Great Horse Movies

by Matt

What’s your favorite horse movie?

Horse movies run the gamut from believable to ridiculous, from sappy to inspirational, and they cover all the equestrian bases — barrel racers, eventers, and Thoroughbred racing have all been depicted by Hollywood. The best horse movies, to us, show off horses and horse-people at their very best, without going too far off the rails with impossible plot-lines. Here are some great horse movies to enjoy during one of those rare moments when you’re not at the barn!

Seabiscuit: This 2003 movie saw the acting debut of Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, although since he has returned to the races, perhaps Hollywood wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Based on Laura Hillenbrand’s massively best-selling book Seabiscuit, this movie rejoices in a much larger budget than most horse films get, to say nothing of a star-studded cast. With Jeff Bridges as Seabiscuit’s charismatic owner, Tobey Maguire as his hard-luck jockey, and Chris Cooper as his quirky, quiet trainer, “Seabiscuit” as a great horse movie was set up for success from the very beginning.

Phar Lap: The great Australian racehorse Phar Lap did not have a happy ending, but his life makes for a great movie nonetheless. In this 1983 film, a devoted groom and a determined trainer help Phar Lap grow from dud to champion. The racing and horsemanship scenes are emotionally relatable for horse-people, making this a great horse movie as well as a historical film.

Sylvester: This is a slightly odd one — the movie seems like it’s meant for family audiences, but with adult language and an assault scene that is very jarring. But the premise — taking a slaughter-bound ex-racehorse and turning him into a contender at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day-Event — is one of those quintessential equestrian dreams. It even inspired top rider Will Faudree to choose eventing! Two gray Advanced horses, The Gray Goose and Ben Arthur, tackled the Rolex course for the cross-country scenes.

The Man From Snowy River: The centerpiece of so many barn slumber parties over the years, The Man From Snowy River is a big showy Western film with the Australian outback as a backdrop. Impressive riding scenes makes this film stand out — the ride down the mountainside might be one of the most epic equestrian scenes in modern cinema. The story of a ranch-hand, a cattle baron, and the baron’s impulsive daughter is based upon an epic poem by Banjo Paterson, The Man From Snowy River.

War Horse: Drawing on the 1982 children’s novel as well as the critically-acclaimed stage production of War Horse, this 2011 film has all the elements of a great horse film: a boy and his horse that no one else believed in, a richly realized historical setting, a heart-wrenching plot. (A girl and her horse would work too.) War scenes and suffering make this a tougher family movie night sell than most horse movies, but if you’re looking for an expertly crafted film which features horses in an intelligent fashion, and you have a box of tissues handy, War Horse is an excellent choice.

There you have it: five excellent horse movies, with two racehorses, an event horse, an Australian cowboy, and a cavalry horse. What are your favorite horse movies?

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