler’s List”), Dances with Wolves does depict the genocide of Native Americans and their way of life eradicated.

Buffalo Hunt

Dances with Wolves is the film that Costner wanted to make. It made him a superstar in Hollywood, but not without controversy. The greatest buffalo hunt scene was one of the great movie scenes ever filmed, according to many people who have seen it and there are multiple songs on other music lists too including best soundtracks at number 3 as mentioned by list-makers Stephen Thomas Erlewine and Aarron Jameson respectively.)

The buffalo hunt had Costner fall off his horse during filming causing him to injure his back. The producers ended up digitally editing the fall so that it would not be in the final cut of the film, but some people still believe that this happened.

The White Woman

In the film, Dunbar falls in love with white woman Mary McDonnell’s character while he is a prisoner of war. In his attempts to escape and avoid capture by British soldiers, she gives him food and medicine to help him survive.

When they are finally reunited after their separation, it is revealed that she was born into the tribe as an adopted white woman named “Mary McDonnel”.

She converted to Christianity at age 10 years old when her father returned from battle drunk and fell off of a wagon onto her, which inspired her to become a missionary. Dunbar attempted to tell her this before he left for war but she does not believe him and marries an Englishman instead.

The movie depicts the historical romance of Mary McDonnell (of “The Virgin Suicides”) and Seamus Dunbar (actor Kevin Costner) from 1854-1859 during the Black Hawk War.

Fort Sedgewick

There are two versions of the ending to Dances with Wolves. The 2003 film, ‘Wolf’, shows Dunbar surviving his entire long trek across treacherous lands and back home, with a wife and kids waiting for him (completely ignoring either twist about him being killed by advancing soldiers when he was in fact still alive).

This seems like an obvious change since it would be better than having Dunbar as dead all along. The film has a varied reception, with critics praising the performances of Costner and Baldwin while pointing to story elements as being implausible and even frivolous.

Dunbar’s outpost

Dunbar’s outpost is a new frontier outpost, the only one between Sedgewick and fort hays. It is nearly deserted by every means. Here, he begins his life of adventure which will lead him to be recognized as an American hero at Fort Sedgewick in the year 1863 – Costner’s final performance.

After the fall of Fort Sedgewick, Dunbar must trek through hostile lands to rejoin his family and tell them about their son’s heroic exploits at the outpost which contributed to its ultimate downfall. Along the way, he becomes a symbol of resistance against the white man and is eventually killed by advancing soldiers.

Dunbar’s final fate is changed drastically in the 2003 motion picture, “Wolf”. After successfully returning home from his long trek across treacherous lands and back to his family, Dunbar finds out that they’ve been left behind at Fort Sedgewick while he’s gone. His wife has married an Englishman and the couple has two children.

Union Army

The movie is an epic film, with a strong union army theme. It runs throughout the entire story of Dunbar and his narrow escape from death while on duty in the army during the civil war, to his enlistment in colonial America’s union army after that war against native tribes led by Sioux chief Red Cloud or Prairie Wolf.

Sioux Indians

Dunbar is forced to leave his home with the Sioux, go to a fort, and be hung. Then he’s freed by tribe members who kill the soldiers around him. The tension of this ending was one of the most controversial topics that emerged in reviews during its release; were audiences happy that Dunbar survived?

  1. In the movie, Sioux is the people of a Native American tribe that lived along the Mexican border during and after the civil war, who we learn in one scene were close to wiping out all whites living on their territory by using strong horsemen to raid settlements for livestock and supplies.
  2. There is no evidence whatsoever that there was an assignment made by Dunbar himself—or anyone else at Fort Robinson–to hang him as a traitor; even if an order had been given, it would have been up to Captain Edwards and his commanding officer, General Reynolds (not Dunbar), to carry out the order.
  3. The 1865 massacre at Wounded Knee that killed over 190 Sioux people was not initiated by U.S. soldiers but rather by a small band of Lakota warriors who believed they were fighting for their traditional way of life against encroaching white settlers; this event is recounted in Timothy O’ Brien’s book, “The Last Great Indian War.”
  4. Dunbar is not executed but rather deserted by his fellow soldiers and left to die after he shoots out the eyes of a scout who had been harassing the women and children living near Ft Robinson; this act earns him a life sentence at Fort Leavenworth where he remains for eight years before being paroled in 1872.

Awards won and business

Awards won and business

The film was a critical and box office success, grossing over $197 million worldwide. Through the rest of 1990, it remained in cinemas around the world for another 61 weeks. American Film Institute named it one of “100 Years… 100 Movies”, being cited as among the 10 most significant films since its inception.

Time magazine listed Dances with Wolves at #12 on their list of 100 greatest movies from 1923 to 2005.[The film received several awards and nominations, including eight Academy Awards (including Best Picture), four BAFTA Awards, and three Golden Globe Awards.

Dances with Wolves- Ending Explained

When Dunbar’s identity is finally revealed to the soldiers and their commanding officer, they are deeply disappointed in him. General Reynolds declares that “this man has disgraced us all” before ordering his execution.

After he shoots out the eyes of a scout who had been harassing the women and children living near Ft Robinson, Dunbar is left for dead by his fellow soldiers after he deserts them. However, he survives and eventually is pardoned and released from prison.


Dances with Wolves is a 1990 American epic western film directed by Kevin Costner and starring Kevin Costner, Christian Bale, Wes Studi, Sam Elliott, and Chief Dan George. The film was inspired by the story of Black Elk (1863–1950), a Lakota holy man.

It tells the story of an Army Captain who befriends a pair of half-breed brothers after they are separated from their tribe in 1876.

Hope our article was good enough to explain the meaning and ending of the movie.


Why Were There Dead Deer in the Pond in Dances With Wolves?

Some believe the dead deer in the pond in Dances with Wolves were there as a symbol of resurrection. Other scholars suggest that they may have been placed there to make it look more authentic.

What Tribe Does Dances With Wolves Live With?

The majority of scholars believe Dances with Wolves is set in the Mid-West during the 1870s and 1880s, which means it most likely takes place on the Sioux Nation.

Who Is the Woman in Dances With Wolves?

There is a long debate surrounding the identity of the woman in Dances with Wolves. Some believe she is based on real-life Sioux woman Winona La Duke, while others claim she was created specifically for the movie.

What Does the Wolf Symbolize in Dances With Wolves?

The wolf symbolizes strength, aggression, and transformation. It is also believed to be a messenger of the gods. In addition, it is believed that the wolf can also guide people to their spiritual path.

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