Summer movie season is upon us and it is time to pull out your popcorn and head to the theaters. When you’ve had your fill of superhero movies and romance, you may be ready to enjoy a film starring our favorite subject… the horse! It seems fitting to take a step back and consider the top eight horse movies that have provided entertainment over the years.
What makes a good horse movie? Besides the usual indicators of box office success and awards, a good horse movie touches your heart. It needs to be centered around the love of a person and a horse who overcome extreme odds together. It doesn’t hurt if there is an eye-popping horse action scene within the movie too!
Without further ado, here is the official Double D Trailers ranking of the top eight heart-pounding, tear-jerking, adrenaline-pumping, equi-licous horse movies ever!
No. 8 - Hidalgo (2004)
Anyone who watched the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy is familiar with the heroic ranger Aragorn, played by Viggo Mortensen. What you may have missed was the behind-the-scene look at the actor while he trained and developed a close relationship with his horse on set. His obvious passion for horses made his next movie, Hidalgo, a natural fit.
Hidalgo is a story set in 1890 about a down-on-his-luck American cowboy who is invited to participate in a dangerous 3,000 mile race across the Arabian desert. The cowboy and his spunky mustang, Hidalgo, are not only up against the world’s greatest Arabian horses, but also those who are determined to prevent a foreigner from finishing the race.
This is an edge-of-your-seat movie with great action scenes surrounding the basic love and trust between a man and his horse. The film won the Spur Award from the Western Writers of America in 2005.
No 7 - Black Beauty (1994)
Fans of the classic Anna Sewell novel were delighted with this film adaptation. Sean Bean, star in the Game of Thrones TV series, is at the forefront of this film with the American Quarter Horse named ‘Docs Keepin Time’ in the title role.
The story centers around Black Beauty, a stallion in 1870, who narrates his life from birth to death. This extreme tear-jerker includes all of the heartbreaks and adventure along the way until he finally finds peace.
Although there were several versions of Black Beauty on the silver screen, this 1994 version grossed $4,630,377 in the US box office. If you’d rather go back a few decades, checkout the 1946 version of the film, which starred the horse actor Fury, the second highest animal actor at the time behind Lassie himself.
No 6 - Secretariat (2010)
Springtime signals the start of Triple Crown season and horseracing wouldn’t be the same without the amazing, unstoppable, and glorious chestnut named Secretariat. The story behind this colt’s rise to fame is centered around housewife and mother, Penny Tweedy, played by Diane Lane, who guides her talented colt to win the 1973 Triple Crown in a male-dominated industry. John Malkovich plays Lucien Laurin, the veteran horse trainer who helps her on her way.
This triumphant tale will literally give you chills as you watch. This sensation is increased with the knowledge that this is a 100% true story. The Disney flick grossed $59,699,513 (USA) and was nominated for the ESPY award for Best Sports movie in 2011.
Secretariat is a legend in the horseracing world. In fact, upon his death, the autopsy revealed that his heart was 2 3/4 times the size of an average horse’s heart. The head pathologist at the University of Kentucky, Dr. Thomas Swerczek, stated at the time, "We just stood there in stunned silence. We couldn't believe it. The heart was perfect. There were no problems with it. It was just this huge engine."* In short, go watch this movie!
*Source: Nack, William (June 4, 1990). "Pure Heart". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved October 2010.
No 5 - The Horse Whisperer (1998)
This is another film adaptation of a novel written by Nicholas Evans. The story centers around a teenage girl (played by Scarlett Johannson) who is involved in road accident while riding her horse. Suffering from severe emotional trauma, the girl’s mother takes them to a ranch in Montana owned by a ‘horse whisperer’ who can help them overcome their demons. Add a romantic twist and watch the horse trainer, played by a dreamy Robert Redford, fall in love with the mother.
You will enjoy the beautiful landscapes of Montana shown throughout this movie and get to see a young Scarlett Johansson before she was a butt-kicking superhero in Marvel’s Avengers. This film was nominated for one Oscar award, along with four other award wins, and 18 nominations. The film grossed $75,370,763 (USA) (11 October 1998) in the box office.
After you see the movie, check out the horse training techniques of the real ‘horse whisperer,’ Monty Roberts. It is said that Robert Redford’s character was based in part on the actual work of this real horse trainer.
No 4 - Seabiscuit (2003)
Author Laura Hillenbrand has a rare talent of taking real-life historical accounts and weaving them into emotional and suspenseful works. Her book about Seabiscuit, an undersized depression-era racehorse, was no exception and was made into this exciting and inspirational movie.
The stars of the movie include Spiderman himself, Tobey Maguire, along with Jeff Bridges. Horseracing fans will also be pleased to see real-life jockey Gary Stevens playing a key role in the movie. Stevens was recently featured in a 2015 New Yorker Magazine article as the oldest jockey to race in the Kentucky Derby.
This well-executed film was nominated for 7 Oscars with an additional 6 award wins and 33 nominations. It grossed an impressive $120,277,854 in the US box offices (5February 2004).
No 3 - War Horse (2011)
This powerful film directed by Steven Spielberg tells the story of a young Albert whose beloved horse is sold to the cavalry at the start of World War I. Eventually, the two are reunited and need to face the dangers of this brutal conflict together. Gosh, I’m teary eyed already…
This film stars Jeremy Irvine and was nominated for an impressive six Oscar awards. It earned eighteen other awards and an additional 65 nominations. The Dreamworks film grossed $79,883,359 (USA) (27 April 2012) in the US box offices.
This film is an extremely powerful story that shows the bond that can form between a human and horse. You will be amazed at the intense war scenes throughout the movie.
No 2 - The Black Stallion (1979)
No young horse lover’s childhood is complete without reading the Black Stallion series of books by Walter Farley. The first of these books centers around a young boy who is stranded on an island with a ferocious black stallion. Over time, the two develop an inseparable friendship that lasts long after their rescue. Eventually, it leads them to face the fastest horses in the country on the racetrack. Mickey Rooney, playing the horse trainer, appears alongside young actor Kelly Reno in this exciting film adaptation.
This MGM film earned $2,700,000 in the box office. The ending scene at the racetrack is incredibly exciting and you will want to leap out of your seat at the finish line. Once you’ve seen this tale, be sure to check out the other books and film adaptations in the Black Stallion series. They are definitely not to be missed!
No 1 - National Velvet (1944)
The time has come at last to reveal the #1 horse movie of all time! This honor goes to the classic tale of National Velvet starring a young Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney. Taylor plays Velvet, a starry eyed young girl who loves horses above all things else. When she spots a horse named Pie, she must have him no matter what. Eventually, Velvet and Pie take to the races and compete in the dangerous National Steeplechase to prove that anything is possible.
This film tops our list because it is solely focused around one girl’s love for her horse. Taylor gives a heart-warming performance along with an extremely talented cast. Anne Revere won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting role. Another Oscar was won by Robert Kern for film editing. If you ever enjoyed the TV mystery series, Murder She Wrote, then you will enjoy seeing a young Angela Lansbury playing one of Velvet’s sisters.
Definitely check out this timeless tale of a young girl and her horse defying the odds. The final harrowing scenes at the National Steeplechase will have you holding your breath!
Finally, we must include a few notable mentions that almost made our list.
No 9 - Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken (1991)
No 10 - Flicka (2006)
No. 11 - The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit (1968)
No. 12 - International Velvet (1978)
We hope you enjoyed this countdown of the top eight horse films. Be sure to check out the horse trailers for sale from Double D Trailers. Now go grab your popcorn and watch more horse movies!
- What are some of your favorite horse films of all time?
- What makes a good “horse film” in your opinion?