‘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”.