On Sunday, March 10, the Oscars will be given out at the 96th Academy Awards in Hollywood. While there aren’t any horse-related movies in this year’s crop of nominees (unless you count the horses in Killers of the Flower Moon), we thought it was a perfect occasion to list our favourite horse movies of all time, in no particular order. Do you agree with our picks? What are yours? Let us know in the comments.

For Adults

Seabiscuit (available on Prime)

Based on the New York Times best-selling book Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand, the 2003 film adaptation boasts a stellar cast in Jeff Bridges, Elizabeth Banks, and Tobey Maguire. But it’s the rags-to-riches story of this unlikely equine hero that makes us keep this film on repeat rotation. Tough to handle, lazy, and a complete underdog when he began his career, losing his first 17 races, Seabiscuit went on to win major stake races after a change in trainer in the 1936-1937 racing season. It was the sort of gritty success story that the public needed during The Great Depression. Over the course of his career Seabiscuit won 33 races (which is a far better record than the movie, which lost all seven of its Oscar nominations). Watch the trailer:


War Horse (rent on Apple and Prime)

Set during the First World War, this 2011 film tells the story of Joey, an Irish Hunter bought by a farmer in England. The farmer’s son, Albert, falls for the colt and trains him. They form a tight bond, but when war is declared, Joey is sold to the army. With all the stunning cinematography and soaring music one expects from a film directed by Steven Spielberg (whose daughter show jumps), War Horse is a stunning tribute to the sacrifices equines made on the battlefield. The war scenes are horrific, but technology  ensured all living horses were spared any stress. War Horse is based on the 1982 novel by Michael Morpurgo and the 2007 stage play based on the book. The film was nominated for six Oscars but failed to win any. Watch the trailer:


The Rider (rent on YouTube and others)

This riveting 2017 indie stars real-life cowboy Brady Jandreau, who suffered brain damage in a rodeo. The story is based on Jandreau’s life, and the documentary-style of the film beautifully captures the heartbreak of life on a ranch, and coming to turns with a life-altering injury. It also has some of the best horse training footage we’ve seen, and that’s because director Chloe Zhao (who would go on to win best director for Nomadland in 2021), chose to film Jandreau working with a horse in a round pen, and what you see is an edited version of actual horse and trainer work. While it wasn’t nominated for any Oscars, it did receive a slew of other nominations the year it was released including five Independent Spirit Awards, and it won best feature at the Gotham Independent Film Awards and the National Society of Film Critics. Watch the trailer:


The Mustang (Netflix)

Another indie horse film, this one was released in 2019 and follows an incarcerated inmate who takes part in a rehabilitation program that pairs prisoners with wild mustangs. Based on a real program in Nevada, the film stars Matthias Schoenaerts, Bruce Dern, and Connie Britton, and it’s a moving story that is bound to touch all horse lovers, especially the satisfying ending (no spoilers). While The Mustang didn’t nab any award noms, it does have a 95% approval score on Rotten Tomatoes. Watch the trailer:


The Horse Whisperer (rent or buy on Apple TV)

This 1998 romance stars Robert Redford, Kristin Scott Thomas, and a young Scarlett Johansson and is based on the novel by Nicholas Evans. After a horrific riding accident leaves Grace (Johansson) with a partially amputated leg, and her horse Pilgrim, traumatized and uncontrollable, her mother (Scott Thomas) sets out to find a man who can heal the horse and her daughter. The man is Tom Booker (Redford), a famous “horse whisperer” in Montana who agrees to help with the horse as long as Grace participates. The movie was a massive hit at the box office but was met with a lukewarm response from critics and nabbed zero nominations. But it’s the perfect movie to watch curled up on the sofa, and also a reminder to be careful when riding on ice and snow. Watch the trailer:


For Kids

National Velvet (rent or buy on Apple TV or Prime Video)

This cinema classic was released in 1944 and is based on the novel by Enid Bagnold. Starring major actors of the era including an adolescent Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney, and Angela Lansbury, it’s the story of Velvet Brown (Taylor), a poor farmer’s daughter who wins a nearly-wild gelding she calls Pie in a raffle and plans to enter him in the Grand National Steeplechase. With the help of Mi (Rooney), a former jockey whose career ended in tragedy, Velvet trains Pie for the big race, riding him herself and winning. It’s a heartbreaking and inspiring film that is worth multiple viewings.

The film was released to great acclaim and won two of the five Oscars it was nominated for, including one for best supporting actress (Anne Revere) and for best editing. In 2003 National Velvet was chosen for preservation by the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. The institute called the film “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” And in 2006 it ranked 24th on the American Film Institute’s more inspirational movies. Watch the trailer:


International Velvet (rent on Prime and Apple and YouTube).

A lesser-known gem is this 1978 sequel to National Velvet. The story follows Sarah Velvet Brown (Tatum O’Neal), niece to National Velvet, who is orphaned and sent from America to live with her aunt in England. Once there, the grief-stricken teen falls in love with a colt that is the son of Pie, the Grand National champion of the first film. This younger Brown and the horse, which she names American Pie, become international three-day eventers and end up representing the United Kingdom at the Olympics. There is the requisite tragedies and romance of any great film, but a stellar cast that includes Christopher Plummer and Anthony Hopkins (as the team coach no less) raises the bar on this must-watch movie. Adding to the authenticity is footage of real three-day cross-country competitions that are stunning and hair-raising. Watch the trailer:


The Black Stallion (Prime and Apple TV)

The 1941 Walter Farley classic novel was brought to the big screen by none other than Francis Ford Coppola, who produced the picture. The film follows a stallion called The Black and a young American boy named Alec after they are both shipwrecked off the coast of Africa. But once back on American soil, Alec teams up with a racehorse trainer (Mickey Rooney) who gets the black stallion ready for a big race. It’s superb filmmaking and the cinematography is breathtaking. Rooney was Oscar-nominated for best supporting actor, and the film was nominated for best film editing. It didn’t win either, but has since been selected for preservation by the Library of Congress, like National Velvet. Watch the trailer:


Black Beauty (YouTube, Prime, and Apple TV)

Anna Sewell’s classic novel was written in 1877 and has had six film adaptations. One of our favourites is the 1994 version, directed by Caroline Thompson. The story is well-known, narrated by Black Beauty himself, and we follow his life as he’s sold from person to person, some nice, some dreadful, before finally being reunited with one of the kind owners from his past. It’s a heartbreaking yet wonderful story that shows what many horses endure as they move from home to home. In 2020 another adaptation was released where the setting was changed from England to Utah and Black Beauty is a mustang mare instead of an English thoroughbred. No matter the setting, the story is one for the ages, and for horse lovers of all ages. Watch the 1994 trailer:

Watch the 2020 trailer:


Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (Disney+)

Released in 2002, this animated film follows a mustang stallion named Spirit (voiced by Matt Damon), who is captured by the United States Cavalry where they attempt to break him, even tying him to a post without food or water. A Lakota man named Little Creek is also held prisoner at the fort and he saves Spirit, and they escape together. Spirit falls in love with a Lakota horse named Rain, and (no spoilers) a lot of intense drama ensues before we get the Disney ending we all want. Watch the trailer: