30 Years Later, One of the Greatest Westerns Ever Made is Finally Streaming

30 Years Later, One of the Greatest Westerns Ever Made is Finally Streaming
Image credit: Polygram Filmed Entertainment

This 30-year-old film is considered one of the most profound revisionist takes on the Western genre.


  • A great 1993 Western is now available on the new Kino Film Collection streaming service.
  • The story is based on actual events.
  • This movie is notable for its thoughtful deconstruction of the genre, placing at the center of the story a woman who has managed to convince everyone that she is a man.

Not long ago, Kino Film Collection, a new monthly subscription streaming service with a repertoire of independent and art house films, updated its roster with a completely undeservedly neglected 1993 Western.

Like Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven, the film marked the resurgence of interest in Westerns in the '90s, but it is also the most unconventional representative of the genre per se. We're talking about The Ballad of Little Jo, which returned to the public eye after 30 years of obscurity.

What Is This Movie and What Is It About?

The Ballad of Little Jo is inspired by the true story of Josephine Monaghan (played by Suzy Amis), a woman who spent most of her life hiding her true gender: until her death, she was known as Idaho businessman Little Jo. After being raped by a family photographer and shamed for having a child out of wedlock, Josephine set out to conquer the Old West by adopting a new identity, a man named Little Jo. As a result, she became not only a successful farmer, but also an excellent gunfighter who bravely defended her property.

In addition, the story places great emphasis on her relationship with her employer and mentor, Frank Badger (Bo Hopkins), who sees Jo as a promising young man and best friend.

A Forgotten Film's Incredible Depth

Let's face it, for all the mythologizing and romanticizing over two centuries, the Old West was a brutal, patriarchal reality where only men played a significant role. Set out to conquer the American frontier with spurs and a cowboy hat? Rob a bank or a train? Ride your trusty steed across the vast spaces of North America? These were the privileges of men who could afford the very freedom that many generations of Americans had extolled. A woman who found herself in such circumstances could only adapt to the situation and echo the whims of men.

Of course, this theme has been explored in revisionist Westerns, and Maggie Greenwald's film is neither the first nor the last to raise questions about femininity and masculinity. And yet, by focusing on a real woman, Greenwald takes an incredibly profound approach to the question of performativity, comparing the survival methods of Little Joe and Tinman Wong, who has created an image of himself as a silly 'chinaman'.

In addition, each kill that Jo has to make causes a lot of anguish on her face, showing the real masculine world she has to live in now. She loses her humanity. As brutal as the Old West was in reality, the reluctance to kill proves to be truly unique to Western movies, contrasting it with long ago commodified brutality like the ubiquitous bloodbaths in Quentin Tarantino movies. Unfortunately, Western fiction, starting with literature and silent film, has been largely responsible for normalizing violence in pop culture.

30 Years Later, One of the Greatest Westerns Ever Made is Finally Streaming - image 1

Greenwald skillfully blurs the feminine and masculine, showing the reality of the Old West beyond clichéd gender roles, beyond the dichotomy of good and evil. At the same time, the ideas behind the film do not come out of every corner: they are subtle, and the viewer is given a lot of room to interpret the semi-biographical story of a woman who managed to outsmart everyone right up until her death.

At the same time, the viewer will not find the movie boring: it has enough drama and action, because Maggie Greenwald's movie is still an ode to the love of the Western genre.

How and Where to Watch This Great Western Movie?

As we mentioned earlier, a big problem was that such a great movie was virtually unavailable for streaming. However, it can now be streamed on a new platform called Kino Film Collection.

Kino Film Collection is available with a subscription to Prime Video ($ 14.99 per month after a 30-day free trial). A subscription to Kino itself costs $5.99 per month, but also offers a one-week trial.

Also, The Ballad of Little Jo is now available on Blu-ray. You can purchase it from Kino Lorber. The price is currently $16.59 including the discount.