The film has a runtime of 236 minutes. This is a director's cut made from footage from Costner's first filming of the novel. It runs slightly longer than the theatrical cut at 236 minutes. This was the version that was included on the DVD release, with an emphasis on the more violent sequences. The cut was presented on the original release of the DVD by producers Aviron Pictures as a 96-minute theatrical cut rather than the 234-minute unrated director's cut, despite being referred to as "extended cut".
In some places where the theatrical version had the kill shot of a Native American warrior with a tomahawk, the director's cut has the character's face covered by a hand.
The Extended Cut in the R1 DVD is the first time that Costner has spoken about his intentions in reworking the ending of the film.
Costner recently defended his decision to make the film with the intent to profit by the market demand for action films. He said: "How many times have you seen these movies where the hero gets killed? It's something that can't be avoided. It's an action film. You go to see an action film. The hero is supposed to die. What was I supposed to do? Lie to people? Tell them I wanted to make a story? That's what Hollywood does. It just tells you what you want to hear."
The film grossed $119,497,116 in the United States and Canada and $84,081,211 internationally, for a total worldwide gross of $203,478,327.
Dances with Wolves earned nominations for the Academy Awards, the Golden Globe Awards, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. At the Academy Awards, it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, but lost to Schindler's List. Costner's Best Actor nomination was shared with his co-star Kevin Kline for The Godfather Part II, which was released one week earlier. At the Golden Globes, it was nominated for Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, but lost to The Silence of the Lambs. At the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Costner was nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Motion Picture, but lost to Kline for The Godfather Part II.