Support Filmtracks! Click here first:
iTunes (U.S.)
eBay (U.S.)
This Week's Most Popular Reviews:
   1. Romeo & Juliet
   2. Hobbit: Unexpected Journey
   3. The Phantom of the Opera
   4. Lady in the Water
   5. Harry Potter: Sorcerer's Stone
   6. Moulin Rouge
   7. Gladiator
   8. Titanic
   9. LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring
   10. Thor: The Dark World
Newest Major Reviews: Best-Selling Albums:
   1. Chappie
   2. Fifty Shades of Grey
   3. Night/Museum: Secret/Tomb
   4. The Imitation Game
   5. Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies
   1. Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
   2. City of Ember
   3. Jack the Giant Slayer
   4. Indiana Jones Collection
   5. King Kong Lives
Section Header
Dances With Wolves
1990 Original

1995 Gold

2004 Expanded

Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
John Barry

Orchestrated by:
Greig McRitchie
Mark McKenzie

2004 Album Produced by:
Didier C. Deutsch
Darcy M. Proper
Mark Wilder

Labels and Dates:
(November 13th, 1990)

(February 2nd, 1995)

Epic/Sony Music
(May 18th, 2004)

Also See:
Out of Africa
High Road to China
Raise the Titanic
Somewhere in Time
The Scarlet Letter
The Lion in Winter

Audio Clips:
1990 Album:

1. Main Title - Looks Like a Suicide (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (241K)
Real Audio (150K)

2. The John Dunbar Theme (0:31):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (245K)
Real Audio (152K)

10. The Buffalo Hunt (0:29):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (244K)
Real Audio (152K)

12. The Love Theme (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

1995 Gold Album:

3. Journey to Fort Sedgewick (0:31):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (244K)
Real Audio (152K)

11. Fire Dance (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

20. The John Dunbar Theme (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (244K)
Real Audio (152K)

21. Dances With Wolves (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

2004 Album:

10. Spotting the Herd (0:32):
WMA (209K)  MP3 (260K)
Real Audio (161K)

11. The Buffalo Hunt (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (245K)
Real Audio (152K)

14. Falling in Love (0:29):
WMA (188K)  MP3 (235K)
Real Audio (146K)

17. Stone Calf Dies (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (245K)
Real Audio (152K)

The original 1990 album is a regular U.S. release. An SACD version of that album was released concurrently. The 1995 gold version was a "limited" U.S. release, selling originally for $25 to $30 and maintaining a value estimated between $35 and $40 ten years later. The expanded album in 2004 is a regular U.S. release.

  Winner of an Academy Award and a Grammy Award. Nominated for a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award.

Dances With Wolves

•  Printer Friendly Version
List Price: $7.99
Our Price: $6.99
You Save: $1.00 (13%)
Used Price: $3.35

Sales Rank: 5903

Buy from

or read more reviews and hear more audio clips at

  Compare Prices:
 1990 Album:

eBay Stores
(new and used)
(new and used)

iTunes ($9.99)

 1995 Gold Album:

eBay Stores
(new and used)
(new and used)

 2004 Album:

eBay Stores
(new and used)
(new and used)

iTunes ($9.99)

  Find it Used:
Check for used copies of this album in the:

Soundtrack Section at eBay

(including eBay Stores and listings)

Buy it... on the 2004 expanded album if are one of the few in a generation to have never before owned the classic symphonic score, John Barry's triumphant crowning achievement while nearing the end of his career.

Avoid it... if you have grown tired of Barry's trademark stylistic simplicity of the 1980's and 1990's, because despite this score's perfect emotional tone for the film, its instrumentation and themes are extremely derivative of the composer's prior scores.

Dances With Wolves: (John Barry) According to the studios during the production of Dances With Wolves, actor Kevin Costner did everything wrong for a first-time director. He sought to make a historical drama with expansive vistas, utilized various challenging animals in an era prior to special effects, insisted upon faithful interpretations of a dying language, and, most importantly, ran over budget. Costner's faith in the story, however, caused him to invest his own money in the production, and against all odds, the movie not only proved to be an overwhelming critical and popular success (winning seven Academy Awards and earning over $400 million on a budget of roughly $20 million), but revived Westerns in Hollywood and allowed other reinventions of the genre to gain similar notoriety soon after. With Costner in the lead role, Dances With Wolves tells of a disillusioned Union Lieutenant during the American Civil War who is sent to man an abandoned fort in Colorado, only to become enamored with the local Sioux tribe, learning its language and marrying one of its members. When the American Army catches up with him, he is defended by his newly adopted community and seeks permanent seclusion in the West, completing an unlikely journey that includes much sorrow along its path. Costner knew from the start of production that he wanted a massive symphonic score for Dances With Wolves, the film's tribute to the disappearing Western plains requiring music of significant scope to accompany its striking scenery. The logical choice at the time was British veteran John Barry, who was in the latter stages of the prime of his career. In the late 1980's, the composer was already beginning to experience a lengthy series of illnesses that would largely sideline him as the 1990's progressed. After winning an Academy Award for Out of Africa, he suffered a ruptured esophagus and later dedicated his score for Dances With Wolves to the doctors who saved his life. Artistically, Barry's shameless self-repetition in style was beginning to take a toll on his career, ultimately leading to several rejected scores in the 1990's. With everything from Somewhere in Time to Out of Africa all beginning to sound very alike in structure and instrumentation, Dances With Wolves really represented Barry's last attempt, whether he knew it at the time or not, to parade his broad string and simple melodic style at its best.

If ever there was a perfect cinematic match for Barry's trademark symphonic romanticism of the 1980's, Dances With Wolves is that film. It's a blend of sound and sight that requires music critics to turn off the intellectual sides of their brains, because there is much in Barry's very simplistic approach to the movie that will frustrate any student of composition. His insistence upon repeating each phrase of a theme twice, utilizing static, slow tempos and instruments in the same roles in almost every circumstance, and rarely manipulating or layering his melodic ideas with any technical acuity all cause a score like Dances With Wolves to make cynics roll their eyes. Make no mistake about it, this is not a spectacularly complex score, despite the fact that Barry wrote more themes for this assignment than he usually did for other productions. Each theme is applied like a mini-movement in a symphony, never interacting satisfactorily with other ideas or evolving in such a way, singularly or as a whole, to form a convincing narrative arc. The predictable progressions in those themes will remind you of half a dozen prior scores from Barry (including some of his later James Bond work, no less) and a few still set to come later in the 1990's. But if you're stuck lamenting the arguably problematic circumstances just described, then you're missing the point of Dances With Wolves. It remains a classic score by nearly all definitions because of its perfectly tailored emotional appeal in the context of the film and its harmonic resonance on album, precisely the characteristics you hoped for when Barry was able to take this assignment. The instrumentation of the score included 95 orchestral players and a 12-member chorus for slight dissonant shades during moments of anxious nerves. Barry chose to score the film from the lead's (John Dunbar's) point of view, dismissing any idea of recording authentic Sioux music and instead sticking to his comfortably symphonic approach on a massive scale. The composer's only earlier attempt at Native American music, White Buffalo, was by no means a success (in fact, many would consider it a monumental failure in his career) and the truth remains that Barry probably would have been incapable of attempting any other style of score than the one he wrote. Despite the notoriety afforded to the full blooded orchestral majesty of the score's fullest themes, Dances With Wolves, like many Barry scores of the era, is best tempered when toning back the ensemble to simple woodwind melodies over strings and harp, the most intoxicating moments actually reflecting lovely solo flute performances of subthemes in this score.

The many themes of the Dances With Wolves score are its greatest strength, regardless of their inability to mingle appropriately or evolve significantly. The primary identity, the John Dunbar theme, can reliably be heard in elevators or department store atriums, and anyone who watches American football on television will have immediately recognized it during the prolific United Way commercials in which it was featured for over ten years. It was even a favorite of Pope John Paul II. The score opens with an eerie trumpet performance of this theme, immediately associating with the character's disaffected relationship to the war. It later recurs with Costner's journal reflections and as the highlight of the end credits. A lonely arrangement for harmonica rather than violins is a nod to the Western genre's usual tones, and the album version of "The Buffalo Hunt" gives the prior trumpet performance a bold and victorious tone over lightly tapped snare rhythms. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the John Dunbar theme is the fact that it defies Barry's usual method of operation by not repeating each of its main phrases twice. Instead, it follows a longer lyrical flow but features, curiously, no secondary interlude or bridge sequence. After a decade of endless performances and re-uses of this primary theme from Dances With Wolves, many listeners are likely to seek out the more obscure themes of the score for their enjoyment. The love theme, for instance, similarly extends from previous Barry scores as well, but manages to capture the same grand melodic grace of the rest of the score in more intimate and accessible tones. Heard in "Falling in Love," "The Love Theme," "The Return to Winter Camp," and the end title suite, this material only amounts to under ten minutes in length, but it is a satisfying diversion from the score's more muscular inclinations. Also serving as a tender interlude is Barry's idea for Dunbar's adopted wolf, Two Socks. In "Two Socks/The Wolf Theme" and "Two Socks at Play," he conveys woodwind lyricism that combines, ironically, the alluring solo flute performances and underlying chord progressions of his love themes for A View to a Kill and Moonraker, respectively. A theme for the Sioux takes quite some time to develop, though it is initially easily identifiable by the slapping percussion underneath its stark brass melody. The mix of the drums in this cue was reprised, not surprisingly, by Barry almost verbatim in The Scarlett Letter. The actual theme here takes hold in the late cues, highlighting "Rescue of Dances With Wolves" and without the percussion in "The Loss of the Journal" and "Farewell." This identity adopts the characteristics of Barry's early 1980's adventure themes and will likely please his collectors.

One of the most enduringly frustrating aspects of Dances With Wolves is that one of its seldom referenced subthemes is actually its finest idea. The journeying theme itself became prolific in its re-use in the public arena along with the John Dunbar theme, in part because of its remarkable horn counterpoint. Its performances throughout "Journey to Fort Sedgewick" also occupied obvious placements in the movie, increasing its profile as well. It's a more generic Barry theme in terms of its repeating phrases and derivative instrumental applications, but some enthusiasts of the composer consider it to be superior to the John Dunbar theme and the singular highlight of the score. Several smaller motifs are meant to represent lesser concepts in the film, perhaps the buffalo motif in "Journey to the Buffalo Killing Ground" and "The Buffalo Hunt" the most engaging in its bold expressions (they resemble the ballsy brass unison of Zulu). The film version of that cue contains an oddly unique middle passage with a theme that is the score's only throwback to the Elmer Bernstein style of old Westerns. Likewise, a spinoff of the Dunbar theme in "Ride to Fort Hays" is a pleasant diversion that utilizes the same instrumentation as the famous theme, but toys with different melodies over a common set of bass progressions. On the other hand, Barry's choral and string dissonance for scenes of suspense is rather weak and unmemorable. The overall tapestry of melodic ideas in Dances With Wolves may not be well woven, but it hits the right emotional notes in each case. As previously published by Jerry McCulley with great accuracy, "Utilizing Wagnerian structure, Barry's main themes recur in magisterial symphonic form. [They have] become an almost subconscious part of modern life, utilized as Muzak and underscore for public events great and small. Barry's skills as an arranger color his themes in subtly shifting orchestral hues, giving even the most repeated melodic passages new emotional weight." Barry summarizes the John Dunbar theme, love theme, and identity for the Sioux in the "End Credits" suite, and true enthusiasts of the score will recall that pop variations of the John Dunbar and journey themes were commonplace on the radio airwaves at the time as well. In the decades since, the Dunbar and buffalo hunt themes in particular have been re-recorded by various performing groups for other labels. Of particular note is a recording by the City of Prague Philharmonic available on the Silva Screen label, the film version of the "Buffalo Hunt" sequence resurrected in stunning surround sound before the original performance was available commercially. Unfortunately, the powerful journeying theme has remained strangely neglected in the majority of the re-recordings through the years.

2004 Album:
Only $9.99
The original recording of Dances With Wolves, conducted by Barry, has endured its own long story on album. The original release that accompanied the film's explosive popularity in 1990 contains all the necessary music and has always remained readily available many years later. It achieved astounding sales statistics on par with later Digital Age favorites like Braveheart and Gladiator. The "Gold" release of Dances With Wolves in 1995 (otherwise known as the "Definitive Collector's Edition,") was one of a string of gold-colored releases made available for highly popular, best-selling scores of the era, a series that eventually included Schindler's List and Apollo 13. This supposedly limited gold release featured three additional tracks of previously unreleased music, none of which appears directly in the film. The last two tracks are the pop versions of the themes as mentioned before, re-orchestrated by Barry in 1991. The first one, encompassing the John Dunbar and journeying themes, is pleasant to the ears, but the second one is a rather awkward combination of James Bond style and dramatic Dunbar substance. These two tracks are the same ones contained on a promotional CD circulated to radio stations in prior years for mass appeal. The third track previously unreleased on a Dances With Wolves album is the "Fire Dance" selection from the Narada album, "Last Frontier," and it is very misplaced in the middle of Barry's score (its more contemporary rhythmic style is far too disparate to function here). In 2004, as part of a celebration of Barry's 70th birthday, Sony released Dances With Wolves once again, thankfully removing the pop tracks and featuring about twenty minutes of previously unreleased material and alternate versions of famous cues that had also been unavailable in original form. The extended material is sprinkled through the album with a few negligible extra minutes in existing cues. The full film versions of the "Buffalo Hunt" and "John Dunbar Theme," as well as an extension of the love theme in "Falling in Love," are very welcomed additions, however. Unless you are a serious John Barry collector, though, this expanded album may not offer you much more satisfaction than the previous offerings. Despite the press stating that the 2004 Sony album features the entire score, Barry reportedly recorded 100 minutes of music for Dances With Wolves, and thus this product is likely not complete. No matter which version you find and enjoy, Dances With Wolves remains the crowning achievement in Barry's career and stands as an epic, yet tender score of historical and popular influence for an entire generation. ***** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For John Barry reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.85 (in 27 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.48 (in 25,319 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 4.27 Stars
Smart Average: 3.98 Stars*
***** 4723 
**** 1686 
*** 894 
** 366 
* 301 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   Re: Love the soundtrack, but...
  Kary Ludeman -- 12/3/10 (3:53 p.m.)
   No you are a little bit uncorrect
  Marcato -- 9/4/07 (4:00 p.m.)
   Acker Bilk Song
  roybatty -- 4/6/07 (12:58 p.m.)
   Re: Dances with Wolves Soundtrack is one of...
  John -- 3/5/07 (11:38 a.m.)
   Classical Radio
  kushner -- 11/30/06 (12:46 p.m.)
Read All | Add New Post | Search | Help  

 Track Listings (1990 Original Album): Total Time: 53:29

• 1. Main Title - Looks Like a Suicide (3:57)
• 2. The John Dunbar Theme (2:15)
• 3. Journey to Fort Sedgewick (3:22)
• 4. Ride to Fort Hays (2:00)
• 5. The Death of Timmons (2:25)
• 6. Two Socks - The Wolf Theme (1:28)
• 7. Pawnee Attack (3:45)
• 8. Kicking Bird's Gift (2:08)
• 9. Journey to the Buffalo Killing Ground (3:39)
• 10. The Buffalo Hunt (2:41)
• 11. Stands with a Fist Remembers (2:07)
• 12. The Love Theme (3:52)
• 13. The John Dunbar Theme (2:05)
• 14. Two Socks at Play (1:57)
• 15. The Death of Cisco (2:42)
• 16. Resuce of Dances With Wolves (2:07)
• 17. The Loss of the Journal and the Return to Winter Camp (2:07)
• 18. Farewell and End Title (8:40)

 Track Listings (1995 Gold Album): Total Time: 64:12

• 1. Main Title - Looks Like Another Suicide (3:57)
• 2. The John Dunbar Theme (2:15)
• 3. Journey to Fort Sedgewick (3:22)
• 4. Ride to Fort Hays (2:00)
• 5. The Death of Timmons (2:25)
• 6. Two Socks and the Wolf Theme (1:28)
• 7. Pawnee Attack (3:45)
• 8. Kicking Bird's Gift (2:08)
• 9. Journey to Buffalo Killing Ground (3:39)
• 10. The Buffalo Hunt (2:41)
• 11. Fire Dance* (1:41)
• 12. Stands with a Fist Remembers (2:07)
• 13. The Love Theme (3:52)
• 14. The John Dunbar Theme (2:05)
• 15. Two Socks at Play (1:57)
• 16. The Death of Cisco (2:12)
• 17. Rescue of Dances With Wolves (2:07)
• 18. The Loss of the Journal and the Return to Winter Camp (2:07)
• 19. Farewell and End Title (8:40)
• 20. The John Dunbar Theme* (3:41)
• 21. Dances With Wolves* (5:15)

* previously unreleased

 Track Listings (2004 Expanded Album): Total Time: 75:46

• 1. Main Title**/Looks Like a Suicide** (7:35)
• 2. Ride to Fort Hays (2:02)
• 3. Journey to Fort Sedgewick/Shooting Star/The John Dunbar Theme/Arrival at Fort Sedgewick** (4:55)
• 4. The John Dunbar Theme (2:19)
• 5. The Death of Timmons (2:25)
• 6. Two Socks/The Wolf Theme (1:32)
• 7. Stands With a Fist Remembers (2:12)
• 8. The Buffalo Robe (2:12)
• 9. Journey to the Buffalo Killing Ground (3:39)
• 10. Spotting the Herd* (1:49)
• 11. The Buffalo Hunt (film version)* (4:33)
• 12. Fire Dance (1:49)
• 13. Two Socks at Play (4:33)
• 14. Falling in Love* (1:41)
• 15. The Love Theme (2:00)
• 16. The John Dunbar Theme (3:04)
• 17. Pawnees/Pawnee Attack/Stone Calf Dies**/Toughest Dies** (6:15)
• 18. Victory* (1:03)
• 19. The Death of Cisco (2:14)
• 20. Rescue of Dances With Wolves (2:08)
• 21. The Loss of the Journal/The Return to Winter Camp (2:09)
• 22. Farewell/End Title (8:51)
• 23. The Buffalo Hunt (2:45)
• 24. The John Dunbar Theme (film version)* (2:21)

* previously unreleased
** contains previously unreleased material

 Notes and Quotes:  

The original pressing's insert contains minimal information about the film and score. The gold CD packaging features a slip cover and different artwork on the insert; the CD itself is 24-Karat Gold and the sound is a "20-Bit Digital Transfer using Sony's new 'Super Bit Mapping' (SBM) Process." The 2004 album contains expanded notes about the score, but a return to traditional packaging.

  All artwork and sound clips from Dances With Wolves are Copyright © 1990, 1995, 2004, Sony/Epic/Legacy, Sony/Epic/Legacy, Epic/Sony Music. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 6/2/97 and last updated 8/26/11. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1997-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.