Generally favorable reviews - based on 20 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 20
  2. Negative: 1 out of 20
  1. 100
    This movie moves so confidently and looks so good it seems incredible that it's a directorial debut.
  2. 100
    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.
  3. 100
    A clear-eyed vision. Authentic as an Edward Curtis photograph, lyrical as a George Catlin oil or a Karl Bodmer landscape, this is a film with a pure ring to it. It's impossible to call it anything but epic [9 Nov 1990, Calendar, p.F-1]
  4. 100
    A gigantic achievement, an endowment of riches.
  5. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    Costner's directing style is fresh and assured. A sense of surprise and humor accompany Dunbar's adventures at every turn, twisting the narrative gently this way and that and making the journey a real pleasure.
  6. Costner (with Michael Blake's screenplay) creates a vision so childlike, so willfully romantic, it's hard to put up a fight.
  7. 88
    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]
  8. The treatment of the Sioux is not only sympathetic, it's ethnographically exact. Neither Noble Savages nor Red Injuns, the natives in Dances With Wolves are differentiated human beings about to undergo cultural genocide.
  9. Reviewed by: Angie Errigo
    Of sentiment there is too much and the final sequence when the white men inevitably rear their heads and raise their rifles so fraught with tears and peril as to be exhaustingly melodramatic.
  10. The opening minutes in a Union Army camp are as good as anything in Glory; and the buffalo hunt, as edited by Travis, is a marvel. [10 Dec 1990, p.28]
  11. The film's politically correct repudiation of the familiar black-and-white characterizations of the white and red man is ultimately undermined, however, when the pendulum swings too far in the other direction.
  12. The picture moves slowly but never sluggishly, and it never grinds down. The measured pace shows real assurance on the part of Costner. [9 Nov 1990, Daily Datebook, p.E1]
  13. Reviewed by: 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]
  14. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    It would be nice, for instance, to meet some white man, other than Dunbar [Costner], who is not a brutish lout. And it would not harm the film if there were one or two bad-natured Sioux visible in it. [12 Nov 1990, p.102]
  15. Smoothly directed by Kevin Costner, who also gives a sensitive performance in the leading role. The screenplay is often trite, however, and there's no reason for the picture's three-hour length. [9 Nov 1990, Arts, p.12]
  16. Sincere, capable, at times moving, but overextended, this picture is seriously hampered by its tendency to linger over everything--especially landscapes with silhouetted figures, and not excluding its own good intentions.
  17. Reviewed by: Staff (Non Credited)
    A western for people who are completely ignorant about the genre. Costner's direction is barely competent and frequently clumsy.
  18. The movie is so busy turning the Sioux characters into photogenic saints that it never quite allows them the complications of human beings.
  19. Mr. Blake's screenplay and Mr. Costner's direction of it are, with the exception of three memorable sequences, commonplace. The film is painstakingly composed of small details of frontier and tribal life that should be riveting. Most of the time they aren't.
  20. 30
    The movie is childishly naïve... like a New Age social-studies lesson. It isn't really revisionist; it's the old stuff toned down and sensitized. [17 Dec 1990]
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 93 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 21 out of 23
  2. Negative: 0 out of 23
  1. EC
    Jul 1, 2007
    A marvelous film. Many powerful sequences, some memorable characters, lush and evocative cinematography in the right places. Not too many movies leave you feeling enriched, but this one does. Full Review »
  2. UsmanA.
    Jun 6, 2006
    its a briliant film. explains the civil war and how america split up because of slavery. 1 man changes from being a hero to being a traitor.
  3. Jun 24, 2014
    Dances with wolves is something that you don't see in movies now a days and it speaks to you In away that movies should this without a doubt one of my favorite movies of all time Full Review »