Movies about horses capture the imagination. They appeal to adults and children, both with real life experience with horses and without. Themes common to horse movies include perseverance, independence, and the plight of animals who are not treated well.
Many horse movies detail the bond between a horse and a young person, while others are more related to a horse’s working career. Horse movies inspire children to dream of their own adventures with a beloved horse, and remind adults that ambitions can be achieved through hard work.
Top 10 Horse Movies
10. Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
Nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature, Spirit (2002) follows the journey of a young wild stallion in the 19th century American West. Captured by the US Cavalry, Spirit can’t be broken. He escapes and then is recaptured by a railroad crew. After a dramatic escape, he is returned to the wild.
While most animated horse films give the equine characters dialogue and treat them like humans, Spirit conveys their actions through body language and sound. Spirit appeals to children and adults alike.
9. Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken
This film relates the thrilling true story of Sonora Webster, a young woman who becomes a horse diver during the Great Depression. Sonora leaves home when her horse Lightning is about to be sold. When she sees a horse diving performance at a fair, she is inspired to try it. Sonora is blinded in an accident yet goes on with the sport.
Combining romance with action, the movie was well received. Sonora’s journey inspires viewers to persevere in the face of obstacles.
8. The Man from Snowy River
Set in Australia, the film follows the story of Jim Craig, the son of a cattle station owner. Jim prevents his father from shooting the black stallion who leads a herd of wild horses. Jim is hired at a nearby station where he meets Jessica, the owner’s daughter. Together, Jim and Jessica train a prized colt, who later escapes and is rescued by Jim.
The movie received critical acclaim and remains one of the best horse films of the 1980s.
7. Black Beauty (1994)
Black Beauty follows a 19th century English horse through difficult times and tragedy. At first a beloved horse living on a farm in the countryside, Beauty is sold and becomes a cab horse. Beauty is then bought by a cruel grain dealer. The horse is finally bought by a kind farmer and his grandson, living out the rest of his years in peace.
Black Beauty is known as one of the most heart wrenching films for a young horse lover.
Adapted from Laura Hillebrand’s bestselling book, this film details the life and racing career of the champion Thoroughbred, Seabiscuit. Persevering despite his small size and inconsistent training, Seabiscuit went on to receive acclaim in the racing world. He stunned racing fans by beating War Admiral, the Kentucky Derby-winning superstar.
This movie is intended for adults more than children, detailing the tragic back story of his owner, Charles Howard. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2003.
5. The Horse Whisperer
The Horse Whisperer is based on a novel by Nicholas Evans. A young girl is hurt in a tragic riding accident, causing her leg to be partially amputated. The girl’s mother hires a controversial horse trainer to aid her horse Pilgrim’s recovery, hoping that the horse will inspire the girl to return to her normal self.
The film received a mixed reception but has gone on to be one of the classic horse films of the 1990s.
This film recounts the life story of Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner. Penny Chenery wins the horse in a bet, and her trainer, Lucien Laurin, raise the horse to be a successful racer. Penny experiences financial problems but does not sell Secretariat. With an experienced jockey, Ron Turcotte, the horse becomes a superstar and wins horse racing’s most storied prize.
Secretariat was criticized for some historical inaccuracies but remains a well-loved film.
3. War Horse
War Horse, starring Jeremy Irvine, was nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture. Albert, an English teenager, owns Joey, a Thoroughbred foal. After the family experiences financial difficulties, the horse is sold to the Army. Albert later becomes a soldier. Through a thrilling series of events, horse and boy are reunited.
The film had tremendous financial success as well as taking its place as one of the finest horse movies of all time.
2. National Velvet
This classic film, starring Elizabeth Taylor, tells the story of teenage Velvet Brown and her horse, The Pie, as they compete in the Grand National, an English steeplechase race. Velvet wins the horse in a raffle and they train together. An experienced jockey is slated to ride The Pie in the race, but Velvet rides him instead and wins. She is disqualified after the race when organizers discover that she is a girl, but she and the horse become instantly famous.
The movie has not lost its magic over the years, remaining popular with both children and adults.
1. The Black Stallion
In a shipwreck, young Alec Ramsay is saved by an Arabian stallion. The horse and the boy bond while they are alone together and waiting for rescue. Alec begs to take his new friend home to New York, where he meets retired horse trainer, Henry Dailey. Together, Alec and Henry train the Black to become a famous racehorse.
This movie is unique for its stunning cinematography and for the depiction of the bond between Alec and the Black Stallion.
Horse movies encourage viewers to live their own adventure. Share your favorite horse films with us and let us know if there are any movies we missed.
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