It’s easy to find great movies for horse lovers. These movies include films that are based on the adventures of horses and even more that have to do with training and utilizing horses. These movies include beloved classics, big-budget action movies and epics, and great horse racing movies as well. What the best had in common was treating the horses with respect.
The next best thing for horse lovers is to watch movies about beloved horses in their spare time. With Oscar nominees, documentaries, new classics, dramas, and family pictures, there are some iconic films with horses as the main star.
Updated May 7th, 2020, by Shawn S. Lealos: Through the years, horse movies have proven to be a hit for both horse lovers and people who just love great sports or inspirational films. There have also been a few that pushed the idea outside the box and created something completely unexpected, including one of the most abstract movies of the last decade.
Updated on November 3, 2021, by Lynn Gibbs: Some of the best horse movies are those that keep the horse as the priority — the star of the show. As brilliant as the human characters are, it’s the horses that teach humility and respect in most films. Movies about horses tend to revolve around horse racing but there are movies and documentaries that showcase horses in the wild or on the farm. Regardless of the location or circumstances, what makes these famous horse movies so enchanting are the gorgeous horses who save the day, bring peace, and teach the characters lessons.
- 1 Black Beauty (1994)
- 2 My Little Pony: The Movie (2017)
- 3 Dark Horse (1992)
- 4 Phar Lap (1983)
- 5 The Man From Snowy River (1982)
- 6 All Pretty Horses (2000)
- 7 Sorry To Bother You (2018)
- 8 Lean On Pete (2017)
- 9 War Horse (2011)
- 10 Seabiscuit (2003)
- 11 The Black Stallion (1979)
- 12 The Horse Whisperer (1998)
- 13 Seacretariat (2010)
- 14 Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron (2002)
- 15 Hidalgo (2004)
- 16 National Velvet (1944)
- 17 Buck (2011)
- 18 Dreamer (2005)
Black Beauty (1994)
The 1994 film, Black Beauty, is based on the 1877 novel by Anna Sewell. Sewell’s novel has been adapted on film many times, with Disney’s adaptation in 2020 being the most recent.
In the movie, viewers follow a beautiful black horse named Black Beauty. The movie is seen through his eyes and is narrated by Alan Cumming. Black Beauty’s life is followed from his birth onward, but the movie picks up when he falls for another mare named Ginger. The beautiful tale of Black Beauty’s life humanized horses and showed a special side to them, which made this adaptation one of the best.
My Little Pony: The Movie (2017)
My Little Pony: The Movie has two adaptations to its name, a movie from 1986 and 2017. And although it’s an animated, fictional tale, fans really loved reconnecting with their youth through this film.
The movie is based on Hasbro’s My Little Pony and follows the main ponies as they try to save their town from a dark energy that has overtaken Ponyville. With the power of friendship and teamwork, these ponies are able to overcome dark energy with positive energy. The use of magic in the My Little Pony universe is fictional but added a touch of whimsy to the film.
Dark Horse (1992)
Dark Horse is a special story that proves how beneficial animals can be for a person’s psyche. In the movie, Allison Mills is a teenager who was going through a hard time after the death of her mother. After getting into trouble, she’s sent to a local stable to do community service. There, she befriends a horse named Jet who transforms her life forever. The connection between horse and lost soul was relatable for many and received great reviews during its release at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival.
Phar Lap (1983)
Released in 1983, Phar Lap is a New Zealand-made horse movie based on the real-life legendary New Zealand-bred racing horse. The film starts with the mysterious death of Phar Lap and then goes back in time to tell the inspirational story of the horse’s rise to the top. Based on the novel by Michael Wilkinson, the film shows how the horse went from longshot to a winner, with an ending that hints that it was unscrupulous gamblers who ended its life. Towering Inferno played Phar Lap in the movie, and he should have won an award for his quick professionalism on a set. The reason why this film is such a success is because Phar Lap is known as one of the most popular racehorses in New Zealand’s history, according to Museums Victoria.
The Man From Snowy River (1982)
The Man From Snowy River starred the legendary Kirk Douglas. At the time of its release, the film was nowhere near as successful as it could have been because the western was a dying genre by 1982. However, looking back on it, the film is solid entertainment with some of the most breathtaking aerial shots of herds of horses ever put to film.
Douglas is a wealthy rancher who is against the idea of a young man who inherited his dad’s ranch from romancing his daughter. The young man is tied to a stallion that has a destiny all of its own. The magic of it all made this movie memorable 30+ years later.
All Pretty Horses (2000)
Cormack McCarthy is one of America’s top novelists, and the movies based on his novels are uniformly good, with No Country for Old Men and The Road both modern-day classics. However, the book that McCarthy gained his first critical success with was All the Pretty Horses.
The film based on this book hit theaters in 2000 with Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz in the lead roles and Billy Bob Thornton as the director. While it wasn’t Damon’s best movie, he portrayed a young man who grew up on a ranch but left for Mexico when his grandfather dies. After his mother sold the ranch, he sets out to find what remains of the Wild West.
Sorry To Bother You (2018)
In 2018, Boots Riley released his directorial debut with Sorry to Bother You, and no one could have expected what they saw on the big screen that year. Lakeith Stanfield plays Cassius Green, a young man who finds out he can succeed in his telemarketing career if he uses a “white voice.” It was one of Stanfield’s most powerful roles.
However, things go off the rails when he learns the company he works for is creating equisapiens (a horse genus) — and the less said about that, the better, for anyone who hasn’t seen this satire masterpiece.
Lean On Pete (2017)
One of the lesser-known movies on this list, Lean on Pete, came out in 2017. Directed by Andrew Haigh, the film stars Charlie Plummer as Charley, a 15-year-old boy who finds himself orphaned when his dad dies. He learns that the racehorse, Pete, that he cared for is about to be sent to slaughter and steals it, going on the run across the American frontier as the boy and his horse tries to find their way in the world. This movie is endearing as it shows the two rely on each other to get through hard times.
War Horse (2011)
Based on the 1982 novel by Michael Morpurgo, Steven Spielberg directed War Horse in 2011 about a thoroughbred horse named Joey. The story starts with Joey’s birth and then his training by a boy named Albert. However, when Albert’s dad sells Joey to the army when they need money to pay rent after a downpour destroys their crops, Albert watches as his horse is sent off to serve in the war. The entire cast of War Horse —from the actors to the horses that played Joey—committed to their roles.
War Horse then shows Joey’s work in the war, with Albert eventually enlisting when he reaches legal age. As expected, Albert is reunited with Joey. Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Eddie Marsan lead the cast with Jeremy Irvine as Albert. This horse movie received six Oscar nominations.
Seabiscuit is a horse movie from 2003 based on the champion thoroughbred who was the top money-winning racehorse until the ’40s. However, there was a lot more to Seabiscuit than just being a racehorse. The horse was also smaller than the norm and became a symbol of hope to Americans during the era of the Great Depression.
The 2003 movie was not the first to cover the life of Seabiscuit, as there was also a Shirley Temple film in 1949 before this adaptation of the book about the horse by Laura Hillenbrand. Gary Ross directed the movie, which earned seven Oscar nominations and starred Tobey Maguire and Jeff Bridges.
The Black Stallion (1979)
One of the best children’s books of all-time about horses was The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. In 1979, five years after it was published, the novel was turned into a movie. The story is about a boy shipwrecked on an island with an Arabian stallion and the friendship he develops with the horse.
When the two are saved by a fisherman’s boat, they return home but remain in contact. Soon, Black is trained to be a racehorse and turns out to be fast and Alec trains to be a jockey. This horse movie received two Oscar nominations; one for actor Mickey Rooney and one for the film’s editing.
The Horse Whisperer (1998)
Released originally in 1995, The Horse Whisperer was a film directed by Robert Redford, who also starred in the movie. Based on the 1995 novel by Nicholas Evans, Redford plays a horse trainer known as the “Horse Whisperer” who is able to help a young girl (a teenage Scarlett Johansson) understand horses.
The movie starts off showing Grace and her horse involved in an accident that injures her and her horse while also taking the life of her friend and her horse. Grace has a partially amputated leg and is bitter while her horse is traumatized. Tom Booker comes in and helps the girl recover by helping her horse. The work and friendship between the horse and young girl made this film great. It was one of Johansson’s most underrated roles.
While Seabiscuit was a racehorse that won over the hearts of America during the Great Depression, Secretariat remains known as one of the most successful thoroughbred racehorses of all time. He won five Eclipse Awards and is second to only Man o’ War in the listing of the greatest racehorses of the 20th Century by the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
In 2010, the movie that told the story of this amazing horse was brought to the big screen by Disney. Diane Lane is the human star of this movie, the owner of Secretariat, while John Malkovich stars as the horse’s trainer. The film was not as successful as other horse movies (especially for Diane Lane standards) but it received high praise from Roger Ebert, who called the movie “authentic.”
Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron (2002)
Released in 2002 by DreamWorks Animation, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is an interesting horse movie. Instead of talking horses like one might get in any other animated movie about animals, these horses communicate through sounds and body language, just like a real horse would. It was enough to impress critics and earn it an Oscar nomination. With that said, Matt Damon narrated Spirit’s thoughts.
The story was about a young colt that grows into a proud stallion and the leader of his herd. However, he is captured by wranglers, with the colonel trying to tame him in very cruel ways. Spirit also meets a Native American child and the two develop a friendship that saves both their lives. As an animated film, it’s inspirational for all ages.
Joe Johnston brought the movie Hildago to the big screen in 2004. It’s a biographical western about Frank Hopkins and his horse Hidalgo. Hopkins, in real life, was a professional horseman who was a long-distance rider that supposedly won 400 races; although most of his claims were considered fictional, as he was also a circus performer.
The movie itself took his exploits seriously, focusing on a horse race in Arabia in 1891. The western didn’t have the best reviews but it’s a great movie for horse lovers. Viggo Mortensen starred as Hopkins and, while the film was “based on a true story,” many of the stories by Hopkins—including the race in this movie—were considered tall tales.
National Velvet (1944)
The novel National Velvet was published in 1935 and told the story of a girl named Velvet who trained and rode her horse, Pie, in the Grand National Steeplechase. While fictional, the book was about ordinary people, and in this case, a woman in the ’20s achieving spectacular things. The movie based on the book was released in 1944.
National Velvet was a family-friend film that was a massive success critically, with a 12-year-old Elizabeth Taylor portraying Velvet Brown and Mickey Rooney as a drifter who helps her. The movie picked up five Oscar nominations, winning two of them, and was added to the National Film Registry in 2003 for its cultural significance.
Released in 2011, Buck was a documentary about the real-life horse whisperer — Buck Brannaman. This was the man that came to work on Robert Redford’s fictional movie The Horse Whisperer as the lead consultant. His method of training horses is to do it through leadership and sensitivity, resisting any forms of punishment. It’s one of the best animal-based documentaries.
This documentary possesses a plethora of entertainment value for horse lovers and won the audience award at Sundance. It follows Buck as he travels around the country, working for people who need help in training and bonding with their horses. He also attends clinics to help teach people a more humane and kinder way of developing a lasting relationship with the animals.
Released in 2005, Dreamer was a family movie about a horse trainer and his daughter, and how their relationship changes as they work with horses. Kurt Russell is Ben, the father who neglects his young daughter as he works hard to care for his horses. Eleven-year-old Dakota Fanning is his daughter.
It is one horse—Soñador—that bonds the two and finally helps strengthen their relationship after years of neglect and hardships. The movie was nominated for a number of awards, including Best Sports Movie at the ESPY Awards and Best Family Film at the Critics Choice Awards.