Texas 1868. La famille d'Aaron Edwards est decimée par une bande de Commanches qui attaquent son ranch et enlèvent ses deux fillettes. Ethan, le frère d'Aaron, découvre le drame et se lance sur les traces des ravisseurs avec deux autres compagnons.
Ethan Edwards, returned from the Civil War to the Texas ranch of his brother, hopes to find a home with his family and to be near the woman he obviously but secretly loves. But a Comanche raid destroys these plans, and Ethan sets out, along with his 1/8 Indian nephew Martin, on a years-long journey to find the niece kidnapped by the Indians under Chief Scar. But as the quest goes on, Martin begins to realize that his uncle's hatred for the Indians is beginning to spill over onto his now-assimilated niece. Martin becomes uncertain whether Ethan plans to rescue Debbie...or kill her.