There’s nothing like a good family movie, and you want to know one hallmark of a good family movie? There’s a kid and their horse. That’s why horse movies — whether based on true stories, about the actual sport of horse racing and riding, or just a classic cowgirl flick — should top your movie night shortlist. They’re wholesome, they’re a lot of fun, and they’re usually going to make you cry. And if you never got to live out that childhood dream of having your own Black Beauty, well, horse movies let you live vicariously through the characters onscreen for at least a few hours.
What is it about horses? Well, any horse girl would tell you that they’re just special. Not only is it dreamy to live on a farm and be able to go for a wild ride whenever you want, but horses are also supposedly empathetic enough that some people even use them for therapy. So, if you feel a sense of calm watching a flick about a family who raises horses to compete (with that one special horse in the stable), you’re not alone.
There are classic horse movies that it seems like everyone watched as a kid, and this list of horse movies will probably bring you back and refresh your memory. Like, did you know that not only did they make a sequel to Flicka, but it’s actually a trilogy? Yeah, you’re going to want to gather your kids just to have an excuse to watch and rewatch them all. Keep reading, and file the following films under “requisite watching.”
Best Horse Movies of All Time
1. Black Beauty (2020)
Everyone’s probably read Black Beauty, the 1877 book by Anna Sewell. And there have been many adaptations of it, but the 2020 Disney version starring Kate Winslet is just beautiful. The story is about a horse born free but rounded up by a family, and a teenage girl in the household, Jo Green, who forms a bond with him. Together, they go through all different life chapters, just like any other sort of BFFs. If you haven’t clicked play on this yet, don’t hesitate.
2. Flicka (2006)
This 2006 movie is based on a series of children’s books called My Friend Flicka. Starring Tim McGraw, Maria Bello, Danny Pino, and Alison Lohman, Flicka is about a young girl taking over raising a horse named Flicka in an attempt to prove to her dad that she can take over their family ranch in Wyoming one day. If you get into it, there’s also a 1943 version if you’re a real fan of the books, and two other sequels to the original movie, so you can really immerse yourself in the fam.
3. The Mustang (2019)
This one is for the grownups in the household. In this drama, a violent convict who puts his wife in a coma gets released into a rehabilitation program where he trains mustangs. There, he learns about himself and the animals, changing his perspective about his own past crimes. Fun fact: The rehab program is based on an actual mustang training facility in Nevada and was filmed at the Nevada State Prison in Carson City.
4. Dream Horse (2020)
This 2021 movie based on a true story follows a small-town bartender who convinces people in her small town to pitch in and raise Dream to compete in horse racing. The Dream Alliance comes together and ultimately pays off as Dream becomes a star horse in the racing community. Toni Collete plays Jan Voakes, the bartender who convinces her husband and neighbors that there’s hope for their struggling small town. The whole thing feels like the kind of movie that would have been released in 1998, as critic Matt Zoller Seitz puts it. He thinks that’s a bad thing, but if you love horse movies, that’s music to your ears.
5. Ride Like A Girl (2019)
Who doesn’t love an inspirational (and feminist) true story? Ride Like A Girl, directed by Rachel Griffiths, no less, tells the true story of Michelle Payne, the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup. She faced terrible odds but overcame them all to succeed. If you’re already a fan of the sport, you likely know her. However, it’s also a great way into the equestrian world for those who are uninitiated.
6. War Horse (2011)
Break out the box of tissues before you press play on this tearjerker. The setting: The British countryside at the outbreak of World War I. The main characters? Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and his beloved horse Joey. The two are separated when Albert’s dad sells the horse to the British cavalry, at which point Joey begins an epic journey that will ultimately change many people along the way. As for Albert, he never gives up hope he’ll find his equine friend.
7. Secretariat (2010)
Not only is this movie undeniably uplifting, but it’s also based on a true story — and that just makes it even more compelling. Diane Lane stars as Penny Chenery, a housewife and mother who must take over the family thoroughbred business after her father becomes ill. With the help of eccentric veteran trainer Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich), she manages to turn a gifted colt into one of the country’s most iconic racehorses.
8. Dark Horse (1992)
After losing her mother, Allison Mills’ architect father Jack Mills moves the family to the rural town of Cheltenham. Allie struggles with the transition, landing her on a ranch doing community service. Although she’s obviously not thrilled at the prospect to start, the troubled teen winds up connecting on a profound level with the ranch and an ill-trained horse named Jet.
9. The Black Stallion (1979)
While traveling with his father off the coast of Africa in the 1940s, a young boy named Alec becomes shipwrecked with a mysterious Arabian stallion. Marooned together, the two form a strong bond, which carries over after they’re rescued and taken to the U.S.
10. Phar Lap (1983)
It’s a Cinderella tale starring a horse when stable boy Tommy (Tom Burlinson) begins caring for a gaunt horse named Phar Lap — who unexpectedly starts winning races. But with Phar Lap’s surprising success comes pressure from just about everywhere. Keep in mind as you watch that Phar Lap was a real-life New Zealand champion!
11. Concrete Cowboy (2021)
Caleb McLaughlin plays Cole, a wayward kid sent to spend the summer with his father. Although the pair don’t have a close relationship, they are drawn together through their love for horses. Cole falls in love with the Black cowboy community, which is a real society in Philadelphia. Concrete Cowboy tells the tale of a unique community and the heartwarming story of a father and son.
12. Buck (2011)
Buck Brannaman’s talents are reminiscent of Disney magic. However, his story is real, and in this documentary we’re shown his journey through his traumatic childhood to being one of the most in-tuned horse whisperers of his time. In Buck, Brannaman, a known horse whisperer with a special connection to equine creatures, explores his talents and shows how he discovered his passion and used it to build connections with horses.
More Must-Watch Horse Movies
- Seabiscuit (2003)
- The Man From Snowy River (1982)
- Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken (1991)
- Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002)
- Lean on Pete (2017)
- Dreamer (2005)
- Windstorm (2013)
- Hidalgo (2004)
- The Horse Whisperer (1998)
- 50 to 1 (2014)
- Sylvester (1985)
- Walk. Ride. Rodeo. (2019)
- Virginia’s Run (2002)
- In Harmony (2015)
- Running Free (1999)
- National Velvet (1944)
- Ride Him, Cowboy (1932)
- A Cowgirl’s Story (2017)
- Rodeo Girl (1980)
- Storm Rider (2013)
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