3 Incredible Rodeo Movies

Rodeos have been sensationalized in books and television series, but few venues shine brighter than the big screen. A number of movies have been made with a focus on the rodeo world, and the three featured below offers an exciting and unique peek into the life of hard-working cowboys.

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8 Seconds

8 Seconds is the story of bull rider Lane Frost. Photo © Jersey Films and New Line Cinema

8 Seconds deals with one of the most emotional events in rodeo history. Lane Frost (portrayed by Luke Perry), and up and coming cowboy during the 1980’s. Lane grew up on the back of a bull, taking lessons from his father, saddle bronc cowboy Clyde Frost. As Lane entered his teenage years, the movie picks up on his relationship with his two best friends Tuff Hedeman (played by Stephen Baldwin) and Cody Lambert (played by Red Mitchell). The three amigos traveled the rodeo circuit together, riding bulls and meeting women at every stop, including Lane’s future wife Kellie Kyle. Lane is under extreme pressure to succeed, and wins the 1987 World Champion Bull Riding title. This pressure has a negative impact on his marriage, and he and Kellie have numerous disputes while he is on the road. His determination and drive to win pits him against Red Rock, one of the only unridden bulls of his time. Lane’s participation in the 1989 Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo will be his last, as he is gored to death after dismounting the bull Takin’ Care of Business. Tuff Hedemen went on to win the World Championship that year in honor of his late friend. A true cowboy movie that dives deep into the struggle and strife many cowboys face on the road.

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Cowboy Up

This movie details the lives of two rodeo-crazy brothers. Photo © Code Entertainment and Neverland Films

This iconic movie centers around the lives of two rodeo-bound brothers Hank and Ely Braxton (played by Kiefer Sutherland and Marcus Thomas), and their involvement with a woman named Celia Jones (played by Darryl Hannah). Their father is a retired bull rider who scorns his family, placing an enormous amount of pressure on the two brothers. Ely is an up-and-coming bull rider trying to overcome a life-threatening injury while his brother lays his life on the line protecting cowboys in the arena as a rodeo clown. Ely begins dating Celia and it drives a wedge between the brothers, who strive to become the best of the best. Ely decides he must follow his dreams and get back in the ring, much to the dismay of his entire family. Despite their disputes and anger toward each other, the two brothers reunite at the national bull riding finals. This movie not only portrays the struggle between brothers, it outlines the inner family battle of a distant mentor and father.

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JW Coop

This film explores the life of a recently incarcerated rodeo cowboy. Photo © Columbia Pictures

Rodeo life is a hard road, and this film show the grittier side of the arena. J.W. Coop, played by the legendary Cliff Anderson, is a rough stock cowboy who is released from prison after serving nearly a decade behind bars. In the days before his incarceration, rodeo cowboys often participated in a number of events rather than focusing on a single one. After his release, he finds that not only has the world around him changed; his beloved rodeo arena has changed as well. Cowboys now prefer to specialize in single events, focusing all their energy into becoming the top rider in a specific discipline. He throws caution to the wind and decides to climb back into the saddle, traveling all over the southern United States in his hunt for rodeo superiority. This film is unique in Hollywood, as it was filmed at a number of actual rodeos instead of a closed studio. The gritty, live-action feel of the film makes it extremely believable, and it features real cowboys of the era.