Ring of Fire

Movie review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Ring of Fire Movie Poster Image
Poignant, inspiring bio pays homage to June Carter Cash.
  • NR
  • 2013
  • 90 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Viewers experience the emotional highs and lows of singer June Carter Cash through a demanding but loving childhood, two failed relationships, balancing a career and motherhood, and finally a tumultuous marriage marred by her husband's substance abuse. Though her struggles were many, the movie celebrates family devotion, faith, and the enduring human spirit.

Positive Role Models & Representations

June's loyalty to Johnny is legendary and proved to be his lifeline, but her love for him never came at the expense of her own self-respect. She made difficult, heartbreaking decisions for his sake, but also to protect herself and their son from Johnny's addiction. Her strength of character came from a strong sense of family and faith.


In one scene, a drunk and stoned Johnny hurls a plate at his wife, but it misses her.


Adults kiss, and there are allusions to extramarital affairs.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Johnny's habitual substance abuse is explored from the point of view of his wife and young son. A handful of scenes show him stoned and/or drunk beyond reason (and, in one case, nearly comatose from an overdose), but the story focuses more on the emotional fallout of his actions on his family. June and their son describe feeling hurt, angry, and frightened because of his addiction, eventually persuading him to get help to preserve their relationship.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ring of Fire is a retelling of the life of legendary singer-songwriter June Carter Cash. After walking viewers through her formative years as a performer, her early family life, and her first two marriages, the story turns its focus to her relationship with Johnny Cash and the emotional turmoil she suffered at the hands of his drug and alcohol abuse. He is shown drunk and stoned, and in one case marginally violent (he throws a plate at her in a stupor), but these scenes stay true to the realistic gravity of addiction. If your teen can handle the tough issue of substance abuse, then this movie is a beautiful, undramatized reminder of the power of faith and the enduring nature of love.

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What's the story?

RING OF FIRE stars Jewel as June Carter Cash, the darling of country music and eventual wife of Johnny Cash (Matt Ross). Based on John Carter Cash's narrative of his mother's life, the story takes viewers from June's childhood home in rural Virginia through her years as a member of The Carter Family performers and finally into her famed solo career. After two failed marriages, June weds longtime stage partner Johnny Cash, whose chronic substance abuse eventually proves detrimental to their relationship and threatens his own survival. Through it all, June's devotion to her family, her strong faith, and her unwavering love for Johnny helps them overcome the many challenges they face.

Is it any good?

Ring of Fire is told from June's point of view through the words of their son, which gives it an authenticity that isn't always reliable in melodramatic biopics. (This is in contrast to the 2005 big-screen movie Walk the Line, which chronicled Johnny's story.) Jewel does a remarkable job of encapsulating the essence and sound of this legendary and beloved American character, whose poignant tale of loss, pain, forgiveness, and devotion sends an inspiring message that contrasts much of what our divorce-riddled culture accepts as the norm.

Because this story deals with mature issues like addiction and struggling marriages, it's meant to be viewed by those who can relate in some degree to this kind of human drama. That said, the clean content invites teens who can handle the gritty, real-life topics, and the uplifting nature of its messages reminds viewers of the imperfections of life and the enduring stamina of the human spirit to overcome those trials. What's more, it's a good example of the discrepancies between our perceptions of celebrities and what their lives are really like.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about June and Johnny's legacy. What can we learn from their story? Do you think their relationship could withstand those same challenges today? What additional pressures are placed on relationships between celebrities now?

  • How does the entertainment industry typically portray marriage? How does that reflect the tone of our society on the same issue? Is marriage less respected today than it was 40 years ago? Why or why not?

  • How does this movie compare to its big-screen counterpart, Walk the Line? Are their messages the same? How does John Carter Cash's involvement in this story change your impression of its authenticity?

  • Does this story in any way alter how you view celebrities' personal lives? How much of what we see in the news can we really believe? Would an issue like addiction change your feelings toward a favorite star?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love true stories and musicians

Themes & Topics

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