Born in New Mexico in 1997, Amber Midthunder was raised in and around the entertainment industry, as the daughter of an actor and a stuntwoman-turned-casting director. She made her first on-screen performance at the tender age of four in "The Homecoming of Jimmy Whitecloud," and has been acting ever since, with a number of film and TV credits to her name. A citizen of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribe through her father, Midthunder is one of the most prominent Native American actresses working in Hollywood today.
Although perhaps most famous for her breakout role in "Prey," she's taken on a variety of different genres, appearing in everything from action blockbusters and police procedurals to indie dramas and television comedies. The young actress shows no signs of slowing down, either: She is slated to play Princess Yue in the much-anticipated live-action adaptation of "Avatar: The Last Airbender" and will also star in "Rez Ball," an upcoming sports movie about a Navajo high school basketball team. Read on to discover the best films and television shows of her short but impressive career.
James Stevens (Joel Smallbone) in "Priceless" is down on his luck, and not exactly in a position to turn down the offer of a job driving a truck cross-country. Nor does he feel particularly inclined to ask questions about the arrangement — what he's transporting, for example, or why he's being paid in cash. But imagine his surprise when he discovers that he's accidentally become a party to human trafficking, with two women in the back of his truck (Amber Midthunder plays one, while Bianca Santos portrays the other). With his conscience (and, since this is a Christian movie, his salvation) on the line along with the lives of the women, he must find a way to rescue them and their virtue from the hands of sex traffickers.
"Priceless" tends to prioritize its harrowing — and occasionally self-important — message over telling a compelling story. But despite this, it received some positive reviews from critics, with many seeming to put it into the "better than it has any right to be" category.
The Netflix original movie "Only Mine" — a thriller based on a true story — delivers all the sensationalist hallmarks that we used to see on Lifetime. Midthunder takes on the starring role of Julie Dillon, a young waitress preparing to leave her small town for college. It isn't long before she strikes up a relationship with a cop, David Barragan (Brett Zimmerman), and it isn't long after that before their romance turns ugly. Although David initially presents himself as a kind, charming man, he quickly reveals abusive tendencies, leaving Julie in the horrifying position of having to find a way to escape her increasingly violent lover before it's too late.
"Only Mine" was inspired — kind of — by the story of Laura Kucera, a young woman who survived four days in a ditch after being shot by her abusive boyfriend in the early 1990s. The Netflix film received largely poor reviews from audiences, but some viewers commended "Only Mine" for its sensitive and thoughtful exploration of domestic abuse.
If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.
Hell Or High Water
Probably the most critically acclaimed film on Midthunder's resume, "Hell or High Water" stars Ben Foster and Chris Pine as brothers who embark on a life of crime to save their family's ancestral property from foreclosure, all while two extremely persistent Texas Rangers tail them. Midthunder assumes a small but crucial role. Though credited simply as "Vernon Teller," she gets two great scenes that allow the young actress to showcase her skills.
In the first, Foster's Tanner Howard robs Teller at the bank where she works — and Midthurnder makes the character's fear palpable as Howard shoves a gun in her fast. The second occurs when she describes the robbery to the Texas Rangers who are following them, giving her the opportunity to share the screen with Jeff Bridges and hold her own against him. Though decidedly in the supporting cast of "Hell or High Water," roles like this in well-received prestige dramas demonstrated her talent, paving the way for more prominent roles down the line.
Although "Banshee" ran on Cinemax for four seasons, Midthunder only appeared in a brief, two-episode arc at the beginning of the show's sophomore outing. She played the role of Lana Cleary, a Native American teenager secretly dating an Amish boy, and took full advantage of her most memorable moment. In it, she and Solomon sit in a field together, discussing the notion of running away while Solomon's family is busy attending a wedding. Both find the tenets of their strict upbringings stifling and can escape — literally and figuratively — in their relationship with one another.
But their brief, idyllic romance doesn't last. Only hours later, Lana is found murdered in that same field, while Solomon goes missing. Naturally, small-town sheriff/internationally-renowned thief Lucas Hood (Antony Starr of "The Boys" fame) races to track down her murderer and rescue Solomon before it's too late. Midthunder receives little screen time; she appears in two episodes but is only technically alive for one. Still, her screen presence is clear from even a few minutes on "Banshee."
"Longmire" functions as a modern television Western, taking place in a fictional Wyoming jurisdiction where a sheriff frequently collaborates with tribal police to solve a variety of crimes that cross their paths. Midthunder holds the honor of serving as the subject of the show's very first crime, playing a young Cheyenne girl, Lilly Stillwater, who goes missing in the pilot episode. The show probably wouldn't have made it to its second episode if Sheriff Walt Longmire hadn't managed to track her down. Midthunder makes a second appearance in a Season 3 episode, where Lilly competes in a Miss Cheyenne pageant.
Her work here is less as a character in its own right and more of a reminder of the good that Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips) — currently fighting for bail after being charged with murder — has done for the community, with his help in Lilly's rescue a key example. Interestingly enough, Midthunder's real-life father, David Midthunder, guest starred on "Longmire" six different times, although their episodes didn't overlap.
The Ice Road
"The Ice Road" marks the second of two collaborations between Midthunder and Liam Neeson in 2021, and rates as by far the superior film. The first, an action thriller titled "The Marksman," earned less-than-stellar reviews from critics. "The Ice Road" revolves around a disaster in rural Manitoba, with two dozen men trapped in an exploded mine. Truck drivers are brought in to execute a rescue mission, delivering much-needed wellheads in the hopes of preventing the situation from deteriorating further.
Neeson stars as one of the most prominent truckers, while Midhunter appears as another member of the rescue team, a young woman whose efforts to help are fueled by the fact that her brother is among the trapped miners. For most of its runtime, "The Ice Road" falls into the category of generic action film, but Neeson is nothing if not reliable, and some reviewers praised Midthunder's work, with Mike D'Angelo of The A.V. Club praising her "enjoyably spiky performance."
Centurion: The Dancing Stallion
Released in early 2023, "Centurion: The Dancing Stallion" features Midthunder's first starring role since her breakout performance in 2022's "Prey." In it, she stars as Ellissia, a young equestrian intent on training a white stallion to participate in a Mexican horse dancing competition. But before she can actually get to the big event, she falls ill and reluctantly hands over the reins (figuratively and literally) to another trainer.
As with many horse movies, "Centurion: The Dancing Stallion" aspires to be inspirational, with people and animals overcoming adversity. Ellissia struggles against her health limitations, while the poor horse rises above a history of abuse to land a loving home. (P.S. There's also a little bit of romance between Ellissia and Danny, the handsome young trainer who steps in to help with the competition at the 11th hour.) With a direct-to-streaming release, it's perhaps not the splashiest follow-up to "Prey" that one could imagine, but reviews of "Centurion: The Dancing Stallion" seem to be generally positive, with critics largely considering it pleasant if predictable.
Midthunder only turns up in a single episode of "Reservation Dogs," but she makes the most of her cameo role. The FX show — which often garners praise for its commitment to working with a primarily Indigenous cast, crew, and writing staff — depicts the lives of four teenage boys growing up on a Native American reservation in Oklahoma. Reeling from the recent death of their closest friend, they dream of moving to California, a mythical place they imagine as the complete opposite of their small community. In the Season 2 episode "Decolonativization," Midthunder plays MissMa8riarch, an online influencer with some unique ideas about Indigenous identity.
MissMa8riarch arrives to lead the Native American Reclamation and Decolonization Symposium Youth Summit (which our protagonists are forced to go to as punishment for throwing a parentally unsanctioned party), but their supposedly traditional activities feel suspiciously like warmed-over exercises from a 19990s team-building conference. This is one of Midthunder's rare comedic performances, and although brief, it's fun to watch.
Representing Midthunder's first major foray into independent cinema, "The Wheel" sees her as part of a quiet romantic comedy. She plays Albee, half of a struggling young couple who, to save their marriage, decide to spend some time relaxing in the mountains. Albee has already emotionally checked out of the relationship, while her husband strives to salvage it. As luck would have it, they're staying at an Airbnb owned by a recently engaged couple, where their borderline-hostile energy begins to create an emotional drain on the blissed-out soon-to-be newlyweds.
Although only released in a handful of theaters across the United States, "The Wheel" enjoyed a successful launch at film festivals, where its main acting quartet merited special praise for their nuanced performances. Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times seemed especially impressed by Midthunder, writing that "the four main players are all excellent, with Amber Midthunder delivering particularly outstanding work that shows she is a young actor capable of great things."
Roswell, New Mexico
For '90s kids raised on the WB, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about "Roswell" is likely Jason Behr as a broody alien dating Shiri Appleby's teenage heroine. But the show — based on the book series "Roswell High" — earned itself a Gen Z reboot in 2019 called "Roswell, New Mexico." While the earlier incarnation featured its extraterrestrial and human stars during their high school years, "Roswell, New Mexico" captures their lives after graduation, as they attempt to wend their way through their 20s.
Midthunder stars as Rosa Ortecho, the supposedly dead older sister of the main protagonist, Liz (Jeanine Mason). Characters on supernatural teen dramas don't necessarily stay deceased for long, so although she was featured exclusively in flashbacks in the first season, by the time Season 2 rolled around, Midthurnder was back in action as part of the main cast. "Roswell, New Mexico" ran on the CW for four seasons before ending in late 2022.
We here on planet Earth do not lack for comic book adaptations. There's one for pretty much every genre or style of filmmaking, and they've been approached from every conceivable angle. But somehow, "Legion" managed to create something different, with a trippy storytelling approach that both confused and enthralled audiences. Dan Stevens stars as David Haller, an often unstable young man grappling with a schizophrenia diagnosis. But is he actually mentally ill, or are his symptoms the result of latent superpowers — or does the truth reside somewhere in between?
Throughout the show, David meets other people who possess mutant abilities, including Kerry Loudermilk (Midthunder), a teenage girl who shares a body with scientist Cary Loudermilk, only occasionally separating into her own physical form. Midthunder brings an intensity to the role of Kerry, and even gets the opportunity to show off some nifty fight choreography. Remember … her mother made a living as a stuntwoman.
The "Predator" franchise is a long-lived beast, with its first outing released all the way back in 1987 and ballooning from there, spawning four sequels and a separate crossover series with "Alien." But aside from Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original, these movies have been most commonly associated with their now-iconic monster rather than any of the individual actors who appeared in them. Midthunder's performance in "Prey" is arguably the first since Schwarzenegger himself to put the focus back on the human protagonists, giving the audience something to root for beyond the thrill of seeing the violent Predator wreak havoc.
"Prey" takes place hundreds of years before the events of "Predator," as a young Comanche hunter (Midthunder) faces off against the creature to protect her tribe. The film generated overwhelming praise and is widely considered one of the strongest entries in the franchise, with Esther Zuckerman of Time Magazine writing of Midthunder's performance, "She's an anti-Arnold in the best way, the kind of heroine who knows she can be underestimated and uses that to her advantage."
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