Summary of the Movie "Pocahontas"

by Micah McDunnigan

In 1995, Disney released an animated film version of the story of the historical figures of the Native American princess Pocahontas and the English military captain John Smith. While the film takes artistic liberties with the facts of the story, it tells a narrative of the conflict in which Native Americans and colonizing Europeans found themselves with a happy ending that did not always happen in real life.


The movie begins by introducing the audience to the two main characters: John Smith and the daughter of the Native American Chief Powhatan, Pocahontas. Though set to be married to the tribe's leading warrior, Kocoum, and assume the duties this entails, Pocahontas is a free spirit who doesn't want to be burdened by such responsibilities. John Smith is a similarly independent adventurer who is liked by the men whose good nature differs from the greedy leader of the Englishmen, Governor Ratcliffe.

John Smith Meets Pocahontas

Smith and Pocahontas meet while Smith is leading a scouting party to learn about the land outside of the English fort, and Pocahontas is wandering through the woods her people inhabit. Pocahontas explains the Native American conception of nature to Smith, who tries to explain the ways in which the English hope to benefit from the land's resources. Pocahontas tells Smith how the English conception of using land is flawed, and how the English cannot hope to benefit from land if they exploit it in the way in which the English intend, by cutting down trees and mining for gold.

Point of Conflict

Governor Ratcliffe's goal for the mission is profit, and he is convinced that the land has a copious bounty of gold. When the English do not initially find it, he becomes convinced that Powhatan and his tribe are hiding the gold for themselves. This tension leads to the point of open conflict when Kocoum is accidentally shot by an English soldier who follows Smith to one of his meetings with Pocahontas. In retaliation, Smith is captured by Powhatan and his tribe and set to be executed.


Pocahontas intervenes to save Smith's life by protecting him with her own body. After Pocahontas convinces her father to spare Smith's life, an English party led by Ratcliffe shows up. While the men's intention is to save Smith, Ratcliffe wants to find the gold he erroneously believes Powhatan to be hoarding. Smith and Pocahontas manage to prevent the two forces from fighting, but Ratcliffe grabs a gun and aims to shoot Powhatan. The chief is only saved by Smith throwing his own body in front of Powhatan to take the bullet for him. This act secures good will between the English and the Native Americans. The movie ends with the English boarding a ship to return to England: Smith to recuperate, and Ratcliffe bound and gagged by his men.