10 Best Horse Racing Movies of All Time (as Per Critics)

It is natural for horse lovers to stream horse racing movies. Some of these are tear-jerking while others are centered around determination and hard work. The most important element in most of these movies is how to treat an animal as loyal as a horse, with immense respect. 

With horse racing being one of the most popular sports in the world, filmmakers have an incentive to produce movies in line with this concept. Usually, horse racing movies serve as an inspiration for the younger generation, whereas for elders, it creates a sensation of familiarity and experience similar to the feelings projected in the movie. 

Best Horse Racing Movies Ever

Below is a list of ten of the best horse racing movies of all time, along with some honorable mentions.

1. Phar Lap (1983)

Phar Lap is based on a true story with its cast consisting of Tom Burlinson, Martin Vaughan, and Judy Morris. It is the story of how a horse hailing from Australia was able to make a mark on the racing industry. The movie also covers the political aspects of horse racing such as booking horses and participation in international races.

After winning the Melbourne Cup, Phar Lap was sent to Mexico where he won a handicap race, setting a record. Unfortunately, this magnificent horse was killed supposedly by gamblers in 1932. The most remarkable aspect of this movie is that the horse used for the impersonation of real-life Phar Lap is its exact doppelganger.

2. Secretariat (2010)

Secretariat is a Disney movie with Diane Lane and John Malkovich as its main cast members. It is the story of how Penny Chenery grows with this Thoroughbred after gaining ownership of her family’s breeding farm.

Along with the help of French trainer Lucien Laurin, Penny struggles with Secretariat to excel in a patriarchal racing industry. Her hard work finally paid off when Secretariat won the Triple Crown Race in 1973, being the first horse in twenty-five years to achieve this feat.

What sets this movie apart from others is that it serves as a role model for young girls who dream of working hard in a male-dominated society.

3. Seabiscuit (2003)

This movie’s cast consists of famous actors such as Jeff Bridges, Elizabeth Banks, and Tobey Maguire. It revolves around Seabiscuit, an underweight horse with no potential of racing because of its laziness. However, with the help of its trainers and its own hard work, it is able to become popular in the racing field. 

The film also focuses on the background of the characters surrounding Seabiscuit.  The most important aspect of this movie is its projection of how a racing horse served as a beacon of hope and entertainment for the people during the Great Depression. Similarly, watching it initiates a sense of gratitude and focus on the positive attributes of life.

4. National Velvet (1944)

With Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney as the lead cast, the National Velvet is about a young girl, Velvet Brown, who believes that her horse, The Pie, has immense potential. After taming it, Velvet manages to ride Pie herself, despite being inexperienced. Although she is disqualified in the Grand National Steeplechase, her character has inspired numerous young girls to pursue their dreams of being jockeys. This movie has also managed to get a few Oscar nominations.

5. Dreamer (2005)

Kurt Russell, Dakota Fanning are the main cast members. This movie depicts the importance of human relationships. Ben, the man who runs the stable, is unable to pay attention to his eleven year old daughter. However, as both start taking care of Sonador, their relationship improves. 

Cale, Ben’s daughter, wishes for Sonador to start its career in horse racing. As the family comes together in fulfilling this purpose, they become closer than ever.

6. Hidalgo (2004)

Based in the 1800s, Hidalgo is a story about Frank Hopkins, played by Viggo Mortensen, sets off with his horse Hidalgo to Saudi Arabia. The race is a 3000-mile race with a huge reward. The movie explores the harshness and serenity of a desert, coupled with amazing cinematography which adds a natural element to it.

What makes this movie remarkable is that it is based on a true story, so all the adventures of Hopkins are something to ponder over.

7. 50 to 1 (2014)

50 to 1 is about a horse, Mine That Bird, winning the Kentucky Derby race in 2009. Interestingly, Calvin Borel, the horse’s jockey in real life, plays his own part. Moreover, this story covers the horse’s entire background, forming a connection with the audience.

8. Let It Ride (1989)

With Richard Dreyfuss (as Jay Trotter), Jennifer Tilly (as Vicky), and David Johanson (as Looney), Let it Ride is a family-friendly comedy movie. It revolves around Jay Trotter, a man struggling with his gambling habits. He has to leave his gambling addiction in order to save his marriage with Vicky, so he struggles initially.

After knowing about the fixed statistics of a horse race, Jay bets on the race and wins. This movie shows the raw aspects of a horse race and the excitement surrounding every horse rider. Because of these reasons, this movie is very relatable to people who have a passion for horse races and have experienced its excitement.

9. The Black Stallion (1979)

With Micey Rooney as the main lead, the Black Stallion is a film based on Walter Farley’s book by the same title.

The protagonist, Alec Ramsey, is stranded on an island with a black, Arabian horse. After saving the stallion from a venomous snake, Alec is able to gain the horse’s confidence. Until the recuse arrives, both live off seaweed and fish from the Atlantic ocean. Once they reach New York, Alec realizes that the horse has potential to race nationally. Unfortunately, they are unable to register the Black as a participant because of its origins. 

Eventually, Alec rides the Black and ends up winning with a new record. Although the Black had a rough start, it is able to beat its competitors in no time. The Black Stallion forms an overall emotional perspective of how two beings bond over time. When Alec first rode on the Black, the horse was hesitant as a result of which Alec fell. However, towards the end of the race, the Black was able to race till the end despite bleeding profusely on one of its legs, with Alec riding him.

10. Champions (1984)

Champions consists of notable cast members such as John Hurt (playing Bob Champion), and Edward Woodward (playing Josh Giffard). This is a movie about how Bob Champion struggles to recover from cancer to take his place as a jockey. To add to his misery, his favorite horse Adalanti has also been infected with a leg injury. However, both are able to win a Grand National Steeplechase.

Since the plot is based on a true story, it is extremely inspirational and encourages the audience to strive for their dreams. 

Best Horse Racing Movies (Honorable Mentions)

Besides horse racing movies, there are many more films about the natural bond between a horse and its owner. Some of them are:

Racing Stripes

It is a family movie which spans over a time of 1 hour 42 mins. The cast features many famed celebrities such as Snoop Dog (lighting), Steve Harvey (Buzz), and Frankie Muniz (Stripes).

The story starts as a lost circus plain zebra is taken care of by the Walsh family in Kentucky near a race track. Stripes always wanted to win a race but couldn’t participate as zebras were not allowed to race. Eventually, he races with Nolan’s help. The movie ends with the Walsh family accepting him.

Ride Like A Girl

This movie is based on the true story of Michelle Payne who was the first woman to win the Melbourne Cup in 2015. Its cast consists of Terissa Palmer as Michelle Payne and Sam Neill as Paddy Payne. The plot is about a girl who is faced with enormous odds and challenges but rises the ranks to retrieve the title of the first woman to win the Melbourne Cup. It inspires women to believe in their dreams and work towards them. That is what makes it a brilliant movie.

Ruffian

The horse racing movie features a horse (Ruffian) who used to be famous. Unfortunately, one day during the race Ruffian took a misstep and the doctors could not save her. Unlike other movies, this one strikes a not-so ‘happily ever after ending’ and rather strikes a sad ending. It reminds us that sometimes people run out of luck and need to be patient.  The movie contains actors like Sam Shephard as Frank Whiteley and Frank Whaley as Bill Nack.

Lean On Pete

Its a tragic movie like Ruffian (2007). The movie is based on Willy Vilautin’s novel: Lean On Pete. Its cast contains actors like Charlie Plummer as Charley Thompson and Travis Fimmel as Ray Thompson. Lean on Pete is not a phrase or a movie title but surprisingly enough is the name of an ordinary American horse. The movie kicks off by showing that a boy (Charley) saves a horse (Lean on Pete) from dying and uses him in horse racing. Just like Ruffian, Lean On Pete dies near the end. This is again for those who like emotional movies and it reflects upon the loneliness of a 15-year-old boy.

War Horse

The story is based on a famous novel and starts in a farm where there is a family that is running low on money. The family has Albert Narracott, his father (who struggles with alcohol abuse), Ted, and his hard-working, loving mother, Rose.

In the movie, Ted auctions a horse(Joey) who immediately befriends Albert. Later World War I begins where Joey is given away to the army. Joey undergoes a lot of hard training and continuously finds himself on different sides like sometimes in the hands of Americans, British, French, etc.

This movie shows that in the acts of war of men animals are the ones who suffer the most. It’s a very emotional, perfect for those who are sympathetic towards horses or those who want to be.

Buck

The documentary movie is based on the novel ‘The Horse Whisperer’. The cast contains Buck  Brannaman (as himself) and Robert Redford (as himself). It tells a story of a young boy (Buck Brannaman) who has a special way of communicating and taming horses. The boy comes from a harsh background as his abusive father used to scold and beat him a lot. He later decided to leave his home to live with a foster family who would treat him better than his own biological father. He teaches people to treat animals, especially horses with love and kindness rather than to resort to punishment and other types of violence.

The Horse Whisperer

It is a movie based on a best-selling novel by Nicholas Evans. The cast includes actors like Robert Redford as Tom Brooker and Kristin Scott Thinas as Annie Mclean. The movie is based on a man that has a woman, child, and a horse dependent on him. The movie starts off with a tragic accident in which a horse named Pilgrim is crippled and a girl named Grace is so badly injured that part of her body needs to be amputated. Others believed that the horse should be put down but Annie tells about a famous horse whisperer who can heal the horse. The methods of how Tom treats the horse are very absurd. One of them being to just look at the horse with affection. It is a story based on adventure and to treat animals with kindness.

Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron

This movie features actors Matt Damon as Spirit and Daniel Studi as Little Creek. The movie tells the story of Spirit (a wild horse) born into a loving family in mountainous plains and later grows into an athletic energetic horse. One day, his curiosity was at peak and that’s when he ventured into a place he shouldn’t have. There some soldiers captured him. They brought him to their ruthless commander that tried hard to break the horse down. But Spirit being a wild and free horse wouldn’t give up.

Later the horse managed to escape with the help of an Indian boy. The animated film is such a wonderful story of love, freedom, and beauty.

FAQs Related to Best Horse Racing Movies of All Time:

Below is a series of FAQs regarding the best horse movies.

What movie is better Seabiscuit or Secretariat?

Secretariat is better. Set in the early 1970s, the Secretariat covers important issues of the era such as sexism and motivates its audience. It also projects how at times, life can twists and turns, surprising us. 
Penny Chenery, the woman who inherits her family’s horse breeding farm, supposedly loses from a wealthy merchant while doing a coin toss. She gets a pregnant mare no one wants. However, this mare’s new born baby makes history with her, as he becomes the first Triple Crown champion in twenty five years.
As soon as Secretariat was born, Penny was drawn to him. It stood on its own very soon after birth which further pushed Penny to believe in its potential. When her family argued with her to sell the horse, she fought bravely. Her greatest test was when she established a role in an extensively patriarchal society as a jockey.
After the release of this film, many young girls set out to pursue their dreams of being jockeys. The element of feminism portrayed through this movie is also something many people in the audience appreciated.

Which racehorse is the greatest of all time?

Secretariat is without a doubt, the greatest racehorse of all time. The ‘Big Red’ made a huge remark in the Triple Crown race in 1973. It won by a gap of 31 lengths in the race. No racing horse has ever shown as much much potential as the Secretariat. It was also awarded American Horse of the year in 1972 and 1973.
The fact that Secretariat was underestimated and considered unlucky is so inspiring. Since, in the end, it emerged to be the one of the most fascinating horses of its time. Secretariat’s story enables us to reflect how every thing around us has untapped capability.

Has any horse run faster than Secretariat?

No racehorse has been able to break Secretariat’s record. However, the American Pharaoh and Seabiscuit have been close. American Pharaoh managed to earn 8.65 million dollars and was the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown race.
Seabiscuit on the other hand, won 33 out of 89 matches and served as a source of entertainment for people during the Great Depression.

Can Seabiscuit beat Secretariat?

No, Seabiscuit can not beat Secretariat in a race. This is because Secretariat had a different anatomy. Its heart was almost thrice the size of a normal racehorse which is why it was able to inhale more oxygen. This aided in aerobic respiration, keeping its heart rate steady. Seabiscuit on the other hand, had immense endurance but his speed was not as much as Secretariat’s.

Conclusion

If we were to recommend a horse movie to our readers, it would be the War Horse. It is about how during world war 1, Joey, a horse is sold to the British army. Joey has formed a very special bond with Albert, son of the stable owner. Years later, after surviving the war, both Albert and Joey reunite with each other.

The plot is intriguing because it is very relatable. Albert successfully portrays the feelings of losing a pet animal. Perhaps, all these horse movies are a source of entertainment because they are based on true stories and emotions.