- Directors: Kevin Costner
- Producers: Jim Wilson, Kevin Costner
- Writers: Michael Blake
- Genres: Adventure, Drama, Western
- Actors: Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene, Rodney A Grant
The film opens during the American Civil War. In a United States Army field hospital, First Lieutenant John J. Dunbar (Kevin Costner) learns that his injured leg is to be amputated. Seeing the plight of fellow soldiers with amputated legs, Dunbar leaves the hospital, steals a cavalry horse, and attempts suicide by riding across the no man’s land between the opposing Union and Confederate positions. His action unexpectedly rallies the Union soldiers, who storm the distracted Confederate defenses to win the battle. Impressed by Dunbar’s actions, the commanding general of the Union forces, Lieutenant General Tide (Donald Hotton), summons his personal surgeon to save Dunbar’s leg. Tide declares Dunbar to be a hero and awards him Cisco, the horse who carried him in battle as well as offering Dunbar his choice of posting. Dunbar requests a transfer to the western frontier and soon after his leg heals he arrives at a fort which is a gateway to the west. This is where he begins to record his frontier experiences in a journal read in voice over.
Dunbar meets Major Fambrough (Maury Chaykin). The Major has slipped into alcohol-fueled delusions of grandeur (apparently believing he is a king and Dunbar a medieval knight). Fambrough scribbles out Dunbar’s orders to report to Captain Cargill at Fort Sedgwick and pairs him off with an uncouth drayage teamster named Timmons (Robert Pastorelli), who is to convey him to his post. After they depart, Fambrough shoots himself in the head.
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. Soon after, a column of US Cavalry and Pawnee army scouts arrive to find the former Sioux camp site empty. Before the end credits, a note explains that a few years later the last remnants of free Sioux were subjugated to the U.S. Government, ending the conquest of the Western frontier states.