Based on James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 novel of the same name and an earlier 1936 film adaptation, Last of the Mohicans is a historical drama taking place during the French and Indian War’s peak in 1757. Daniel Day Lewis is the lead role, a white man named Hawkeye who was raised by Mohawks. While set in upstate New York, the film was shot in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, hence its ties to Appalachia.
Due to the film’s somewhat tangential mode of being set in Appalachia, discussing this as a piece of distinctly Appalachian media proves complicated. Rather than the content of the film, this choice of setting speaks more to the filmmaker’s perceptions of Appalachia. Michael Mann, the director of the film, is quoted as saying, “You wind up moving through a tremendous amount of nature. And two things happen: you get a feel for it, so it’s almost like you’re duplicating what these people actually did, and there’s a more intense appreciation of it.”  For Mann, Appalachia more closely embodied the expansive and wild nature of a newly colonized America than today’s upstate New York, a more densely populated region.
The film’s content is that of a war story and a romantic drama: Lewis’s Hawkeye falls in love with a Colonel’s daughter—Cora, played by Madeleine Stowe. This decision to sexualize the protagonist and thus steer away from the complex colonial tensions inherent in the subject matter has drawn criticism, as Jeffery Walker writes, “Mann’s decision to turn [the film] primarily into a love story and to ignore the essence of the Native American theme is the strangest and most damaging plot twist of all.”  The primary makeup of the film outside of the romantic plot is of the aforementioned French and Indian War, which is brutal and a generally impressive production.
This endeavor included construction of a fort at North Carolina’s Lake James, the process of which took nine weeks for a team of 150 people to complete.  Another set was built at Chimney Rock Park, not far from Lake James.