Horses are beautiful to watch. They’re graceful and powerful, so we can’t help being drawn to them. It’s why horse movies draw such an emotional reaction from us, whether it’s a film about racecourse underdogs or one about rescuing an old pony from being put down. Let’s look at x horse movies. These summaries include unofficial trailers and spoilers – heads up!
1. The Horse Whisperer
This movie stars Robert Redford and a surprisingly young Scarlett Johansson. The movie is based on a book by Nicholas Evans, and it tells the story of a girl – Grace – who gets into a horse-riding accident with a friend, Judith. Judith and her horse Gulliver die in the accident.
Meanwhile, Grace and her horse Pilgrim are injured and traumatized. Grace’s mom hires the horse whisperer named Tom to help them both recover. Grace is resistant because of her amputated leg (and just generally being a teenager) but gets back on her horse in the end.
This horse movie is the third attempt at visually telling the story of Flicka, a spirited black mustang. It stars Tim McGraw, Maria Bello, and Alison Lohman. The movie follows some of the events from the book My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara and is set on a Wyoming ranch.
Rob wants his reluctant son, Howard, to take over the ranch. But his daughter, Katy, is more interested. She tries taming a wild mustang (Flicka) to prove herself and writes a story about the horse. In the end, this father and daughter realize they’re more alike than they think.
3. War Horse
Many horse movies are based on books, and his one derives from War Horse by Michael Morpugo. It stays with an English teenager, Albert, following his bond with his horse, Joey. As the family struggles, they sell the horse to the army so they can use him in World War 1.
The horse passes through several battles and owners including an English Captain, a pair of German brothers, and a French teenage girl, forming unique bonds with each of them. Joey does return to Albert in the end. They both have scars from the war and they heal together.
4. The Mustang
This is a horse movie that doesn’t quite have a happy ending – not in the conventional sense. It follows Roman Coleman, a prisoner who doesn’t feel he deserves to get out because of the severity of his crime. As he works to connect with his daughter, he joins a horse program.
Roman bonds with his horse Marquis, and with his fellow trainer, Henry. But when a series of events leads to the horse getting on death row, Roman helps the horse escape. He makes peace with his daughter and the movie ends with hope – he’ll get to meet his grandson.
5. Dream Horse
This feel-good movie is based on a true story about a struggling Welsh town. Jan Volkes – a bartender and supermarket cashier, overhears a patron talking about his career racing horses. She decides she wants to breed a racehorse of her own, but she can’t do it alone.
Jan convinces the community to chip in and buy the horse while it’s still a baby. 20 village members contribute £10 per week for two years to buy the horse and share the profits when it wins. The deal works, and while it takes turbulence and training, the horse comes through!
6. The Derby Stallion
Zac Efron fans would give a lot to see him on a horse, so here you go! Zac plays Patrick, a kid forced to follow his father’s baseball dreams even though he doesn’t have the interest. When something does catch his attention, it’s a steeplechase derby racehorse named Rusty.
Of course, there has to be a hitch in the plan – Patrick’s mentor (Houston) dies, and heartbroken, he lets go of his racing dreams. But just before the race, his dream girl gives him a package that shows him what Houston wanted, so Patrick joins the race and wins.
7. National Velvet
12-year-old Velvet Brown wins a horse in a raffle. She names him The Pie (short for pirate) and wants to train him to win. The movie comes from a book by Enid Bagnold. It has a cast of budding stars including Elizabeth Taylor, Anne Revere, Mickey Rooney, and Angela Lansbury.
Mi Taylor helps her – he’s a former jockey who lost his nerve after a racing accident that killed one of his rivals. Pie does with the race, but as an amateur, Velvet is disqualified for breaking Rule 144. Despite a shot at Hollywood for her and The Pie, she stays home.
8. International Velvet
It’s always nice to see famous actors in unknown roles before they made it big. This 1978 horse movie stars barely recognizable Christopher Plummer and Anthony Hopkins before they were distinguished old men. It’s a sequel to National Velvet, which we listed earlier.
This sequel tells the story of Sarah, Velvet Brown’s niece. When her parents die in a car accident, she moves to England with her aunt where she catches the same horse bug and works her way to the Olympics. The horse she rides is the original Pie’s son, Arizona Pie.
We started this list with The Horse Whisperer. Turns out the character was based on a real person, Buck Brannaman. And while he was a consultant on the movie, it wasn’t about him. But this one is. Buck is a documentary about his life history, career, and life philosophy.
Every year, Buck spends 40 weeks touring the country and teaching people about horses. He has a wife and daughters, though they don’t travel with him. The movie covers key issues in his life story, including his childhood trick riding job, physical abuse, and foster placement.
Many of these horse movies are based on true stories. This one is inspired by the true story of an injured horse named Mariah’s Storm. And while it does have a lot more artistic license, it’s still good. The movie stars Kris Kristofferson, Kurt Russel, and a tween Dakota Fanning.
Trainer Ben Crane has to put down one of his racehorses after she falls but to spare his daughter’s feelings, he keeps Soñador (aka Sonya) and loses his job. The family later rehabilitates Sonya and she eventually regains her position as a championship racehorse.
11. Moondance Alexander
When a movie stars an Olympic medallist as a mean girl (especially one whose namesake is Borat), you know you’re in for something good. And it’s inspired by a true story too! The movie tells the story of a girl named Moondance who ‘finds’ a pinto horse and ‘adopts’ it.
She then works with the horse’s owner, a trainer named Dante Longpre of Tumbleweed Stables, who has a bit of a testy reputation on the circuit. Moondance and the horse – who she names Checkers – end up tying the top contender (and mean girl) at the mop contest.
12. The Silver Brumby
The Silver Brumby is a series of novels by Elyne Mitchell. Brumbies are Australian mustangs (feral horses), and the movie is sometimes retitled The Silver Stallion when it’s distributed outside Australia. The story starts with the legend of brumbies as a mother-daughter fable.
It follows Russell Crowe as he tries to catch a blonde ‘silver’ brumby colt named Thowra. Thowra is the son of a chestnut stallion named Yarraman and a palomino mare, Bel Bel. Throughout the movie, Russell’s character is known as The Man, though his name is Egan.
13. Virginia’s Run
The screenplay that drives this movie was based on the life of Virginia, the screenwriter’s grandmother. When Virginia’s mother falls off her horse and dies, her dad and sister sell the horse, Twister. The girls are banned from horses. Twister dies having a baby named Stormy.
Virginia loves Stormy though, and regularly sneaks out to ride her. When Virginia works better with Stormy than Darrow – the mean neighbor’s son who bought Twister, he kidnaps the horse then cheats and injures Virginia. But Virginia and Stormy still win the race.
14. Second Chances
This horse movie has a younger cast than we’ve seen so far. The star is a 10-year-old girl who loses her dad and her leg in a car accident, causing her mom to become overprotective. The family moves to a trailer park that’s next door to a ranch. The owner used to be a rodeo star.
Ben (the ranch owner) makes friends with Sunny (the little girl), and she starts to bond with a horse called Ginger. He’s an American Quarter horse, and the whole movie takes its plot from a true story. Over time, Ginger helps Sunny – and her mom Kathleen – to recover.
15. Ride Like a Girl
Here’s another true story about Michelle Payne, Australia’s first female championship jockey. She won the Melbourne Cup in 2015. Michelle is the baby in a family of ten kids, and her dad is a well-known trainer named Paddy Payne. From childhood, Michelle had a plan.
Even as a kid, she wanted to be the first female champion, so when she got there in 2015, actress Rachel Griffiths was in the audience and got inspired to make this movie. It was the first time Rachel directed a film, and the title role of Michelle is played by Teresa Palmer.
First, there was a book – a non-fiction one. Well, technically, there was a horse before there was a book. Then the movie was generated that talked about the horse (with a lot of artistic leeway). The real Seabiscuit was a small racer that boosted spirits during The Depression.
In the movie, Tobey Maguire plays John Red Pollard, a disgraced, partially blind heir who turns to jockeying after his family loses their fortune in The Depression. The big final race features Red and Seabiscuit – both with injured legs – come up from behind to clinch it.
17. Dark Horse – The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance
Remember that Welsh Horse that was owned by an entire village? Here’s another movie about him. But this one is a documentary about the real people and the horse that spurred Dream Horse. The name of the horse – which we didn’t mention earlier – is Dream Alliance.
The documentary has a warm, feel-good aura, just like the feature film. And it includes clips from the horse movie as well. It’s fascinating to see the similarities in the casting choices and to see these real humans come alive with as much enthusiasm as those trained actors.
18. Dark Horse (1992)
Sometimes, you’ll find two movies with the same name. They might even have similar storylines. And this version of Dark Horse is about a horse as well, though this is a fictional one named Jet. It brings out the now-familiar theme of breaking a horse to tame yourself.
Allison Mills is a teenager that’s acting out as she grieves her mom. When her community service assignment lands her in a stable, she thrives until both she and her horse get hurt in a car accident. But despite now needing a wheelchair, she and Jet eventually heal together.
If you don’t mind subtitles, are fluent in (Canadian) French, or are willing to visually follow a horse movie, Jappeloup is a good one to check out. Like many of the movies on our list, it’s based on a true story. And it focuses on show jumping rather than thoroughbred racing.
Pierre Durand Jr. is a top lawyer who dreams of racing horses at the Olympics. He starts his training as a hobby before he realizes – with his parents’ and beloved’s encouragement – that he has to be all in. He quits his law practice and with Jappeloup, he makes it to two Olympics.
20. Phar Lap
This movie sounds foreign, but it’s not. Well, not technically anyway, though it is set in New Zealand. It tells the story of Phar Lap, a real horse that is considered New Zealand’s greatest racer. Ever. The horse movie starts with Phar Lap (aka Bobby) dying in his strapper’s arms.
Although the horse dies in California, the movie switches to a flashback of his life in New Zealand. Phar Lap is born in New Zealand, sold to an underwhelmed American in Australia, and trained by Tommy into a top racer. Phar Lap’s trademark was streaking up from behind.
21. Amazing Racer / Shannon’s Rainbow
The final horse movie on our list can be found under both these titles, depending on where you watch it. It’s the same film though, and it’s a messy story. A few seconds after she was born, Shannon’s dad kidnapped her from her mom, and she doesn’t learn this until she’s 17.
As her dad dies, she goes to her mom, who she’s never met or heard of. Her mom’s boyfriend Eric owns a stable and Shannon bonds with a horse named Rainbow. A spiteful rival buys and tortures the horse, but Eric gets her back. Rainbow eventually wins her harness race.
What’s your favorite horse movie? Tell us all about it in the comments section!