Wes Studi established himself as a blockbuster Native actor in the early 90s. The Cherokee actor has worked with such well-known actors as Daniel Day Lewis, Al Pacino, Kevin Costner Robert De Niro and Mel Gibson.
Every Native has their favorite Studi film. Some of us nerds loved him in Street Fighter. History buffs are all about The Last of the Mohicans. And boy did the current generation vibe with Avatar.
He has 92 credits as an actor, and according to his Internet Movie Database Profile, he’s currently working on nine projects.
Of the vast collection of films he’s been a part of, here are the eight we would suggest:
Sure, they’re blue aliens that bear a striking resemblance to Native Americans, but director James Cameron’s vision elevated audiences worldwide with a new take on colonization.
It won three Oscar awards behind a cast that includes Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver. Studi, who plays Eytukan, of the Na’vi humanoid race, delivers his best brutal warrior role since The Last of the Mohicans.
Mystery Men (1999)
To see Studi branch out into a different genre is worthwhile in this action comedy that features a group of amateur superheroes.
Studi plays the complex Sphinx, whose superpowers include cutting guns in half with his mind and speaking in riddles.
Powwow Highway (1989)
You might not know Studi had a role in the most iconic contemporary Native film of its time. The film that features A Martinez and Gary Farmer won a Sundance Film Festival award, among other honors.
His character, Buff, is an entertaining asset to the film – one you want more of.
Geronimo: An American Legend (1993)
His portrayal of the famous Apache chief is noteworthy, as it’s the first time we see Wes in a lead role in a big movie, one that features Gene Hackman, Robert Duvall and Matt Damon.
The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
In perhaps the most critically acclaimed movie he’s ever been a part of, Wes sells the audience with his performance of the ruthless villain Magua.
Daniel Day-Lewis, Russell Means and Eric Schweig anchor the film’s central Indian perspective, one that sees rival tribes side with opposing forces during the French and Indian War. The film has a 94 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Street Fighter (1994)
Most 90s generation video game enthusiasts were delighted to find out Studi made his way into the adaption of the popular arcade game.
He landed the role of Sagat, a villain from Thailand who fights for M Bison, played by Raul Julia. A fan of the movie released a video of the film’s best Sagat moments back in 2013.
The Only Good Indian (2009)
Wes lands another lead role as Sam in this early 1900s tale. He plays a bounty hunter, of Cherokee descent hired to retrieve a boarding school runaway.
The film was an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival that year, and Studi was nominated as best actor at the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco.
Alongside Adam Beach, Wes took on this Navajo mystery novel for PBS. The film, which follows an experienced cop (Studi plays Joe Leaphorn) teaming up with an academy graduate in Beach, was directed by Chris Eyre.
PBS stated it was the highest rated program of 2002. And it entered the realm of digital media this year on Netflix. The term “skinwalker” refers to a Navajo witch with shapeshifting abilities.
Wes Studi's Twitter main page - follow him at WesleyStudi.
Follow Wes Studi on Twitter - @WesleyStudi.
Cary Rosenbaum (Colville) is a correspondent and columnist for Indian Country Today. He can be contacted via Twitter @caryrosenbaum