The 10 Coolest Native Americans in Film

By | November 26, 2020

The 10 Coolest Native Americans in Film has picked some of the coolest Native American characters in cinematic history. Check out our picks below!

When you see a Native American character on the big screen, you make note of it. When it comes to representation in Hollywood, Native Americans have gotten the short end of the stick… sort of like they did with that whole colonization thing. That said, the least a listicle can do is pay homage to the best crime fighters, historical figures, superheroes, or otherwise stereotypical Native American characters to grace the silver screen. The following are our picks for the coolest and most memorable Native Americans in film.

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Gary Farmer as Nobody in ‘Dead Man (1995)’

Nobody both subverts and adheres to your expectations. As a Native American, he’s very spiritual and serves as William Blake’s (Johnny Depp) introduction to Native American culture (as well as the spiritual world). However, it is revealed that Nobody was captured and taken to England where he received a formal education. Therefore, he knows all about the white man’s culture and aims to find harmony between Native American and “western” culture. He rejects all of the Native American stereotypes established in popular culture and epitomizes the philosophical complexities of Dead Man

Russell Means as Chingachgook in ‘The Last of the Mohicans (1992)’

The titular The Last of the Mohicans. Chingachgook is the father of Uncas and, like the latter, is proud of his heritage. He’s also known as Les Gros Serpent AKA “The Great Snake” due to his innovative intelligence.

Adam Beach as Slipknot in ‘Suicide Squad (2016)’

As far as superheroes/supervillains go, you probably don’t think a rope/knot expert who’s skilled at climbing would be the most imposing force but Slipknot is pretty cool, at least in the comics—an ex-chemist who develops a formula for extra durable ropes and an expert fighter (with heightened abilities). Unfortunately, 2016’s Suicide Squad cut Slipknot’s backstory/exposure due to time constraints and had Captain Boomerang trick him into getting killed by an implanted nano-bomb relatively early. 

Will Sampson as Chief Bromden in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)’

In the books, Chief Bromden AKA “Chief Broom” (because he sweeps the halls), is the narrator of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—he’s more of the main character than McMurphy. The novel is a story about the hospital and its occupants as well as Bromden’s exploration of his sanity and journey towards becoming fully communicative (not just uttering “juicy fruit.” In the movie, Jack Nicholson’s McMurphy is central to everything. Still, he’s an important, unforgettable (and cool) secondary character. 

Graham Greene as Kicking Bird in ‘Dances with Wolves (1990)’

Graham Greene received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor portraying Kicking Bird, the Lakota-Sioux medicine man, in 1990’s Dances with Wolves. As the foster-father of Stands With Fist (John Dunbar’s love interest), Kicking Bird’s approval carries an inimitable weight in regards to the tribe and story. His rapport with Dances with Wolves’ protagonist is some of the most memorable in the film. 

Sonny Landham as Billy Sole in ‘Predator (1987)’

Billy Sole is one of the mercenaries in Dutch’s (Arnold Schwarzenegger) team that runs into the Predator during a rescue mission in Guatemala. He’s an expert tacker who dies in hand-to-hand combat (armed only with a machete) with the Predator. It doesn’t get cooler than that.

Irene Bedard as Pocahontas in ‘Pocahontas (1995)’

Everyone knows Pocahontas. The titular protagonist of the 1995 Disney animation is the first Disney Princess to be based on an actual person (albeit embellished). She’s the daughter of Chief Powhatan who leads a Native American tribe in Virginia. After falling in love with settler John Smith, Pocahontas aims to bring about peace between the settlers and natives, ultimately risking her life to save Smith. Pocahontas’ character model was inspired by voice actress Irene Bedard, who also happens to be Native American.

Litefoot as Little Bear in ‘The Indian in the Cupboard (1995)’

Omri’s (Hal Scardino) brave Native American toy that comes to life after being locked inside the magic cupboard.

Lou Diamond Phillips as Jose Chavez y Chavez in ‘Young Guns (1988)’

The twenty-something outlaw of Mexican-American and Native-American heritage and famous outlaw and cohort of Billy The Kid (Emilio Estevez), joining the Lincoln County Regulators in the war that lasted from 1878 to 1879.

Graham Green as Walter Crow Horse in ‘Thunderheart (1992)’

The reservation police officer (played again by the inimitable and underappreciated Graham Green with an extra amount of swagger) who views FBI agent Ray Levoi (Val Kilmer) as an outsider.