In 1607, the Virginia Company finances a voyage to the New World, so that settlers may found a colony in the new world. Due to his extraordinary reputation in dealing with natives, John Smith is chosen to be the captain. Governor Ratcliffe, who is to be the leader of the new colony, notes that he is depending on John to deal with the natives so that there are no disruptions. During the voyage, one young man, named Thomas, falls overboard. In response, John, with some assistance from Ben and Lon, mounts a risky but successful rescue mission, earning him Ratcliffe's praise. Thomas tells John his plans for the New World, but John notes that he has seen hundreds of new worlds and that there could be little that would be different about this one.
When they reach the new world, work begins on a colony, which is named Jamestown, Virginia. Upon landing, John is sent out with a crew so that they can tie the ship off. While there, John meets Meeko, but is prevented from seeing a hidden Pocahontas by Flit. Ratcliffe then tasks John with exploring the surrounding area, to scout for natives.
While exploring, John is impressed by the land, deeming it wild and challenging. Meanwhile, he is secretly being followed by Pocahontas. John stops to wash his face at a river but notices a reflection. Hiding behind a rock, he readies his gun, but when he jumps upon the person, he discovers a beautiful woman. He puts down his gun and tries to introduce himself at first, just before the woman runs from him, and he quickly follows her. John tries to explain that he won't hurt her, but she doesn't understand him at first. However, he tries telling her it was alright. She takes his hand and sees he's not a threat to her and they take a moment to notice each other. When he asks her name, she tells him that her name is Pocahontas. The two talk for some time, telling each other their different names for things. John unintentionally insults her, though, by talking about how his people have improved the lives of savages everywhere, with things like decent roads and houses. He tries to apologize, and Pocahontas responds by showing him the beauty of nature. However, their time together is cut short when Pocahontas hears the sound of drums and runs off.
A few days later, John sneaks away from camp to find Pocahontas. During their talk, John tells Pocahontas about the reason the settlers are there: to look for gold. Pocahontas has never heard of Gold, and after hearing a description holds up an ear of corn. John corrects her by showing her a gold piece, which Pocahontas has never seen. John remarks that they came a long way for nothing, and notes that some of the settlers might leave, but that the rest would have to carry out the settlement. Pocahontas asks of he would leave, but John notes he has nothing to go back to in England, as he has never belonged anywhere. Pocahontas chooses to introduce John to Grandmother Willow. The experience shocks him at first, but he grows to like her, especially after she compliments his looks. They are interrupted by Ben and Lon, who have come looking for John. John and Pocahontas hide and Grandmother Willow spooks the two men away. John decides to go back before they send more people looking for him but first, agrees to meet Pocahontas that night at Grandmother Willow's glade.
When John returns to camp, he is nearly shot at by Thomas. John coaches Thomas on how to aim properly and is then questioned by Ratcliffe as to where he had been. John uses the excuse that he was scouting. Ratcliffe approves, as the information will be useful for the upcoming battle. John learns that Ratcliffe plans to attack the Indians, in order to get the gold Ratcliffe believes them to be hiding. John protests, much to the surprise of Ratcliffe and the settlers. John relates what he has learned from Pocahontas, though he doesn't reveal her identity, saying only that he met an Indian. John notes the advantages of working with the natives, and also says that there is no gold. The settlers begin to wonder about the lack of gold, but Ratcliffe dismisses the tale as lies. Ratcliffe then proclaims that anyone who looks at an Indian without shooting will be tried for treason and lynched.
Despite Ratcliffe's ruling, John sneaks out of camp that night. However, he is unknowingly spotted by Thomas. Ratcliffe orders Thomas to follow John, as well as to shoot any Indians he sees. Meanwhile, John meets with Pocahontas, and tells her of the impending attack. Pocahontas reveals that her people are also preparing for war, and that if they are to stop this, John must come talk to her father, Chief Powhatan. John initially refuses, citing the matter to be impossible, but eventually acquiesces, after Grandmother Willow compares the situation to ripples, which must be started by someone. John and Pocahontas impulsively share a kiss, which is witnessed by both Thomas and Kocoum, who had followed Pocahontas. Kocoum attacks John in a rage and tries to murder him, and Thomas intervenes kills Kocoum to save John. Kocoum's death makes Pocahontas angry, and John orders Thomas to leave. As soon as he does, warriors from Pocahontas's tribe appear, and capture John, believing him to have killed Kocoum. Meanwhile, Thomas reports John's capture. A plan is set up to rescue him, though Ratcliffe intends to take advantage of the situation and kill the Indians to get the gold he believes they have.
At the village, Powhatan sentences John to death at sunrise, as the first casualty in the upcoming war. That night, Pocahontas comes and apologizes for getting him in trouble. John refuses to accept, stating that he was a better person for having met her, and that he would be with her forever. Pocahontas leaves, and soon John is forcefully taken to a cliff, near where the battle is to take place. Just then the English settlers arrive for the battle, Powhatan prepares to execute John. Before he can do so, Pocahontas intervenes, throwing her body over John's, with a proclamation that Powhatan will have to kill her along with John. Pocahontas proclaims her love for John, and rebukes everyone for following the path of hatred and discrimination. Powhatan, seeing the truth, chooses to release John, and calls off his warriors. The settlers are content to let the fight go, as John has been released. Ratcliffe tries to shoot Powhatan, but John takes the shot saving his life. Thomas and the others realize that John was right the whole time and they should not listen to Ratcliffe earlier and they bounding and gagging him and sent him back to England.
John initially survives, but is forced to return to England for medical treatment, otherwise he would die. Pocahontas arrives, bringing food, and says goodbye to John. John invites her to come with him, but Pocahontas initially refuses, stating that she's needed with her tribe. John wants to stay, but Pocahontas tells he has to go, because she would be with him forever no matter what. Powhatan comes, and thanks John for saving his life earlier, stating that he is always welcome among their people. John is soon loaded onto the ship, and he is able to wave goodbye to Pocahontas as the ship sails out to sea.
- He was voiced by Mel Gibson in his debut
- He is the known protagonist to ever been based on a real life person.