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The film opens during an American Civil War battle. Union Army Officer Lieutenant John J. Dunbar learns that his injured leg is to be amputated. Seeing the plight of fellow soldiers with amputated legs, Dunbar attempts suicide by riding a horse across the line of fire between the opposing Union and Confederate positions. His action has the unexpected effect of rallying his comrades, who storm the Confederate positions and win the battle. After the ensuing battle, an experienced general's surgeon saves Dunbar's leg. The commanding officer names Dunbar a hero, awards him Cisco, the horse who carried him in battle, and offers Dunbar his choice of posting. Dunbar requests a transfer to the western frontier. After meeting with Major Fambrough, who has slipped into delusions of grandeur (apparently believing he is a king and Dunbar a medieval knight), he is paired with a drayage teamster named Timmons, who conveys Dunbar to his post. After the departure of Timmons and Dunbar, Fambrough commits suicide with his own pistol. After a scenic journey, Dunbar and Timmons arrive with fresh supplies at the desolate Fort Sedgwick, finding it deserted except for a lone wolf that Dunbar befriends and dubs Two Socks from the coloring of its front legs. Dunbar, while waiting for reinforcements to arrive, sets in order the deserted post, left in complete disarray by its previous occupants. Meanwhile, Timmons, while returning to their point of departure, is ambushed by Pawnee Indians and scalped by their leader. Timmons' death and the suicide of the major who sent them there prevents Union officers from knowing of Dunbar's assignment to the post, effectively isolating Dunbar. Dunbar remains unaware of the full situation and its implications. He notes in his journal how strange it is that no more soldiers join him at the post.

Dunbar initially encounters Sioux neighbors when the tribe's medicine man, Kicking Bird, happens upon the fort while Dunbar bathes out of sight, and assuming it abandoned, attempts to capture Cisco but is scared off by Dunbar's unexpected reappearance. Some of the tribe's youths (Nathan Lee Chasing His Horse and Michael Spears) attempt to capture Cisco, but the wily horse pulls on the rope that holds him, causing the youth leading him to fall from his horse; a later attempt by the tribe's mature warriors, led by an aggressive warrior named Wind in His Hair who declares that he is not scared of the white man, is likewise thwarted. The Sioux decide Cisco is not worth the effort and leave her alone, and Cisco returns to Dunbar's fort. Having had enough of these stressing relations, Dunbar seeks out the Sioux camp. On his way, however, he interrupts the suicide of Stands With A Fist, a white woman taken in by the tribe as a young orphan and recently widowed, and takes her back to her tribe's camp. The Sioux' attitude about Dunbar changes dramatically upon his deed, prompting them into a more peaceful approach. Eventually, Dunbar manages to establish a rapport with Kicking Bird, but the language barrier frustrates them, but eventually this is overcome with the help of Stands With A Fist, who acts as a translator. Dunbar finds himself drawn to the lifestyle and customs of the tribe, and becomes a hero among the Sioux and accepted as an honorary member of the tribe after he helps them locate a migrating herd of buffalo, which the Indians depend upon as a source of food, material, and clothing.

Dunbar further helps defend the settlement against a Pawnee raiding party, providing the Sioux warriors with surplus rifles and ammunition from the fort. He eventually is accepted as a full member of the tribe, and is named "Dances with Wolves" after the scouts witnessed him frolicking with Two Socks. He falls in love with Stands With A Fist, a relationship forbidden by the recent death of her husband in battle and consummated in secret; the two eventually win the approval of Kicking Bird, who acts as her father, and marry. Dunbar subsequently spends more time communing with the tribe than manning his post at Fort Sedgwick. Wind In His Hair, his last rival, acknowledges him as a friend. Dunbar's idyll ends when he tells Kicking Bird that white men will continue to invade their land in "numbers like the stars." They tell Chief Ten Bears, who decides it is time to move the village to its winter camp. As the packing finishes, Dunbar realizes that his journal, left behind at the deserted fort, is a blueprint for finding the tribe, revealing that he knows far too much about their ways. He returns to retrieve it, but finds Fort Sedgwick is re-occupied by reinforcing Army troops, who shoot and kill Cisco. As Dunbar weeps over the body of his fallen horse, the soldiers kick and beat Dunbar, arresting him as a traitor.

In an abusive interrogation, Dunbar explains to Lt. Elgin (whom Dunbar met earlier in Maj. Fambrough's office) that he had a journal with orders about his posting to Fort Sedgwick. One of the soldiers that first arrived at the fort, Spivey, denies the existence of the journal, but actually carries the journal in his pocket. After Dunbar declares in the Lakota language that he is now Dances With Wolves, Army officers and troops set off to deliver Dunbar from Sedgwick to Fort Hayes for execution. When they happen upon Two Socks, they shoot at the wolf, who refuses to leave Dunbar alone out of loyalty. Despite his attempts to intervene, Two Socks is fatally wounded, and the convoy moves off. Soon after, Wind In His Hair and other warriors from the tribe attack the column of men, rescuing Dunbar. Smiles A Lot retrieves Dunbar's journal floating in a stream. After returning to the winter camp, Dunbar realizes that as a deserter and fugitive, he will continue to draw the unwelcome attention of the Army and endanger the welfare of the tribe if he stays with the Sioux. Despite the protests of his Sioux friends, Dunbar decides that he must leave the tribe, saying he must speak to those who would listen. His wife decides to accompany him. As Dances With Wolves and Stands With A Fist leave the camp, Wind In His Hair cries out that Dances with Wolves will always be his friend, in contrast to their first meeting. Shortly, a column of cavalry and Pawnee army scouts arrive to find the former Sioux camp site empty.

Starring ... Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene, Rodney A. Grant, Floyd Westerman

Director: Kevin Costner
Producer: Jim Wilson & Kevin Costner

Year Released - Nov. 1990

Length - 181 minutes

Music Composer: John Barry

Movie Distributed by Orion Pictures

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Dances With Wolves: John Dunbar Theme - MIDI

Dances With Wolves: End Title - MIDI

Dances With Wolves: Main Title
'Main Title ~ Looks Like A Suicide'
- MP3 ... 1.34M

Dances With Wolves
'The Dunbar Theme'
- MP3 ... 790K

Dances With Wolves
'Farewell And End Titles'
- MP3 ... 3.0M

Dances With Wolves
'The Loss Of The Journal ~ The Return To Winter Camp'
- MP3 ... 758K

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