Which horses are the subject of movies?

There are a number of horse and horse racing movies that are worth a watch. Sometimes the films are based on a fictional tale, many others are non fiction but based on a jockey’s career rather than a horse. Some leave no doubt though as they are actually named after the actual horse that movie relates to. More often than not the horses are either instantly recognisable or high achievers in the sport such as Phar Lap, Shergar, Secretariat, and Ruffian. Here are four of our personal favourites:


Phar Lap (1983)

One epsecially for the Aussies and New Zealanders, as Phar Lap is well known for lifting the spirits of Australians during the great depression. A slow start in his career (his first 4 starts were loses), he went on to win an impressive 37 of 47 runs, with a 14 race winning streak for good measure. Wins included the Melbourne Cup, two Cox Plates, Victoria Derby and three Craven Plates. The many crazy subplots within the movie (from death threats to crazy weight carrying) are all true as is the bond between horse and groom. Well worth a watch.

Rotten Tomatoes: 88% IMDB:  7.3 / 10


Seabiscuit (2003)

One of the most successful sports genre movies of all time, the movie Seabiscuit is named after the book of the same name. It details SeaBiscuit’s victory against triple crown winner War Admiral and stars a stars a stellar cast including Chris Cooper, Jeff Bridges and Tobey Maguire. Directed by Gary Ross the movie was nominated for seven academy awards. It’s the ultimate underdog story, as Seabiscuit only won four of his first 40 races before going on to become champion. Similar to Phar Lap, this occurred during the Great Depression and as such was seen as a story of hope and determination.

Rotten Tomatoes: 78%  IMDB: 7.3 / 10


Ruffian (2007)

Ruffian doesn’t have the household status of some racing greats, but that’s a shame as she’s a US Racing hall of fame Champion filly. With ten straight wins at one stage she won both the US Champion two and three-year-old filly awards in the 1970s. The movie summarises a stunning career cut short.

Rotten Tomatoes: ??  IMDB: 7.2 / 10


Secretariat (2010)

A movie detailing the life of the legendary thoroughbred Secretariat. Up there as one of the greatest horse of all time and winner of the triple crown in 1973. The scene where Secretariat wins the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths is really evocative and highlights what a class act he was. The movie was released by Walt Disney pictures.

Rotten Tomatoes: 63%  IMDB:  7.2 / 10

What is the highest grossing horse racing movie of all time?

‘Best’ is of course subjective, as there are a tonne of horse and horse themed movies that are peoples’ ‘firm favourites’, to borrow a racing term. As such a more objective way of measuring the impact and success of a horse racing themed movie is to look at its box office numbers. In the sports genre there are hugely successful franchises like Rocky and Fast and Furious. While horse racing films aren’t typically at quite that level commercially there a couple of notable exceptions in the highest grossing list.

Interestingly in 1957 the highest grossing sports film of the year was the zany Indian horse and motor racing movie Naya Daur (New Era), grossing $11,340,000. This was the sole occasion a horse racing themed movie has been the highest grossing sports film of the year. The plot of New Era involved a man vs machine element of villager riding a cart horse against a landlord riding a bus. What’s not to like!

The highest grossing horse racing movie of all time is, relatively speak, quite recent. It’s Seabiscuit (2003), based on the best selling non-fiction book Seabiscuit: An American Legend. The movie is listed on Wikipedia as the 33rd highest grossing sports movie of all time and is based of SeaBiscuit’s victory against triple crown winner War Admiral. It stars Jeff Bridges, Tobey Maguire and Chris Cooper and was generally well received and with positive reviews on the likes of IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. Thecritics consensus on the latter is that it’s “a life-affirming, if saccharine, epic treatment of a spirit-lifting figure in sports history”.