A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Respect for life and nature is important. There are not always strong morals beneath piety.
Positive Role Models
Jack Crabb is able to fit in and understand the cultures of both the White men and Native characters, and is generally against killing on either side. However, he rarely lives up to the bravery that earned him the name Little Big Man among the Cheyenne, repeatedly denying association with one side and joining the other when placed in danger. He is quick to lie and act in a self-serving manner, though does show care toward Old Lodge Skins and risks his life to save him.
Native actors play many -- though not all -- of the Native characters, including Chief Dan George as Old Lodge Skins (earning an Oscar nomination for his performance) and Robert Little Star as Little Horse. The film gives Native characters more multi-dimensional roles than other movies of the time, and often portrays White men as racist and pious, while Native characters are seen to have more respect for man and nature. Although racism is acknowledged, White characters use the term "Indian," as well as offensive language such as "murdering varmints," "Black bastard," "savages," and "vermin." A Native Two-Spirit character -- a term for someone who has both masculine and feminine spirits -- is accepted without judgment by the lead White character. Women are portrayed in secondary roles throughout, and often stereotypical and one-dimensional -- a promiscuous preacher's wife, a woman deemed unattractive and described as being disappointed to discover she won't be raped, a Swedish woman named Olga who says "Ja" a lot and has a fiery temper, and a beautiful, wide-eyed Native character, Sunshine, who Jack feels inclined to protect. Other sexist references include a man referred to as "too little and weak, like a girl," and queries about whether a wife cooks and shows "pleasant enthusiasm when you mount her."
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Violence & Scariness
Mention of genocide, decapitation, scalping, and rape. Characters are kidnapped, have throats slit, are shot with arrows and guns, stabbed with swords, burned to death, whipped, one is tarred and feathered and taken to be burned (though isn't), and a baby is shot, with blood seen on its blanket. A person intends to take their own life. Another loses various body parts over the years, including a hand, ear, and eye. Blood is seen and bloody dead bodies shown -- though the blood is often bright red, which will likely look unrealistic to modern audiences. Horses are also pulled to the ground during battle scenes, an animal leg is shown caught in a trap, and a dog is killed and eaten.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
An adult woman makes inappropriate sexual advances toward an adult man she believes to be a child (due to his small height), including saying he is nice looking and kissing him on the lips. It's implied she washes his genitals in the bath. There are other kisses on lips. Sex is portrayed on-screen -- with feet moving in bed and moaning. Sex is also portrayed with nudity beneath animal skins -- during which the lead character has sex with his wife's sisters one after another, at their demand. Brief full female nudity seen as a woman attempts to escape a fire. A character visits a brothel, where a woman in lingerie attempts to seduce him.
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Occasional language includes "s--t," "son of a bitch," "ass," "damned," "damn," "hell," and "gonads." Native characters are referred to as "Indians" as well as derogatory terms such as "murdering varmints," "Black bastard," "savages," and "vermin."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters smoke cigarettes and a ceremonial pipe, as well as drinking alcohol in a saloon. The main character is shown drunk, drinking directly from a bottle of spirits and throwing up on the street during a period of alcoholism.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Little Big Man is a 1970 adventure movie based on Thomas Berger's epic novel and includes mature content. It is a fictional story set against the backdrop of historical events, such as the Battle of Big Horn. There are numerous battle scenes, and characters are killed with guns, arrows, and swords, as well as having homes set on fire. Bloody dead bodies are shown, though the blood is an unrealistic bright red. There is drinking and smoking, and the lead character, Jack Crabb (Dustin Hoffman) drinks to the point of inebriation and describes himself as a "drunk" at one stage of the film. Sex is portrayed on-screen, and there is fleeting full female nudity in a non-sexual context. An adult woman also makes sexual advances to an adult man who she believes to be a child due to his short stature. Occasional language includes "s--t," "bitch," and "ass," while offensive terms such as "Indians" and "savages" are also used. The film tackles mature themes, and references the genocide of the Native American people. It has humor laced throughout, though some is wildly misguided, such as a flippant remark about an "unattractive" woman being disappointed not to be raped. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Adapted from an epic novel into an equally epic film, this is a Hoffman vehicle that sees the actor gallop through endless guises like an extended audition tape. Narrated by an older (apparently 121-year-old) version of himself, Little Big Man feels like a whistle-stop tour of the American West, full of the tall tales and tongue-in-cheek humor Hoffman's Crabb brings in spades. One minute an honorary "Human Being" among the Cheyenne tribe, next a gunslinger alongside Wild Bill, Crabb even takes a turn as a hopeless hermit, shaggy beard intact. Recognized at the time for a fairer representation of Native Americans than most Westerns that had gone before it, Little Big Man went a way toward challenging some of the stereotypes and White-washed versions of history Hollywood had been throwing at the big screen for decades. However, it still has dated language and moments of misguided humor. The 139-minutes runtime feels somewhat unruly at times, but as the spoken memoirs of "the oldest man in the world," it keeps the narrative moving, albeit at a slightly erratic pace.
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