15 Indigenous Movies You Need to See
There are many great Indigenous movies out there that showcase the culture, history, and experiences of the Native American community. To celebrate Native American Heritage Day, we've put together a list of some of the best Indigenous movies made by Indigenous filmmakers.
Check them out below:
Drunktown's Finest (2014)
Written and directed by Sydney Freeland, Drunktown’s Finest tells the story of three young Native Americans: an adopted Christian girl, a rebellious father-to-be, and a promiscuous transsexual, who strive to escape the hardships of life on an Indian reservation.
The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open (2019)
After a chance encounter on the street, a woman tries to encourage a pregnant domestic abuse victim to seek help. Written and directed by Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers.
Written and directed by Sterlin Harjo, this film is about Mekko, a native American man who is released from prison. He served time for killing a cousin. Homeless, he learns that he must become a warrior to fight the "witch" preying on his people because they have lost their spirit.
Based on true events, Tracey Deer's debut feature chronicles the 78-day standoff between two Mohawk communities and government forces in 1990 in Quebec. Written by Tracey Deer and Meredith Vuchnich.
This drama is about Ching Yazzie and friends as they get through life's unexpected encounters and the ups and downs of falling in and out of love (or not at all). Written by Sally Kewayosh, Blackhorse Lowe, and Lydell Mitchell and directed by Blackhorse Lowe.
Crash Site (2015)
Crash Site tells the story of a displaced young girl, her overwhelmed older sister, and a superhero that brings them together. Written by Sonya Ballantyne and Sage and directed by Sonya Ballantyne.
You can watch this clip from Crash Site here.
This drama written and directed by Babak Jalali is about a Native American family who struggles with violence and alcohol when news reaches the Reservation that one of them has died during military service in Afghanistan.
The Land of Rock and Gold (2016)
This mystery written and directed by Daniel Redenbach and Janine Windolph takes place in a remote northern woodland community, where a young First Nations mother and her 7-year-old son search for her boyfriend in the wake of his mysterious disappearance.
Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2001)
The telling of an Inuit legend of an evil spirit causing strife in the community and one warrior's endurance and battle of its menace. Written by Paul Apak Angilirq, Norman Cohn, and Zacharias Kunuk and directed by Zacharias Kunuk.
Samson & Delilah (2009)
This romance is about a glue-sniffing boy and his girlfriend who escape the government-controlled no-hope Aboriginal community they live in and go to the city, Alice Springs, looking for a better life. Written by Warwick Thornton and Beck Cole and directed by Warwick Thornton.
Mosquita y Mari (2012)
Written and directed by indigenous filmmaker Aurora Guerrero, this film is a queer love story. After being assigned as study partners, two Chicana high schoolers find a bond that confuses them at times.
On the Ice (2011)
In Barrow, Alaska, teenagers Qalli and Aivaaq find their bond tested when a seal-hunting trip goes wrong, resulting in the death of their friend. Written and directed by Andrew Okpeaha MacLean.
Four Sheets to the Wind (2007)
After his father's untimely suicide, Cufe leaves his home on a Native American reservation in search of a more fulfilling life. Written and directed by Sterlin Harjo.
Monkey Beach (2020)
A young woman with supernatural abilities reflects on profound events in her life as she awaits news of her brother, who has gone missing at sea under questionable circumstances. Based on a novel by Eden Robinson, written by Johnny Darrell and Andrew Duncan, and directed by Loretta Todd.
Parallel Minds (2020)
In the near future, an A.I. called URM is being investigated by a detective and researcher for a lab about to release a contact lens with the power to record what the eye can see to recreate memories. Written and directed by Benjamin Ross Hayden.
Indigenous representation in front and behind the camera is still significantly low. According to the 2018 Reclaiming Native Truth (RNT) study, Indigenous representation in primetime television and popular films ranged from 0-0.4%. Additionally, data from the 2021 Hollywood Diversity Report revealed that not only had Native representation in film remained stagnant at 0.6% but there was virtually no Native representation in writing, directing, and other creative roles.
What this means is that there are a number of stories around this community yet to be told. And the industry responds to demand, the more films by and about indigenous people we watch, the more likely it is that more will be made.
This list includes different genres and I can guarantee there’s something for everyone here — especially those who are looking for something to watch this season other than family dinner scenes. Make sure to check out these films. They show different perspectives on the lives of indigenous people and are as varied and diverse as the different experiences within this group of people. Support these stories and get inspired to write your own unique story.