Little Big Man was one of a group of early 1970s Westerns that found a precedent for the atrocities of the Vietnam War in the history of white westward expansion at the expense of Native Americans. In the process, Arthur Penn and screenwriter Calder Willingham take apart the Western itself, sending up myths of white "civilization" and its proper violence while lending a humorous and poignant slant to the mythic "noble savages" -- not to mention casting actual Native American actors. Primed for Western iconoclasm by an ever more vigorous antiwar movement and counterculture, audiences turned Little Big Man into a surprise hit; Chief Dan George garnered a New York Film Critics Circle prize and an Oscar nomination for his performance. One of the most successful of the period's revisionist Westerns, Little Big Man stands as a timely and wittily caustic indictment of western myths and the contemporary legacy of manifest destiny.
by Lucia Bozzola review