Thunderheart (1992)

R  |   |  Crime, Mystery, Thriller  |  3 April 1992 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 10,929 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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2 nominations. See more awards »



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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 ...
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?


The movie is actually a thinly veiled account of real events that occurred on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation during the early to mid-Seventies. Exploration for Uranium, disease from irradiated water, the American Indian Movement (AIM) and the "Traditional" Natives fight against the Tribal government "Guardians Of the Oglala Nation (GOON's), and the FBI's assistance to the "Goons" by providing weaponry and other assistance are some of the things that are referred to in the movie that were true and documented by Writer/Director Michael Apted when he was a regular visitor to the Reservation during that time. See more »


The original version shows Val Kilmers character drinking peyote; now that scene has been cut and it makes no sense. Why is he freaking out and having visions in the fire. It destroys the whole point of the movie in that the Val Kilmer character couldn't use logic, etc. to solve the case and had to try something else and learn his 'spiritual' background and get help from the 'spirit world' beyond our normal perceptions... Now it's just some guy acting weird because of a fire... It doesn't explain why he pulls his gun and the Indian sheriff tells him 'I know you're scared'... it was because he was having peyote visions; which are now censored, because all you belong in the soul harvester machine and if you dared take peyote you might learn that truth.. See more »


Bartender: Goddamn prairie niggers!
See more »


Featured in Rich Hall's Inventing the Indian (2012) See more »


Written and Performed by Bruce Springsteen
Courtesy of Columbia Records
by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Thunderheart : the American Indian lives on in American Soul
10 June 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Watching Val Kilmer execute a brilliant performance is not only entertaining, to say the least, but moving.

Kilmer comes to grips with his 1/4 Sioux background and with the forces of "civilization" as an FBI agent. The forces of civilization are the infamous greed and corruption, or "special interests" as some politicians prefer to use. The Sioux are accused of proud but reckless. They're right about the pride. What is omitted by the forces of civilization is the honor of these people.

Particularly engaging is the mysticism of the Sioux. FBI agent Ray Levoi (Kilmer) is gradually absorbed by this mysticism (as can be the audience), and opens greater insight into the real conflict.

While probably the majority of Americans cannot claim Native American heritage, surely, the land can. And belonging to the land, as Americans, that heritage must be ours as well. This film inspires one to feel such thoughts and feelings, especially if we feel attachment to (and presumably, love for) this land, America.

One most interesting observation about owls: one character says to Levoi, the FBI agent, "the owl is the messenger; it means somebody's going to die." That is a common interpretation in Mexico too, surely brought down by its Indians, the common vision there being that of a barn owl (lechuza, in Spanish).

This mysticism is very powerful in this film. I recommend it for quality acting performances, and high spirituality.

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