When it comes to the Oscars, Westerns are notoriously underrated. But Clint Eastwood and Kevin Costner proved to be the rare exceptions to this rule. Since its establishment in 1929, only three traditional Westerns have won Best Picture at the Academy Awards: Cimarron, Unforgiven, and Dances with Wolves.
In fact, Westerns were so overlooked in the industry that after Cimarron won Best Picture in 1931, it was almost sixty years before the genre returned to the forefront, with Western drama movie Dances With Wolves eventually winning Best Picture in 1990. And if you’re wondering if you recognize the film’s leading man, that’s probably because it’s Yellowstone cast member Kevin Costner.
In Dances With Wolves, Costner stars as John J. Dunbar, a Union Army Lieutenant who travels across the American frontier before encountering the Lakota people. As well as starring in the adventure movie, Costner also directed it, with his directorial debut leading to a revival in classic Westerns, and going down in history as one of the best movies in the genre.
Arguably, Dances With Wolves success helped pave the way for Clint Eastwood movie, Unforgiven, to win Best Picture two years later. Set in 1881 Wyoming, Unforgiven tells the story of Will Munny (Eastwood), a repentant former outlaw and murderer who is tempted into one last job. Like Costner, Eastwood took on a dual role in this movie, directing and starring.
But while Dances With Wolves was Costner’s directorial debut, Unforgiven is widely considered one of the last traditional Westerns, before the genre shifted to make way for more neo-Westerns.
Still, the pair might end up at the Academy Awards again one day as they both push on to make their new movies. Juror #2, which is said to be the final movie Eastwood will direct, is currently on the cusp of production amid the 2o23 Writers Strikes. And everyone knows how Costner sensationally left Yellowstone behind to work on his film, Horizon. While we don’t know the Horizon release date, we do know that the film is currently in post-production.
In the meantime, catch up on Costner’s time as John Dutton with our guides to the Yellowstone timeline, all the Yellowstone series ranked, and the Yellowstone season 5 part 2 release date.