Ride With The Devil (1999) - War Movie Blog

1990s Ride With the Devil (1999)

Published on March 16th, 2013 | by Chris


Ride With The Devil (1999)

Movie directed by:
Ang Lee

Reviewed by:
On March 16, 2013
Last modified:February 25, 2013


An intimate and harrowing look at life on the frontier during the Civil War, and the events leading up to (and after) the infamous Quantrill's Raid.

Ride With the Devil (1999)Ride With The Devil leads us into the infamous Quantrill's Raid on Lawrence, Kansas during the Civil War, through the eyes of a band of "independent southerners," most notably one Jake Roedel (Tobey Maguire.)  Although the movie is less about that raid, as it is about the people, their life in the late 1800's, and the choices the war forces them to make.

Jake and his best friend Jack Bull (Skeet Ulrich) are defacto "southerners" living in Missouri, although Jake's German-national father takes the side of the Union, much to everyone's dismay, and to his ultimate downfall.  They become part of a band of "Bushwhackers"....  Essentially irregular soldiers fighting on the side of the Confederacy.  Their posse also includes George (Simon Baker), his "negro" Holt (Jeffrey Wright), "Black John" (Jim Caviezel), and "Pitt" Mackeson (Jonathan Rhys Meyers).

They wreak havoc among the operating Union troops, until the core of the group (Jake, Jack, Holt, and George) become separated and holed up for the winter.  They acquaint themselves with Sue Lee (Jewel Kilcher), and soon Jack and Sue Lee are defacto "involved" shall we say.

Jack is mortally wounded in another raid, and as George leaves to find help, they are forced to attempt to amputate Jack's arm in a rather nasty scene....  He does not survive, and Jake, Sue, and Holt take refuge in her former in-laws house until spring.

When spring arrives, they rejoin the Bushwhackers, and the buildup to the raid is on.  The raid itself was a terrible affair (see the link above)....   Leaving the town in ruins and over 200 people dead or wounded, mostly civilians.  Before, during, and after the raid, the animosity between Jake and Pitt builds, culminating in a battle-within-a-battle which leaves Jake and Holt wounded, and George dead.... effectively freeing Holt.  They return to the Evans farm to find Sue Lee has had Jack's baby....

During their convalescence at the farm.  Jake finds himself forced (but not really) to marry Sue Lee, and to essentially abandon the Bushwhacker cause and make a run for California, with Holt leaving for Texas to try and find his mother....

As I said, though, the movie really isn't about the war per se.  It's more about the conditions of life in "the territories" during that time.  The choices that had to be made, both in regards to allegiances, and the every day ones that were forced upon them.  The betrayals and losses that such a war brought about, and the at-times miracles that arose from it.

Even though I have a bit of a mean streak when it comes to Skeet, I have to say he did a fine job here, as did every one else.  Although Rhys Meyers I still don't particularly like, I think this sort of character suited him quite well.  Even if that sub-story line came to a rather anticlimactic end.  I guess to indicate that "all's fair in love and war" maybe, or maybe to just show that Jake's ready to move on and get on with his life.

The combat scenes, particularly the raid sequence and the subsequent retreat, are chaotic and violent.  Civilians are shot at point blank range and the full damage of those slow moving large caliber slugs is quite evident.

However, this is one of those films where everyone speaks as though they were inside a letter.  I don't know if people really would have spoken this way, especially a bunch of southern farmer types, but they all seem to have exquisite grammar and vocabularies, and eschew the use of contractions quite a bit.  Like I said, the end result is rather like reading a piece of correspondence.  I know as a kid *I* was taught to use such language when writing... but like I said sometimes it just seems unnatural.  Perhaps to hammer home the point of the time period?  Who knows.

Ride With The Devil really is a pretty good movie, based around, but not necessarily "about" the war itself.  At times difficult, but overall leaving with that satisfied sense of conclusion, that things turned out alright.  My final score is a 4.0/5.  You should really check this one out.

Ride with the Devil (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] Ride with the Devil (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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Ride with the Devil follows four people fighting for truth & justice amidst the turmoil of the American Civil War. The action takes us to no man's land on the Missouri/Kansas border where a staunch loyalist (Ulrich), an immigrant's son (Maguire), a freed slave (Wright) and a young widow (Jewel) learn how to survive in a place without rules and redefine the meaning of bravery and honor.

DVD Information

Binding: Blu-ray
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
Manufacturer: Criterion
Original Release Date:
  • Tobey Maguire
  • Skeet Ulrich
  • Jewel Kilcher
  • Jeremy W. Auman
  • Scott Sener


  • Factory sealed DVD


Customer reviews
Average Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I always liked this movie, January 31, 2017
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This review is from: Ride With the Devil (Amazon Video)
I always liked this movie, & this expanded version is certainly the one to have. The Kansas/Missouri border war from 1861-65 was a vicious little war inside a war, where mercy on either side was seld
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good, December 15, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Ride With the Devil (Amazon Video)
I don't know why I never watched this movie when it was released. I actually ended up renting it because I came across Jewel's autobiography on Audible where she mentions it. I think the story was good - a subject I didn't know about, and the actors did an excellent job in their parts. I have to say I didn't expect it but Jewel really brought her character to life. I think she said in her book, that the Director picked her because her teeth - they were much like people of that time. Well, maybe so, but more than that she really made me believe she was that girl. If you like period piece dramas this one is a good one to check out if you haven't.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Authentic Civil War Picture of War In MIssouri & War Against Civilians, October 29, 2005
Daniel Hurley (Chesapeake, VA.) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Ride with the Devil (DVD)
Fast paced, authentic look and feel of Civil War in Missouri, which is more a war against civilians as the union army comes to southern Missouri with civilians caught in the cross fire of a war without rules or restraint. Suspected southern and union sympathizing neighbors become suspicious of each other suffering the brutality of war setting the tone for a virtual "no quarter war". Without a standing army or at least without a true military organization, the confederates fight a guerilla war and look like the bushwhackers they call themselves. The dandified and the regular farmers all fight together. Toby McGuire, referred to as "Duchy" due to his German family roots, fights for the south along with his best friend Jack Bull, played well by Skeet Ulrich ('As Good as it gets') after Bull's father is murdered by Union regulators. They ride with a guerilla troop led by Black John that eventually culminates in a grand epic like revenge attack on Lawrence, Kansas with Quantrill. There is... Read more
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Ride With The Devil (1999) Chris

Summary: An intimate and harrowing look at life on the frontier during the Civil War, and the events leading up to the infamous Quantrill's Raid.


User Rating: 1.5 (1 votes)

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About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.

One Response to Ride With The Devil (1999)

  1. I really liked this one, especially the chaotic violence and the willingness to show the harsh warfare between communities. The raid on Lawrence was especially brutal. I thought that it became a bit too much of a love story towards the end, but it’s still a very good film.

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