The soundtrack features music by Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman, and the song "I Will Find You" by Clannad. The main theme of the film is taken from the tune "The Gael" by Scottish singer-songwriter Dougie MacLean. Released on September 25, 1992 in the United States, The Last of the Mohicans was met with nearly universal praise from critics and commercial success during its box-office run.
The story takes place in 1757, during the French and Indian War in the Adirondack Mountains, in the British colony of New York. British Army Major Duncan Heyward arrives in Albany. He has been sent to serve under Colonel Edmund Munro, the commander of Fort William Henry. Heyward is given the task of escorting the colonel’s two daughters, Cora and Alice, to their father. He is a family friend and in love with Cora, to whom he proposes before they leave, but she does not give him an answer.
Major Heyward, the two women, and a troop of British soldiers march through the rugged countryside, guided by Magua, a Huron warrior. Magua leads the party into an ambush. All of the soldiers are killed or wounded, but Heyward and the women are rescued by the timely intervention of the Mohican chief Chingachgook, his son Uncas, and his white, adopted son "Hawkeye", who kill all of the ambushers except Magua, who escapes. The rescuers agree to take the women and Heyward to the fort. During the fight, Hawkeye noticed that Magua attempted to kill Cora and asks Duncan if he knows why. During the trek, Cora and Hawkeye are attracted to each other, as are Uncas and Alice.
When the party nears the fort, they find it under siege by the French and their Huron allies. The party manages to sneak in and are greeted by Colonel Munro, who asks Major Heyward about the requested, desperately needed reinforcements. While there, Cora and Hawkeye share a passionate kiss, and Heyward becomes jealous. In response, Cora finally tells him she will not marry him.
When Munro refuses to allow the militiamen to sneak away to defend their own families and homes, as he had earlier promised, Hawkeye arranges it anyway. He stays, however, and is condemned to death. Before that happens, during a parlay, French general Louis-Joseph de Montcalm shows Munro an intercepted message which states that no reinforcements have been sent. Montcalm offers to allow the British to evacuate the fort with honor, keeping their weapons. Munro has little choice but to accept. However, Magua, a French ally, is furious at this arrangement. He harbors great hatred for Munro, blaming him for past wrongs done to him and his family.
The following day, Colonel Munro, his soldiers, and their women and children leave the fort. Magua and his Huron warriors ambush them. Magua personally kills Munro. Hawkeye and the Mohicans fight their way out, leading Cora, Alice, and Heyward to temporary safety. Later, however, Magua captures the major and the women. Magua takes his prisoners to a Huron settlement and addresses its sachem. He is interrupted by Hawkeye, who comes in alone to plead for their lives.
The sachem rules that Heyward be returned to the British, Alice given to Magua, and Cora burned alive. Hawkeye, for his great bravery, may leave unharmed. Hawkeye tells Heyward, who is serving as translator, to beg the sachem to let Hawkeye take Cora's place. Instead, Heyward trades his own life for Cora’s.
Once Cora and Hawkeye are far enough away, Hawkeye shoots Heyward to end his suffering. Chingachgook, Uncas, and Hawkeye then set out after Magua's party to free Alice. Uncas races ahead and engages Magua in personal combat, but is killed. Alice chooses to step off the cliff to her death rather than go to the beckoning Magua. While Hawkeye holds Magua's remaining men at bay, Chingachgook duels Magua and avenges his son. Chingachgook prays to the Great Spirit to receive Uncas, calling himself "the last of the Mohicans".
Much care was taken with recreating accurate costumes and props. American Bladesmith Society master bladesmith Daniel Winkler made the tomahawks used in the film and knifemaker Randall King made the knives. Wayne Watson is the maker of Hawkeye's "Killdeer" rifle used in the film. The gunstock war club made for Chingachgook was created by Jim Yellow Eagle. Magua's tomahawk was made by Fred A. Mitchell of Odin Forge & Fabrication.
Costumes were originally designed by multiple Academy Award winner James Acheson, but he left the film and had his name removed because of artistic differences with Mann. Designer Elsa Zamparelli was brought in to finish.
Despite the film taking place in upstate New York, according to the film credits, it was filmed mostly in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Locations used include Lake James, Chimney Rock Park and The Biltmore Estate. Some of the waterfalls that were used in the movie include Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and High Falls, all located in the DuPont State Recreational Forest. Another of these falls was Linville Falls, in the mountains of North Carolina. Scenes of Albany were shot in Asheville, NC at The Manor on Charlotte St.
The Last of the Mohicans opened to general acclaim, with critics praising the film for its cinematography and music. Critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars and called it "quite an improvement on Cooper's all but unreadable book, and a worthy successor to the Randolph Scott version," going on to say that "The Last of the Mohicans is not as authentic and uncompromised as it claims to be — more of a matinee fantasy than it wants to admit — but it is probably more entertaining as a result."
Desson Howe of The Washington Post classified the film as "glam-opera" and "the MTV version of gothic romance". Rita Kempley of the Post recognized the "heavy drama," writing that the film "sets new standards when it comes to pent-up passion", but commented positively on the "spectacular scenery".
The Last of the Mohicans is certified "Fresh" at the film site Rotten Tomatoes, with a positive rating of 94% (34 reviews out of 35 counted fresh).
The film won the Academy Award for Best Sound (Chris Jenkins, Doug Hemphill, Mark Smith, Simon Kaye).
American Film Institute recognition:AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains:
Hawkeye - Nominated Hero
The film opened in the United States on September 25, 1992, in 1,856 theaters. It was the number 1 movie on its opening weekend. By the end of its first weekend, The Last of the Mohicans had generated $10,976,661, and by the end of its domestic run, the film had made $75,505,856. It was ranked the 17th highest-grossing film of 1992 in the United States.
The film was released theatrically in 1992 at a length of 112 minutes. It was released at this length on VHS in the U.S. It was re-edited to a length of 117 minutes for its U.S. DVD release on November 23, 1999, which was billed as the "Director's Expanded Edition". It was again re-edited for its U.S. Blu-ray release on October 5, 2010, this time billed as the "Director's Definitive Cut", with a length of 114 mins.