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Top 10 Wes Studi Movies

Wes Studi in Last of the MohicansBefore he played Chief Levi Gal on THE RED ROAD, veteran character actor Wes Studi carved out an artistic path unique in more ways than one. Though he didn’t make his first credited role until he was over 40, Studi has appeared in the films of James Cameron, Michael Mann and Terence Malick over the course of a career spanning 25 years. Here are some of his most memorable entries:

1. Avatar
James Cameron’s ultimate blockbuster epic has been called a conservationist parable, with Sam Worthington’s paraplegic soldier infiltrating a planet of intelligent, humanoid aliens called Na’vi to search for deposits of a valuable fossil fuel. Studi anchors the alien culture as Eytukan, leader of the Na’vi clan with which the human intruder spends most of his time, alongside mate and spiritual leader Mo’at (C.C.H. Pounder).

2. Dances with Wolves
Kevin Costner’s passion project follows a traumatized Civil War soldier (Costner) who wins the respect of a tribe of Sioux while assigned to a remote outpost in Indian country. A young Wes Studi makes his first major film appearance as the fiercest member of a party of Pawnee warriors who scalp a passing Union messenger, leaving Costner’s character alone at his new post without reinforcements for the duration of his stay.

3. Geronimo: An American Legend
Our guy stars in this biopic of the great Apache rebel, directed by master of the Western Walter Hill from a script by John Milius. Studi shines as a proud warrior unwilling to accept a life of subjugation and boredom on a newly established reservation. He rallies his people around him and wins the admiration of even his bitterest enemies, including pursuing soldiers played by Robert Duvall, Gene Hackman and Matt Damon.

4. Heat
Michael Mann’s crime thriller follows a battle of wits between master bank robber Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro) and world-weary cop Lt. Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) after the former stages a bloody armed car heist. Studi comes in as Detective Sammy Casals, Hanna’s tough-talking right-hand man, staking out Neil and his gang of thugs as they plan their next big job.

5. Mystery Men
This cult classic comedy follows a team of would-be superheroes whose powers aren’t quite up to snuff. The Shoveler (William H. Macy) is master digger, wielding a shovel and a headlamp, Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller) develops super-human strength when he’s angry… or so he says, and the Blue Raja (Hank Azaria) is incredibly good at throwing kitchen utensils, as long as they’re forks and spoons. The Sphinx (Wes Studi) breaks the mold as the team’s powerful and enigmatic mentor, who cuts guns in half with his mind and speaks only in zen-sounding platitudes.

6. Road to Paloma
The 2014 directorial debut from Studi’s RED ROAD co-star Jason Momoa follows Robert Wolf (Momoa), a young Native American who goes on the lam after taking revenge for his mother’s murder, as he makes a cross-country trip to scatter her ashes. Studi plays Numay, Wolf’s widowed father and a officer of his reservation’s tribal police force.

7. Seraphim Falls
This Western revenge movie focuses on a former Union general (Pierce Brosnan) targeted by killers after an old war-time enemy officer (Liam Neeson) places a bounty on his head. Studi stands out as a mystical-minded desert dweller named Charon who charges passersby to drink from his watering hole and dispenses mysterious wisdom.

8. The Last of the Mohicans
His previous collaboration with director Michael Mann found Studi taking a more prominent role as the treacherous Huron guide Magua, who leads an English family into an ambush during the French and Indian War and later seeks vengeance after his own family is caught in the crossfire. Magua makes an unforgettable antagonist for adoptive Mohican Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his father Chingachgook.

9. The New World
Terrence Malick’s meandering version of the Pocahontas story has accrued a steady following since its underwhelming reception in 2005, with proponents including critics Roger Ebert (who gave The New World four out of four stars) and Matt Zoller Seitz, who’s called the movie his all-time favorite. Studi plays Opechancanough, Pocahontas’s uncle who accompanies the young princess on an early visit to England.

10. The Only Good Indian
Studi executive produced and starred in this 2009 indie drama about a Cherokee bounty hunter (Studi) tasked with tracking down a young runaway taken from the Kickapoo tribe and forced to assimilate into white Kansas society in the early 20th century. Meanwhile, notorious bigot and so-nicknamed “Indian Fighter” Sheriff Henry McCoy (J. Kenneth Campbell) is hot on the trail.