The movie opens with a trapper sleeping with an Indian woman and their child. Then we see soldiers burning down an Indian village and then we see a white trapper holding the dead Indian woman in his arms.
We flash forward to 1823 with trappers in the Louisiana Territory being attacked by Arikara Indians. The fight is chaotic with arrows, gunshots, spears, knives and blood. Some of the hunting party escapes on a river boat, taking what furs they could. The Indians sing songs over their dead and the chief says they will take the pelts with the French and keep searching for his daughter Powqua.
But the Arikara are in pursuit and Hugh Glass leads the men away from the river and away from the Arikara. Glass and his son Hawk speak Pawnee to each other. Glass is then mauled by a grizzly while out hunting.
The Arikara chief goes in to the French trading camp and asks for horses. The Frenchman doesn't want to give them horses. The chief says you have stolen everything from us. The land. The animals. He tells the Frenchman that two white men snuck in to his village and stole his daughter and he must go after her and he is taking some horses. The French let him have five horses.
Glass' son Hawk, a man named John Fitzgerald and Jim Bridger are paid to stay behind to watch Glass. We then see a flashback to when soldiers attack the village and kill Glass' wife. Glass takes Hawk with him. Fitzgerald is afraid of the pursuing Arikara so he tries to kill Glass but Hawk sees him. Fitzgerald then kills Hawk. Fitzgerald tell Bridger the Indians are coming so he and Bridger bury Glass in a shallow grave and leave him behind.
Glass escapes and survives by eating roots and begins crawling towards the fort, but the Arikara are following because Powqua has been kidnapped. Glass has to float down a river to escape them. Glass then meets a Pawnee who feeds him some raw bison. They travel together on the Pawnee's horse and the Pawnee builds Glass a shelter and saves Glass' life, but when Glass wakes up he finds him hung by some French hunters. Glass then rescues Powqua from the hunters and escapes with her on one of their horses.
Glass leaves Powqua behind, and is again attacked by Arikaras but escapes by jumping off a cliff with his horse. When Glass gets back to the fort he goes after Fitzgerald. Glass and Fitzgerald fight and Glass pushes his body down river towards the Arikara. The chief, now with his daughter, kill Fitzgerald and ride by Glass.
The movies can be looked at as an Indian version of The Searchers, with the Arikara chief chasing after those who took his daughter and trying to get her back. The native Americans were portrayed in a positive manner. Glass was living with the Pawnee and was an accepted member of the tribe. The Arikara chief and his men went to great hardships to get the chief's daughter back. The Pawnee warrior saved Glass's life even though it meant it would be more work for him to nurse him back to health.
Beautifully filmed and very well done. Perhaps the most realistic portrayals of the time period and inspired by real events.