The Mexican War is going on and an American soldier would rather face isolation than war. Jeremiah Johnson (Robert Redford) heads for the mountains. Some say he wants to be a hermit. Some say he has gone mad. He just wants to live his life by his own means. Funny thing is, he is a tenderfoot. Oh he can do what most soldiers know how to do to survive but he really doesn't have much of a clue how to survive in the mountains.
He runs into a man by the name of Bear Claw (Will Geer) who helps him to learn what he needs to do. You see Jeremiah was making his cabin but wasn't doing a good job and Bear Claw gave him some advice. He also gave him some tips about trapping. As soon as Bear Claw had arrived he was gone. People up in them parts just don't like to stay around for awhile. They have their own things to do.
Now Jeremiah was out hunting one day and he comes up to man who was buried up to his chin by the Indians. Del Cue (Stefan Gierasch) was a talkative sort of fellow and he explained to Jeremiah what he had done. Now Jeremiah wasn't one to get involved in other peoples business but he did give Del Cue a hand.
Jeremiah made one mistake when he first arrived in the mountains. He accidentally desecrated a Crow burial ground. This makes him and the Crow mortal enemies. The Crow will send out warriors to hunt and kill Jeremiah until he dies. Jeremiah loses his wife and child to their vengeance.
Jeremiah was once again out hunting when he comes across a crazy woman (Allyn Ann Mclerie). Her family was butchered by the Indians and she had totally lost her mind. He tries to help her but she is beyond help and the Indians just want to leave her alone. They are afraid of her.
Jeremiah has gone into a world he didn't know existed. You see when a person is up against nature and man in an atmosphere of mistrust it's hard to get that respect that will keep you alive. You see if you keep to yourself and don't bother others then others won't bother you.
You'll have to watch the rest of the movie to see if Jeremiah Johnson can get that respect and keep his scalp. Director Sydney Pollack brings us a wonderful story with some of the greatest scenery to ever come across the screen. Jeremiah teaches us much about how we should live with one another and coming out of this film is the word respect. Respect others and they will respect you. Lesson Learned.