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Thunderheart (1992)

R  |   |  Crime, Mystery, Thriller  |  3 April 1992 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 10,823 users  
Reviews: 85 user | 15 critic

A young mixed-blood FBI agent is assigned to work with a cynical veteran investigator on a murder on a poverty-stricken Sioux reservation.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Frank Coutelle
Jack Milton
Sheila Tousey ...
Maggie Eagle Bear
Ted Thin Elk ...
Grandpa Sam Reaches (as Chief Ted Thin Elk)
Jimmy Looks Twice
Julius Drum ...
Richard Yellow Hawk
Sarah Brave ...
Maisy Blue Legs
Allan R.J. Joseph ...
Leo Fast Elk
Sylvan Pumpkin Seed ...
Patrick Massett ...
Agent Mackey
FBI Agent
Brian A. O'Meara ...
FBI Agent


An FBI man with Sioux background is sent to a reservation to help with a murder investigation, where he has to come to terms with his heritage. Slowly he rejects the intimidating tactics of his fellow FBI agents, who are not so interested in solving the crime as covering up an incriminating situation with the locals, and as he becomes more tuned to his heritage, the locals begin trusting him. Based on actual Reservation occurrences of the '70s. Written by Ed Sutton <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Two men from different worlds. Two cops after the same killer. Together they must uncover the secrets. Together they must discover the truth.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, and for some areas of violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:




Release Date:

3 April 1992 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Coeur de tonnerre  »

Box Office


$15,000,000 (estimated)


$22,660,758 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


A fictitious Sal Mineo movie, "Arrows on the Prairie" is mentioned. Although the movie is fictional, Mineo did star as a young Sioux warrior in "Tonka" (1958) and later as a Cheyenne warrior in "Cheyenne Autumn" (1964). See more »


The events upon which the story is based happened in June 1975. There is a portrait of Richard Nixon in the FBI director's office. Nixon resigned in August 1974. Gerald Ford's picture should have been there. Also, as Val Kilmer is driving in the opening sequence, "Badlands" by Bruce Springsteen is playing on the car radio. The album containing this song was released in June 1978. The car driven by Kilmer in the opening scene is a Ford Mustang convertible which wasn't released until 1983. See more »


Bartender: Goddamn prairie niggers!
See more »


Referenced in The Big Hit (1998) See more »


Gonna Take Time
Written and Performed by Ali Olmo
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Fair realism
19 February 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Many have dismissed this film as 'too Hollywood' or fictionalized. Many don't understand just what went on in 'The Incident at Oglala'. Others wonder why it was so under-promoted. The US Government doesn't want anything promoted that shows their VERY dark side. Many US citizens do not know, do not want to know, or refuse to believe that their government does the exact same things that we chastise other governments for. I'm Native American myself (Cherokee/Powhattan), a tribal volunteer, and a Native Activist. The FBI has a file on me. My phone is tapped. This is what happens when you're involved in activities that reveal what your government is really up to. Yes, it is a 'fictionalized' account, but if you're familiar with the story, you know that Fred Ward is former chairman Dick Wilson, who helped the US Government to draw attention away from the fact that he was selling off 1/8 of the Pine Ridge Reservation for uranium mining, without the rest of the people knowing. Jimmy Looks Twice is vaguely based on Leonard Peltier (though I don't think anyone has claimed Leonard could shapeshift), and Maggie Eagle Bear is an excellent description of Anna Mae Aquash, who was murdered--the FBI tried to have her illegally buried under an assumed name, then just as Jane Doe, and because she had distinctive jewelry on her hands that couldn't be removed due to post-mortem swelling, they CUT OFF HER HANDS...sent them off allegedly for 'fingerprinting', and what do you know? They got lost. The book by Peter Mathiessen, "In the Spirit Of Crazy Horse" was kept from publishment for 8 years by the government who did not want the story out. Some of my fave lines? Cooch's "ARM is on it's last legs, Ray..." And Crowhorse's reaction to Ray's threat about withholding information, "So sue (Sioux) me..." And the scenery is so stark and beautiful. I cry every time I watch it. Fast action shoot-em-ups despite a yard full of kids? It happened. That's not Hollywood. The FBI was shooting up an 'encampment' full of women and kids at Oglala. They don't care. The only good Indian is a dead Indian. It's been this way for 500 years, and it continues today.

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