Rodeo is a dangerous sport that requires exceptional skills and stamina. The significant risks and breathtaking adventure make it a great movie storyline.
The 13 best rodeo movies in this article narrate the story of the fame and misfortunes rooted in the rodeo circuit.
1. The Rider (2018)
English 1h 44m IMDb
Director: Chloé Zhao
Stars: Brady Jandreau, Mooney, Tim Jandreau
Independent filmmaker Chloe Zhao wrote and directed this moving cinematic masterpiece. It stars real-life rodeo riders and townsfolk from a South Dakota reservation.
The movie revolves around the life of Brady Blackburn, played by Brady Jandreau. He had a life-altering bronc riding accident that forced him to quit the sport.
The film garnered several awards at Cannes, Sundance, and the New York Film Festival. Critics likened it to watching a documentary for its raw portrayal of the rodeo circuit.
It effectively revealed daily life on a ranch, including their equipment, houses, and relationships. These realistic portrayals provided viewers with an immersive and memorable experience.
It also showed the triumphs and trials connected with the profession. The film’s cinematography, lighting, and artistic shots set the mood for a poetic narration. It showcased the strength of the human spirit amidst adversity.
2. 8 Seconds (1994)
English 1h 45m IMDb
Director: John G. Avildsen
Stars: Luke Perry, Stephen Baldwin, James Rebhorn
Based on a true story, 8 Seconds chronicles the life of Lane Frost, one of the youngest rodeo national champions. Aside from showcasing his trials as he reached the top of the rodeo circuit, it also reveals his quest for his father’s approval.
This obsession with trying to please his father almost destroyed his wonderful marriage. The emotional film navigates the challenges between a husband and a wife amidst fulfilling a lifelong dream.
The film, directed by John Avildsen, showed impressive shots of rodeo scenes. Luke Perry as Lane Frost was a believable choice since they share similar features. Critics observed that the ending should have been more powerful.
If the creators gave it a powerhouse conclusion, it would have been as epic as Rocky. On a more positive note, the film tackled a unique perspective on marriage that made it stand out from the usual relationship dramas.
3. Junior Bonner (1972)
English 1h 40m IMDb
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Stars: Steve McQueen, Robert Preston, Ida Lupino
A list of best rodeo movies won’t be complete without including Junior Bonner. Steve McQueen leads this classic film as Junior Bonner, a middle-aged rodeo rider returning to his hometown in Arizona.
His father and brother have other dreams, but Junior is deadset on conquering a feisty bull called Sunshine. If he could ride the bull for eight seconds, it means he could revive his failing career.
A recurring theme in the movie is how an older rodeo rider deals with younger competition.
Director Sam Peckinpaugh perfectly captured the ambiance and mood of the rodeo circuit. Western movie regulars Dub Taylor, Bill McKinney, and Donald Barry gave exceptional performances.
There isn’t much violence compared to other films by Peckinpaugh but the rodeo’s thrill pretty much made up for it. The director’s patented slow-motion shots provided an exceptional experience for the audience.
4. Walk.Ride. Rodeo (2019)
English 1h 40m IMDb
Director: Conor Allyn
Stars: Spencer Locke, Missi Pyle, Bailey Chase
This inspirational movie narrates the true story of Amberley Synder. She’s a 19-year-old nationally ranked barrel racer who suffered paralysis from the waist down due to a car accident.
Determined to earn back her place and return to the sport she loves, she began a grueling journey through physical therapy. Her family’s love and support allowed her to harness all the courage and strength to beat the odds.
Rated as one of Netflix’s top movies, this emotional and endearing film reveals what it takes to overcome adversity. This film about women empowerment is excellent for families, horse lovers, and people seeking inspiration in life.
The movie’s theme may not be original. Still, its brilliant director, Conor Allyn, effectively made it an enjoyable and heartwarming piece.
The honest Amberley Snyder performed all the horse stunts for scenes after the accident. Meanwhile, her sister did all the action scenes before the accident.
5. When the Legends Die (1972)
English 1h 47m IMDb
Director: Stuart Millar
Stars: Richard Widmark, Frederic Forrest, Luana Anders
This classic film narrates the story of Tom Black Full, a young Native American played by Frederick Forrest. He may be unsociable and uneducated, but he has a strong potential for riding a horse.
Then an aging rodeo cowboy named Red Dillion (played by Richard Widmark) took Tom under his wing after seeing him excellent at bucking a horse. Dillon started to teach Tom everything he knew about being an exceptional rodeo rider.
The mentee honed his craft and won several championships. When he was raking in a lot of money, trouble sets in as their relationship crumbles under pressure.
Critics reveal that the two main characters gave a solid performance while supporting actors weren’t as topnotch.
However, the film highlighted the American Indian culture. It also showcased the adventurous rodeo life. It’s an exciting take on the cowboys and Indians theme that many Western movie fans love.
6. Cowgirls and Angels (2012)
English 1h 32m IMDb
Director: Timothy Armstrong
Stars: Bailee Madison, Dusta Kimzey, Richard Levi
The movie “Cowgirls and Angels” revolve around a rebellious and brave young girl named Ida. She hopes to find his missing father, who is a rodeo rider.
She connected with a team of young female rodeo riders called Sweethearts of the Rodeo during her search. The team’s leader, Terence Parker, recognized Ida’s potential for trick riding and recruited her to join the group.
Ida found love and acceptance in her new “family .” Joining them also ignited her passion for riding and led her to amazing realizations about life.
This movie lived up to its promise of being perfect for the whole family. It’s a heartwarming tale that conjures real emotions bringing some tears and laughter.
The scenes between lead stars Bailee Madison (Ida) and James Cromwell (Terrence) are captivating. The film may not be the usual Hollywood movie with special effects, but it provided pure family entertainment.
7. My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys (1991)
English 1h 46m IMDb
Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Stars: Scott Glenn, Kate Capshaw, Ben Johnson
This 1991 western gem is about H.D Halton (Scott Glen), a bull rider returning to his hometown after a serious rodeo injury.
His return to an old life was more challenging when he discovered that the family ranch was slowly slipping away from their fingers.
His story becomes more complex as the story progresses. He navigates his relationship with his ex-girlfriend (Kate Capshaw)and father (Ben Johnson).
Ben Johnson’s performance as an aging father with dementia is awe-inspiring. His experience as a real-life rodeo rider gave depth and credibility to the character. The movie may be similar to several underdog movies like Rocky.
Still, the director provided a unique perspective to the story. Critics observed that the film ended abruptly, leaving some plot lines open to interpretation. There may be questions left unanswered, but this rodeo movie still showed it has heart and soul.
8. J.W Coop (1972)
English 1h 52m IMDb
Director: Cliff Robertson
Stars: Cliff Robertson, Geraldine Page, Cristina Ferrare
Cliff Robertson stars as J.W Coop, an ex-con cowboy who had to adjust to the changes in the rodeo circuit upon his jail release. He lost nine years of his life in a prison sentence, so he’s eager to return to being a professional rodeo cowboy.
However, his journey to regain his former glory was challenging. He had a hard time navigating not only the changes in the rodeo scene but also with society as a whole. The film included actual rodeo footage and a cameo from Larry Mahan, a legendary rodeo cowboy.
Many critics believe that this modern western is one of Cliff Robertson’s best movies.
His flawless acting and directing gave justice to the brilliant storyline. It provides an honest and realistic approach to the trials of a determined ex-convict whose trying to join the world he loves.
9. Cowboy Up (2001)
English 1h 45m IMDb
Director: Xavier Koller
Stars: Kiefer Sutherland, Marcus Thomas, Daryl Hannah
Cowboy Up explores the complex relationship between two brothers vying for one woman’s heart. Kiefer Sutherland plays Hank, a rodeo clown, and a bull breeder.
His brother Ely, portrayed by Marcus Thomas, is a headstrong rodeo rider recovering from a life-threatening injury.
Their sibling rivalry grows when Celia, a rodeo sweetheart, gets between them. The story becomes more complicated when they’re haunted by painful memories of their absentee father, a famous bull rider.
This film received glowing reviews from viewers despite its modest ratings. The script and direction held the audience’s attention. Meanwhile, the long shots and close-ups allowed viewers a front-row seat to the world of rodeo.
The supporting team of actors gave an exceptional performance and justice to the film’s contemporary twist. Critics believed this film deserved more accolades as it perfectly sums up rodeo enthusiasts’ love for the sport.
10. The Longest Ride (2015)
English 2h 3m IMDb
Director: George Tillman Jr.
Stars: Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson, Alan Alda
This romantic drama is based on Nicholas Spark’s bestselling novel of the same title. It revolves around the relationship between bull-riding champion Luke (Scott Eastwood) and college student Sophia (Britt Robertson).
Their love is threatened when they decide to take different career paths. Luke plans to return to the rodeo circuit while Sophia is about to start her dream job in New York.
The couple finds inspiration from Ira, an older man played by Alan Alda. They learned valuable lessons on love and life from a man whose relationship with his wife withstood challenges over the years.
This film took an off-beaten path as it stars relatively unknown actors such as Robertson and Eastwood. However, these two have believable chemistry, a crucial feature in many of Spark’s films.
The male lead played his part well as a hero with a heart. The director captured the postcard-perfect setting and the glamorous life of rodeo riders.
11. The Cowboy Way (1994)
English 1h 42m IMDb
Director: Gregg Champion
Stars: Woody Harrelson, Kiefer Sutherland, Dylan McDermott
This movie is about childhood friends Sonny Gilstrap and Pepper Lewis. They set off to New York to find their missing friend. The wacky adventure revolved around searching for their friend in a crowded, unfamiliar city.
Some mishaps tested their friendship and loyalty to one another. The search becomes more complicated when they deal with thugs to rescue their daughter’s friend from a sweatshop.
The movie veered away from the usual theme of most rodeo movies. It’s a light-hearted watch, perfect for movie nights at home. Sutherland and Harrelson’s performances as cowboys in big cities were believable and fun.
Dylan McDermott’s portrayal of the villain is impressive, as well. The storyline and acting were entertaining, and there were no complex plots to follow. It has several comedic moments making it worth your time.
12. Pure Country (1992)
English 1h 52m IMDb
Director: Christopher Cain
Stars: George Strait, Lesley Ann Warren, Isabel Glasser
In this western musical, George Strait plays the role of Dusty Wyatt Chandler, a country music star. He becomes disillusioned with the shallow life in the music industry.
Despite his misgivings, he had to perform in big arena shows due to his contractual obligations. However, the hollow performances led him to leave the spotlight and return to his hometown.
He found work on a ranch and fell in love with Lula Rogers, the owners’ daughter. The conflict started when Dusty’s manager wanted him to continue his life as a music star.
Some viewers observed that the plot and dialogue were predictable at times. However, it did a great job of highlighting one’s musical passion without the need to be in the spotlight.
The soundtrack is a perfect long-drive companion, especially for country music fans. The actors gave justice to the heartwarming scenes, especially the ending.
13. The Ride (1997)
English 1h 41m IMDb
Director: Michael O. Sajbel
Stars: Michael Biehn, Brock Pierce, Charles Young
This movie is a touching story about second chances and new beginnings. Smokey Banks was once one of the greatest rodeo bull riders. However, his career suffered when he started drinking and getting into trouble.
The rodeo champion took the option of being a Boy’s ranch cowboy teacher instead of going to jail. His job teaching kids as wild as he once was gave him several life-altering realizations.
The film may be predictable for some, but it is entertaining nonetheless. It’s perfect for watching with family, especially those with teenage children. It showed the importance of resilience and discipline in achieving one’s goals.
Rodeo movies are filled with adventure and stories of redemption. While it may appeal more to Western lovers, other viewers may find the theme of overcoming challenges entertaining.
The 13 Best Rodeo Movies mentioned in this article are worth watching with family and friends.