Series / The Rough Riders

The Rough Riders is a 1997 three hour television miniseries about future President Theodore Roosevelt and the regiment (the 1st US Volunteer Cavalry; aka the Rough Riders). The series prominently shows the bravery of the volunteers at the Battle of San Juan Hill, part of the Spanish-American War of 1898. It was released on DVD in 2006. The series originally aired on TNT.

The movie opens with Lieutenant Coronel Theodore Roosevelt (Tom Berenger) giving an impassioned speech.

This is the second movie about Theodore Roosevelt's life directed by John Milius (the other being The Wind and the Lion), part of a planned but probably never to be completed trilogy.


This includes examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: A group scene set the night before the assault on Kettle Hill has the soldiers discussing why they're at war.
  • Badass Moustache: Most of the Rough Riders, but Sam Elliott in particular.
  • Blood Knight: Roosevelt early on, though he soon sours on the idea. General Wheeler arguably qualifies, as well.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: General Wheeler.
  • The Cameo:
  • The Good Captain: Captain O'Neil, who also fits the Sergeant Rock role.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The French Ambassador's wife and Roosevelt's wife have their moments.
    Mr. Roosevelt: "My wife's letting me go see the elephant in Cuba."
    Mademoiselle Adler: "I can see why."
    Colonel Wood: "Theodore, do you know that you're mad?"
    Mrs. Roosevelt: "It's never stopped him before."
  • Dirty Coward: Nash starts out this way, then becomes more heroic throughout the story.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: one shows up at the training camp and is run out of town by Captain O'Neil.
  • Famous Last Words: O'Neill before the attack on Kettle Hill.
  • Foe-Tossing Charge: Theodore charges across a crowded ballroom, knocking innocent waiters out of the way.
  • General Failure: General Shafter, the American commander, is fat, lazy and earns little respect from his officers.
  • "Get out of Jail Free" Card: Nash and Eli enlist to escape what they think is a pursuing posse.
  • Gilligan Cut: One scene cuts from a young man explaining to his fiancee that he is going to stand up to his father and refuse to go to war... to the same young man, with a resigned look on his face, saddling up to leave.
  • How We Got Here: The opening scene is an older Nash paying his respects to his comrades' memorial, and then flashing back to his outlaw days.
  • Incoming Ham:
    Senator: "Ladies, brace yourselves!"
  • Intrepid Reporter: William Marshall and Stephen Crane.
  • Large Ham: Both Roosevelt and Wheeler.
  • Military Moonshiner:
    Captain Pershing: "Sergeant, would you care to refresh yourself?"
    Sergeant: "No, sir, I've had some water earlier on today."
    Pershing: "Sergeant, would you care to refresh yourself?"
    Sergeant: "Refresh myself? [beat] Yes, sir!"
  • Mohs Scale of Violence Hardness: It rates a 6, due to plenty of blood squibs (although the fake blood from them doesn't exactly spurt or splatter).
  • Noble Savage: Deconstructed and averted.
  • Obligatory War Crime Scene: A couple, given it's a gritty, realistic take on war:
    • Executing a captured German military adviser. This is despite him posing no threat and him helpfully explaining how to operate the Maxim machine gun. By all accounts, this scene was invented entirely for the miniseries. The presence of any German military personnel in the depicted battle is disputed in real life, so the German officer they kill is most likely wholly fictional.
    • The second is when a Spanish soldier tries to surrender and is promptly shot dead. It's worth noting he himself killed a Rough Rider prior to his attempt to give up, though.
    "Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword."
  • Old Media Are Evil: Hearst and company.
  • Outlaw: Nash and Eli, the main heroes.
  • Pet the Dog: When Hearst comes across a correspondent who has been wounded by artillery fire, he immediately orders that the man be taken aboard his yacht and given the finest medical treatment, and personally thanks him for his work for the paper.
  • Ragtag Band of Misfits: New York aristocrats, Western cowboys, Native Americans, Mexicans, assorted roughnecks and adventurers... if ever a military outfit deserved this appellation, it's the Rough Riders.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Roosevelt sending Admiral Dewey's fleet to attack the Philippines without orders. It works, but Colonel Wood warns him that he won't tolerate recklessness in the field.
    • This is subverted with the Battle of Las Guasimas, where General Wheeler launches an attack without orders and leads his troops into a well-laid Spanish ambush. The Americans manage to win, but it's a near-run fight and Wheeler himself admits afterward it was a mistake.
  • Rule of Symbolism: This shot near the end of the film.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Subverted in an opening sequence that is a near point-by-point parody of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid — the "posse" just happens to be going in the same direction as Nash.
  • Sedgwick Speech: O'Neill, which is Truth in Television.
  • Sheltered Aristocrat: Examined and ultimately subverted: Wadsworth and Hamilton Fish are intelligent and extremely capable.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: The New York characters recite the St. Crispin's Day speech from Henry V during the final battle. Their less-well-educated colleagues are somewhat baffled, concluding "They're educated men."
  • Sergeant Rock
  • Underestimating Badassery: When Nash and Indian Bob try to sucker one of those fancy rich boys into riding an untamed bronco who has just bucked off half the squad. Said rich boy happens to be a polo champion.
  • War Is Glorious
  • War Is Hell
  • Young Future Famous People: John Pershing, then a lieutenant in the all-black 10th US Cavalry, features as a supporting character.

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