“Inspired by true events” is different than “an accurate depiction of what actually happened in real life.” Lisa Morrison defines the distinction and outlines a list of “inspired” horse movies.
10 Horse Movies “Inspired by True Events”
As a horse person, it would be easy to be driven crazy by the many inaccuracies and laughable moments in movies with horses in them. In order to enjoy them, you sometimes just have to suspend reality and go with the flow.
One might think that a movie based on real life would be much more accurate and realistic. Sadly, that is not always the case. Many movies are only “inspired” by something that actually happened, but in reality have little to do with actual events or people.
In the end, it’s just entertainment. Here are my top 10 movies about horses that were “inspired by true events”:
1. Miracle of the White Stallions (1963) – From Disney, this film tells the story of how the famous Lipizzaner Stallions of the Spanish Riding School were saved from destruction during WWII through the efforts of Col. Alois Podhajsky (director of the Spanish Riding School) and General George Patton of the U.S. Army. (IMDB rating: 6.6/10)
2. Phar Lap (1983) – A feel good story of a New Zealand-bred race horse that dominated Australian racing during the late 1920s and early 1930s. After an inauspicious start, Phar Lap is so successful that he becomes a target of gambling interests. (IMDB rating: 7.0/10)
3. Champions (1984) – British steeplechase jockey Bob Champion (played by John Hurt) is diagnosed with testicular cancer at the age of 31. He recovers and goes on to win the 1981 Grand National aboard Aldaniti. (IMDB rating: 6.1/10)
4. Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken (1991) – Set in Atlantic City during the Depression, this is the story of Sonora Webster (Gabrielle Anwar), a runaway who gets a job in the girl-and-horse high diving act of Dr. Carver (Michael Schoeffling). The film is based on the memoirs of Sonora Webster, “A Girl and Five Brave Horses”. The high diving horses were recently in the news when the Steel Pier briefly considered bringing them back, before quickly realizing their mistake. (IMDB rating: 6.8/10)
5. Shergar (1999) – While this movie is based on an actual event, the plot is pure fiction. In 1983, the Irish race horse Shergar was abducted by the IRA. In the movie, Shergar is rescued by an orphaned boy. (IMDB rating: 5.3/10)
6. Seabiscuit (2003) – Staring Toby Maguire and Jeff Bridges, this blockbuster film is another feel-good story from the Depression. A pint-sized thoroughbred and a scrappy jockey lift the country’s spirits by succeeding despite the odds. (IMDB rating: 7.3/10) There is also a 1949 film called The Story of Seabiscuit , which featured Shirley Temple and had little in common with actual events. (IMDB rating: 7.1/10)
7. Hidalgo (2004) – Cavalry dispatch rider Frank Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen) is reduced to performing in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, but his reputation as a great long-distance rider leads to an invitation from a wealthy sheik (Omar Sharif) to compete in the 3,000-mile “Ocean of Fire” race across the Arabian Desert. (IMDB rating: 6.6/10)
8. Dreamer (2005) – A young girl (Dakota Fanning) is behind the rescue and rehab of a race horse that has broken its leg. The film also stars Kurt Russell, Kris Kristofferson and Elisabeth Shue. (IMDB rating: 6.7/10)
9. Ruffian (2007) – A made-for-TV movie chronicling the short life of one of the best fillies in Thoroughbred racing. At a time when equality and women’s rights were hot topics of the day, Ruffian waged her own battle of the sexes on the track. Sam Shepard plays trainer Frank Whiteley. (IMDB rating: 6.3/10)
10. Secretariat (2010) – Diane Lane plays Penny Chenery Tweedy, who takes over her father’s racing stables and manages, with the help of veteran trainer Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich), to produce a Triple Crown winner. (IMDB rating: 7.1/10)