4 Outstanding Movies Commemorating the Battle of Little Big Horn

In honor of June 26th, we’d like to recommend the following historically “accurate” films: Son of the Morning Star, Little Big Man, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and American Experience’s Emmy-winning documentary Last Stand at Little Big Horn

Between June 25 and 26, 1876, a combined Lakota and Northern Cheyenne force led the United States 7th Cavalry into battle near the Little Bighorn River on what was then the eastern edge of Montana Territory. The engagement has gone by several names: the Battle of Greasy Grass, the Battle of Little Big Horn, and Custer’s Last Stand. Perhaps the most famous action of the Indian Wars was a remarkable victory for Sitting Bull and his forces. They defeated a column of seven hundred men led by George Armstrong Custer; Five of the Seventh’s companies were destroyed, and Custer himself was killed in the engagement along with two of his brothers and a brother-in-law. Known as the battle that left no white survivors, Little Big Horn has inspired more than 1,000 works of art, including over 40 films. Here are four of the best…

son of the morning star

Based on the 1984 best selling historical novel by Evan S, Connell, son of the morning star won five Emmys when it first aired in 1991. Focusing on the life and times of General George Armstrong Custer, it takes Custer’s life towards the end of the American Civil War, follows him through his involvement in famous Indian Wars, and culminates with the Battle of Little Big Horne. I especially like this version because it tries to break the stereotypes and introduce you to the real man; It provides an excellent introduction to the characters involved and the events before and after the battle.

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little big man,

The 1970 movie little big man, directed by Arthur Penn and starring Dustin Hoffman, is based on Thomas Berger’s 1964 fictional ‘historical’ novel of the same name. Admittedly an adapted story, it tells the satirical, fictional and mischievous tale of Jack Crabb; A white boy orphaned in a Pawnee raid and adopted by a Cheyenne warrior, he eventually becomes the sole white survivor of the Battle of Little Big Horn. It is considered a “revisionist Western” because Native Americans receive a sympathetic treatment uncommon for Western films in earlier decades. Revisionist or not, I simply adore this wickedly humorous film about a man’s life as it weaves through the kaleidoscope of cultures that made up America’s “Wild” West, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Bury my heart at Wounded Knee,

HBO’s 2007 adaptation of Bury my heart at Wounded Knee, a 1970s Native American history classic by Dee Alexander Brown, tells the battle of the Indian Wars from the perspective of three people: Charles Eastman, a young Sioux doctor who received his medical degree from Boston University in 1889; Sitting Bull, who led the combined forces at Little Big Horn and refused to submit to US government policies that robbed his people of their dignity, identity and sacred land; and Senator Henry Dawes, one of the men responsible for the government’s Indian policy. The action begins with the Indian victory at Little Big Horn in 1876 and continues through the ignominious slaughter of Sioux warriors at Wounded Knee, South Dakota on December 29, 1890. If the film has one flaw, it’s that it tries to explain the whole deeply complex fourteen-year struggle in just over two hours. It manages to do an excellent job of providing an instructive and entertaining overview for future investigation.

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The American Experience: Last Stand at Little Big Horn

The American Experience: Last Stand at Little Big Horn takes the time to examine this controversial struggle from two perspectives: the Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne, and Crow who inhabited the Great Plains for generations, and the white settlers who migrated west across the continent. Using diaries, oral accounts, Indian ledger drawings and archival material, James Welch and Paul Stekler combined their talents to create one of the most balanced documentaries of this event ever produced. Their efforts earned them a well-deserved Emmy.

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