Oscars 2018:
The Greatest
Horse Films
of All Time

01 March 2018

A look at the equine heroes of the movie screen

Horses won't be gracing the red carpet at the Oscars this weekend, with just the humans of Hollywood in line for the movie industry's top awards. 

But that's not to say that our equine friends can't produce box office magic. Films which feature a horse as the star are always memorable. These films are emotive tales of triumph over adversity. No horse has ever won an Oscar, but in our opinion, these movie suggestions are some of the best...


National Velvet (1944) & International Velvet (1978)

The connection between these two films is how a family facing challenging circumstances can be drawn together by a common theme. National Velvet starred Elizabeth Taylor as Velvet Brown who pretends to be a male jockey - see the famous actress' locks being cut in the main image (above) - to win the Grand National. International Velvet, produced 34 years later, sees Nanette Newman take on the role as an older Velvet Brown. Her niece in the film, Sarah Brown, is played by Tatum O’Neal as a promising eventer. Sarah Brown’s competition horse, Arizona Pie, is the son of Velvet’s Grand National winning horse The Pie.

The Black Stallion (1979)

The first of the literary series written by Walter Farley, The Black Stallion is about a horse and a boy who are shipwrecked onto a desert island. They eventually come together to form a bond which will never separate them. Interestingly, it features Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney who also stars in National Velvet. Rooney, born in 1920 and a former child star, appeared in many horse films. While not considered an accomplished rider, Rooney was certainly a horse lover and a regular visitor to Santa Anita race track in California.


Hidalgo (2004)

Hidalgo stars Viggo Mortensen, who shot to fame in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Based on a true story, a cowboy called Frank Hopkins and his mustang, Hidalgo, travel from the Wild West of America to the Middle East. They compete in an endurance race against Arabian horses. Five horses were used to represent Hidalgo in the film, but the one Viggo loved the most was called T.J. Indeed he loved him so much, he bought him.


The Horse Whisperer (1998)

If you want romance set within a horse background this is the film for you. The literary best-seller, written by Nicholas Evans, was filmed in the stunning location of America’s Southern Montana. A-listers Kristen Scott Thomas and Robert Redford star alongside a 13-year-old Scarlett Johansson. Redford also directed the film. The Horse Whisperer is about a girl who suffers a traumatic riding accident. Her mum, who is struggling her own issues, wants to fix her daughter and horse, so they travel to the mountains to meet a famous Horse Whisperer.


Seabiscuit (2003)

A heart-warming film about Seabiscuit, a 15hh racehorse who lifted America during the depression era of the late 1930s. Popcorn Deelites was one of six horses to portray Seabiscuit in the 2003 film. Popcorn’s speed was used to show Seabiscuit breaking out of the gate at the start of the race. Based on history, Seabiscuit and his jockey Johnny ‘Red’ Pollard both had to overcome physical and psychological challenges, which is why they became so popular with the American public. Seabiscuit won America’s richest race, the Santa Anita Handicap in 1940. The movie made around $150m at the box office.


War Horse (2011)

Directed by Steven Spielberg, the film followed the celebrated book, written by Michael Morpurgo, and play. The story is about a boy and a horse separated and then re-united by the horrors of World War I. The story represents the role horses played in the Great War. It’s the most recent film on our list and we suggest you have the tissues handy as its realism makes it a tear-jerker.

Films which feature
a horse as the star
are always memorable

Black Beauty (1971)

The film adaptation of the 1877 best-selling novel, written by Anna Sewell. The film depicts the plight of Black Beauty through his eyes, portrayed from his point of view, in Victorian England. It tells a tale of kindness and cruelty. Sewell’s novel, which was published five months before her death, has become the most popular horse story of all time. In addition to the film, Black Beauty was made into a television series in 1972. While not an adaptation of the book, the series did give rise to an iconic theme tune.


What are your favourite horse movies? Let us know on our Facebook page over Oscars weekend...

Text by Katie Roebuck