Smoke Signals

Watch Smoke Signals

"A new film from the heart of Native America."
  • PG-13
  • 1998
  • 1 hr 29 min
  • 7.2  (12,554)
  • 76

Smoke Signals is a groundbreaking and critically acclaimed independent film from the late 90s that tells an emotionally powerful story of two Native American teenagers trying to come to terms with their troubled past and uncertain future. At the core of the movie is the relationship between the two young men, Victor Joseph (played by Adam Beach) and Thomas Builds-the-Fire (Evan Adams), who grew up together on the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation in Idaho. While they were childhood friends, they have grown apart, and when Victor's estranged father Arnold (Gary Farmer) dies in a trailer fire, Thomas reaches out to Victor to attend the funeral together.

As they make their way to Phoenix, Arizona, where Arnold had been living in alcoholic exile, the two teenagers confront the internal and external struggles that have defined their lives. Victor is angry, resentful, and still harbors deep wounds from his father's abandonment and the tragic fire that claimed his mother's life. Thomas, on the other hand, is more introspective, always eager to tell stories and connect with others, and views the trip as an opportunity to learn more about his heritage and the father he never knew.

As the story unfolds, we see how their trip is punctuated by a series of humorous, poignant, and at times, heart-wrenching encounters. They meet a kindly missionary (played by John Trudell), an eccentric hitchhiker (Tantoo Cardinal), and a truck driver (Simon Baker) who insists on giving them a ride. Along the way, they also revisit key moments from their shared past, including a traumatic experience with fireworks that left Victor scarred and bitter.

The film, directed by Chris Eyre and written by Sherman Alexie, is a masterful work of storytelling that deftly weaves together themes of identity, family, and loss. It also unfolds with a rare and rich specificity that is both deeply rooted in Native American culture and universally relatable.

At the same time, Smoke Signals was a landmark movie in terms of representation and inclusion. It was one of the first films made by and about Native Americans to receive a wide theatrical release and was celebrated for its nuanced and complex portrayal of its characters. The movie was also notable for its inclusion of Native American actors in prominent roles, including Adam Beach, who went on to become a major Hollywood star.

Overall, Smoke Signals is a profoundly affecting and memorable film that resonates with audiences of all backgrounds. It is a testament to the power of cinema to tell stories and give voice to marginalized communities, and it remains a timeless classic of American independent cinema.

Smoke Signals is a 1998 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 29 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.2 and a MetaScore of 76.

Smoke Signals
Where to Watch Smoke Signals
Smoke Signals is available to watch free on Pluto TV. It's also available to stream, download and buy on demand at The Roku Channel, Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play and Vudu. Some platforms allow you to rent Smoke Signals for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 29 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.2  (12,554)
  • Metascore