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Rough Riders
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Rough Riders

4.0 5
Director: John Milius,

Cast: John Milius, Tom Berenger, Sam Elliott, Gary Busey


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The real-life story of Teddy Roosevelt's role in the Spanish-American war is re-told in this made-for-television movie. Tom Berenger stars as Roosevelt, who in 1898 formed his own volunteer calvary to go into Cuba and fight the expansion of Spanish rule. Thousands of men from all walks of life volunteered, but Roosevelt honed the team down to over 500 fighting men.


The real-life story of Teddy Roosevelt's role in the Spanish-American war is re-told in this made-for-television movie. Tom Berenger stars as Roosevelt, who in 1898 formed his own volunteer calvary to go into Cuba and fight the expansion of Spanish rule. Thousands of men from all walks of life volunteered, but Roosevelt honed the team down to over 500 fighting men. When they finally arrived in Cuba, they faced a well-equipped Spanish army and squared off in the famous Battle of San Juan Hill. Berenger is strong as the charismatic leader, and the supporting cast shines with familiar names. The film clocks in at four hours and was originally shown in two parts.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
Legendarily macho filmmaker and military-history buff John Milius invested a great deal of himself in this 1997 miniseries: In writing the script, he dug deep into historical records, taking great care to replicate the events and real-life participants in the Spanish-American War. He also found a strong leading man in Tom Berenger, who plays future president Theodore Roosevelt as a relentless advocate for freeing Cuba from Spanish domination. At that time the secretary of the Navy, Teddy almost single-handedly persuades then-President William McKinley (Brian Keith) to invade the small island and help the Cuban people liberate themselves. To facilitate American involvement, he recruits an all-volunteer cavalry regiment whose heroic members include Captain Bucky O'Neil (Sam Elliot), Roosevelt's right-hand man. Milius lays out the facts with remarkable fidelity, even to detailing the constant, unsubtle agitation for war of prominent newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst (George Hamilton, an unlikely choice for the role). The battle scenes, which depict surprised American troopers facing a well-trained enemy equipped with modern weapons, are vivid and violent, but also exhilarating. Rough Riders represents Milius at his fastidious, militaristic best, painting a rich and visceral historical portrait in the form of a compelling drama.
All Movie Guide - Tom Wiener
The surprising thing about this first screen account of the exploits of the most famous fighting regiment in the Spanish-American War is how mellow and reflective it is. Given that director John Milius' filmography includes such red-meat entrees as Red Dawn and Conan the Barbarian, his approach to America's little ten-week adventure in Cuba in 1898 might have come across as another excuse to thump one's chest over a splendid nation of fighting men. The first hints that Milius is going for nuance come with Tom Berenger's portrayal of Theodore Roosevelt. After the film opens with Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, giving a speech at the War College stating that the only way man can prove himself is in battle, the next hour or so of the film portrays young T.R. as an enthusiastic but admittedly inexperienced bumbler at military matters, as he quickly offers to subordinate himself to the more grizzled Leonard Wood (Dale Dye). When Edith Roosevelt (Illeana Douglas) visits her husband in Florida just as he is about to ship out for Cuba, he's more interested in making love to her than in bonding with his men. The Rough Riders are rightfully shown to be the world's first multicultural fighting unit, composed of everyone from Roosevelt's New York aristocratic pals to cowboys and Indians and Mexicans, and they're ably assisted by a unit of African-American soldiers, led by John Pershing (Marshall R. Teague). Milius and co-writer Hugh Wilson allow many of their vividly drawn cast of characters moments of reflection on cowardice and duty, but it all comes down in the end to the camaraderie of the regiment. Berenger, who co-produced, does a credible job of imitating Roosevelt's high-pitched voice and love of hyperbole, and he's ably backed by Dye and, as a frontier sheriff turned tough sergeant, Sam Elliott. History buffs will have a ball watching a parade of characters rarely portrayed in films: William McKinley (played by Brian Keith, who portrayed Roosevelt in Milius' underrated The Wind and the Lion), William Randolph Hearst (George Hamilton), Frederic Remington (Nick Chinlund), General Joe Wheeler (Gary Busey), and Stephen Crane (Adam Storke), who covered the war as a journalist and, according to this film, got rave reviews from the Civil War veterans who had read his classic The Red Badge of Courage. The Battle of San Juan Hill is ably staged, but in its aftermath, the film lingers in a less celebratory mood, as Roosevelt tearfully apologizes to the men for calling them cowards when they momentarily held back just before the final charge.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Turner Home Ent
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Special Features

Closed Caption; Commentary by director/co-writer John Milius and executive producer William J. MacDonald; Subtitles: Français & Español (movie only)

Cast & Crew

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Rough Riders, Disc 1
1. We Were Young [4:41]
2. Fighting Virtues [2:37]
3. Scurvy Knaves [3:08]
4. Answering the Call [5:03]
5. Knowledge They Want [4:01]
6. Seen You Before? [3:43]
7. Don't Waste Time [4:14]
8. Furnishing the War [3:31]
9. Somewhat Unconventional [3:53]
10. Spirited Mount [3:41]
11. You're a Rough Rider [2:29]
12. Addressing the Troops [5:32]
13. Trainees and Compadres [6:35]
14. Making Murderers [6:02]
15. Arms and the Men [3:27]
16. Sendoffs [3:56]
17. Between Fighting Men [5:02]
18. Riders Minus Horses [4:27]
19. Find Me Spaniards [4:28]
20. Taking Up Positions [3:51]
21. Under Fire [5:50]
22. Marked by Their Hats [3:41]
Disc #2 -- Rough Riders, Disc 2
23. Same Place Together [7:00]
24. Acceptable Casualties [5:14]
25. Not Like His Book [3:55]
26. The Callous and the Dead [2:37]
27. Not Too Much to Ask [4:46]
28. To the Regiment [2:50]
29. The Fever [3:32]
30. Preparatory Fire [3:27]
31. Heavy Artillery [2:59]
32. Regardless of Cost [4:35]
33. Toward the Battle [5:19]
34. Hero's Death [4:31]
35. Ordered to Advance [4:59]
36. Charge! [5:50]
37. A Great Day [4:21]
38. Band of Brothers [5:36]
39. Atop San Juan Heights [6:20]
40. This Glorious Hill [3:55]
41. Homecomings [3:54]
42. 22 Years Later [1:44]
43. End Credits [1:48]

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Rough Riders 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
There is so little out on Teddy Roosevelt that even if this is 'historically' inaccurate, I admit to loving seeing the performance of Tom Berenger as TR. The selection of actors from Sam Elliot, Gary Busey and many others make this movie enjoyable and if it come out on DVD, I will own a copy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A very well made movie but too many errors to list here, the ones most noted they say Buckey O'neill was sheriff he was not he was mayor of Prescott Az. and later while the troop is training in Texas the guidon flag shown is F troop Buckey's troop was A troop, bottom line they could have been much more historicaly correct, but it looks like they did't even try. this is the sad part of the whole production
Guest More than 1 year ago
In the short attention span of Americans Theodore Roosevelt has slipped from his place of importance in our history, overshadowed by his younger fith cousin Franklin. Naturally there are still those who remember FDR alive today were as TR is more remembered as a monument or stuffed bear. But to understand FDR, you have to Know TR. Franklin worshipped TR and modeled his career after his in almost every respect. In fact most of all FDR's policies ie; ''The New Deal'', were derived from Tr's ''the Square Deal'' and other policies TR proposed or passed through in some measure. ''Rough Riders'' Attempts to show a young Theadore Roosevelt in his ''Crowded hour''. His defining moment as he would refer to it. Indeed he was so fond and proud of his role as Colnel Roosevelt he preffered to be addressed as such in his post Presidency. The film attempts to broaden it's appeal by adding compliation Characters to represent the range of soldiers making up the Rough Riders. It's use of Wealthy New Yorkers such as Fish and Tiffany, were accurate. Pherhaps not accurate was TR's more replent traits (by today's standards) His wife Edith was actually lying deathly ill in bed when he left for war. She had been recently operated on and there was some doubt as to her surviving. Or apon his cresting the sumit of San Juan Hill after the battle was won. He did not cry as the movie show but strutted around with some bullets still flying by his head and Looking down at the bodies strewn about ''Look at all the damn Spanish dead!'' Polotical correctness head yet to rear it's head. Indeed these are minor omissions bigger still but making for a dull narritive would have been the massive delays leaving Florida. After boarding their transport the ship was stopped off port and held up for a few days. Filled with men, horses , rancid food and no air conditioning it must have been enjoyable to be Roughing it. The arival in Cuba was no better. No Docks capable handiling the shipps where available so most of the men, supplies and horses had to jump and swim for shore. Not everyone made it. The siezing of San Juan was not the end of the war either. It was an important victory but it was a prelude to the siege of towns and embattlements and blocking up Ports that made the Spanish finally surrender. After wich a temporary Govenership was erected to manage Cuba. During all this more men had died and were still dying of yellow fever than from battle. (Roosevelt would be afflicted with this for the rest of his life) Do to incompatent generals and poloticians Delays of getting the men out of Cuba to a more healthy climate were long. It wasn't untill a few officers and Roosevelt prominent among them concotted a 'Round Robin'' letter stating the problems that got leaked to the press, did they finnally act. The bulk of the troops were shipped to Long Island, NY, out in Montauk, the farthest East end of the Island to be quarentined. The letter saved lifes by getting troops out of the malarial jungles of Cuba but the political cost of emabarassing the Secratary of War (who was incompetant to say the least) cost TR the medal of Honor. (indeed it was not until nearly one hundred years later was it finnally awarded TR by President Clinton) Of course these are all historicly acurate but don't allways make for good television. When one thinks of General George Patton, you think of gravelly voiced actor George C Scott. Not the short dumpy man with the high pitched voice of the real Patton. Granted these are minor quibles and those intrested enough can read about the actuall events as opposed to the readers digest version presented here. As for the Actors, only Berenger makes a strong impression, he acurately portrays Roosevelt's mannerisms, speech
Guest More than 1 year ago
Every friend I convinced to see this movie had exactly the same reaction: ''That's Tom Berenger''?! Yep, after studying TR's few recorded speeches and film clips, Berenger is almost unrecogizable as Roosevelt. The Movie is full of fun characters (most of them real) and gives a good view of what was done in Cuba in 1898. I recommend it for anyone who loves military history.