Dances with Wolves movie poster

Kevin Costner's directorial debut was as auspicious as it can be: his Dances with Wolves won three Golden Globes and seven Oscars. The epic western movie (which he also starred in) was an adaptation of the 1988 book of the same title by Michael Blake and tells the story of a Union Army lieutenant who loses himself in the American frontier only to find himself taken in by a Lakota tribe.

At the 48th Golden Globe Awards, held on January 19, 1991, Dances with Wolves won for Best Picture – Drama, Best Director (Costner), and Best Screenplay (Blake, who adapted from his own novel). The film beat out The Godfather Part II, Goodfellas, Reversal of Fortune, and Avalon.

Costner was nominated for Best Actor as well, but Jeremy Irons won for Reversal of Fortune. For Costner, it was the first of his five Globe nominations (and the first win). He would later win for Best Actor for the TV miniseries Hatfields & McCoys in 2013. As a Director, at the Globes, Costner won over Bernardo Bertolucci for The Sheltering Sky, Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather III), Martin Scorsese (Goodfellas) and Barbet Schroeder (Reversal of Fortune): not an easy competition. Much was made of the fact that Dances with Wolves won over Scorsese's Goodfellas both at the Globes and the Academy Awards: many still consider it the ultimate upset in the history of both awards.

Filmed mainly in South Dakota (Badlands National Park and other locations) and Wyoming, Dances with Wolves originally ran 181 minutes. Costner did all his own riding, including bareback and shooting his gun without holding the reins. Because of budgetary overruns and the industry reluctance to invest in a western, Costner was forced to dig deep into his own pockets to come up with the film's $18 million budget. Since the film went on to gross over $180 million, he earned an estimated $40 million from his original investment. Because of the film's enormous success and sympathetic treatment of Native Americans, the Sioux Nation adopted Costner as an honorary member.

At the Golden Globes ceremony Costner thanked the Native Americans in South Dakota, “who made this movie possible... I also want to thank the people who helped me at the beginning of my career, especially [director] Larry Kasdan, who cut me out of The Big Chill and yet believed in me and cast me again – successfully – in Silverado.” 

The film was credited with revitalizing the western genre in Hollywood.