The Ballad of Little Jo (1993)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

The Ballad of Little Jo is based on a true story -- several true stories, in fact. Suzy Amis plays demure young Josephine Monagan, who in 1866 is run out of her home town after bearing an illegitimate child. Fleeing westward, Josephine is terrified by stories of how treacherous the frontier can be for a woman alone. As a result, upon arriving in the muddy burg of Ruby City, she disguises herself as a man, going so far as to scar her face to suggest that she's been in a few scrapes. In this guise, "Little Jo" does just fine by herself for nearly 30 years! Almost as good as Suzy Amis is Bo Hopkins as gunslinger Frank Badger, Little Jo's best buddy (if only he knew....) Written and directed by Maggie Greenwald, The Ballad of Little Jo does a marvelous job conveying the people and places of its period; and, unlike Bad Girls (which was released around the same time), we aren't bludgeoned to death by feminist revisionism. Unfortunately ignored when it went out to theatres in the fall of 1993, The Ballad of Little Jo has fared rather better on video.
Action & Adventure , Drama , Western
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

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Suzy Amis
as Little Jo
David Chung
as Tinman Wong
Rene Auberjonois
as Streight Hollander
Bo Hopkins
as Frank Badger
Ian McKellen
as Percy Corcoran
Carrie Snodgress
as Ruth Badger
Heather Graham
as Mary Addie
Sam Robards
as Jasper Hill
Anthony Heald
as Mr. Henry Grey
Melissa Leo
as Mrs. Grey
Ruth Maleczech
as Shop Keeper
Irina Pasmur
as Russian Mother
Sean Murphy
as Young Henry Grey
Michael Ruud
as Russian Father
Cathy Haase
as Mrs. Addie
Troy A. Smith
as Soldier #1
Jenny Lynch
as Helen Monaghan
Vince O'Neil
as Amos Monaghan
Karen Johnson
as Farmwife
Jim Dunkin
as Mr. Brown
Troy Smith
as 1st Soldier
Tom Bower
as Lyle (uncredited)
Keith Kamppinen
as 2nd Soldier
Rusty Pegar
as Duke Billy
Michael Rudd
as Russian Father
David Ruben Plowman
as Nick (age 3)
Sasha Pasmur
as Nick (age 14)
Renee Tafoya
as Woman Photographer
Richard Osterman
as Travelling Judge
Dennis McNiven
as Mortician
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News & Interviews for The Ballad of Little Jo

Critic Reviews for The Ballad of Little Jo

All Critics (15) | Top Critics (9)

The film ends as more of a dirge than a ballad. But occasionally it casts a forlorn spell. The meaning of Jo Monaghan's life may not really emerge in this film but its mystery lingers.

Full Review… | July 7, 2015
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

This is more skillful than inspired, with an image of the early west that seems largely borrowed from McCabe and Mrs. Miller.

Full Review… | July 7, 2015
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Ultimately, what makes "The Ballad of Little Jo" worthy is Amis' full-bodied performance in what may be her most challenging role to date. Always believable, Amis never makes a false move.

Full Review… | March 25, 2009
Top Critic

The mud and desperation of the frontier is vividly rendered, but the film is marred by a lack of emotional drama.

Full Review… | January 25, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

It's not hard to view "The Ballad of Little Jo" as an allegorical critique of sex and power and men's-club values in America. In its disdain for those values, the film is as focused and cool-headed as the remarkable character whose story it tells.

May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

A feminist western from fringe filmmaker Maggie Greenwald, this intriguing if rough-hewn drama is as ruthless in its revisionism as "Unforgiven."

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Washington Post
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Ballad of Little Jo


This is a Suzy Amis Film, that?s the reason I watched it, and of all the films I have watched her act in, this is one of the better ones, Was going to give it 3 stars, but because of the story line I decided to go with 4. Its about a female in the Wild Wild West who when film begins is sold by a trader to two men, she escapes and decides to act and dress like a man. Now had I been there I would have thought Little Jo was a little light in his loafers, but I am sure that the real Little Jo was a little more Manley. In the end she lives with a china men who in the movie just disappears we never see what happens to him. Its an enjoyable movie to rent, not sure I would go out and buy it. 3 3/4 stars even though Flixster will not allow me to do that.

Bruce Bruce
Bruce Bruce

Super Reviewer

A fairly well-realized feminist parable about a daring and creative young woman's survival in the Old West.

Lee Mayo
Lee Mayo

A passable western. It seems as though every attempt to portray a woman gunslinger does not do any justice to the original inspiration. A hard find...for good reason.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

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