I love horses and I especially love watching movies about horses. Not all horse films are created equal, however. Just look at Seabiscuit. While I am still eager to see the much-talked-about War Horse, it’s release did get me thinking about my all-time favorite horse films. The best of them feature stellar human performances alongside emotional, slow-motion running scenes.
Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken
A romanticized, true story about diving girl Sonora Webster Carver starring a young Gabrielle Anwar and Michael Schoeffling (who is known forever as Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles). Sonora leaves her aunt’s home in hopes of fame, soon committing all she has to star as one of Doc Carver’s diving girls. She becomes the star of the show, wins the heart of Doc’s son Al, and overcomes a horrible accident that leaves her permanently blind. It’s the cheesiest of romances and uses the “I wrote you letters that were hidden from you” bit long before The Notebook.
A film about horses starring Viggo Mortenson? You can’t go wrong there. He plays Frank Hopkins, a long distance rider, who enters the Ocean of Fire horserace with his mustang Hidalgo. He must race the 3,000 miles across the desert against the best pure-bred Arabians in the world. He, like his horse, is a half-breed, sharing part of himself with the Native American Lakota tribe. The two defeat all the odds and win, escaping murder attempts and even saving a damsel in distress. Hidalgo is an underdog story of epic proportions, not only overcoming an impossible race but forthcoming extinction of the mustang breed.
No one makes an underdog sports film like Disney. Secretariat ranks equal with Miracle and Remember the Titans. Diane Lane plays Penny Chenery who takes over her late father’s stable and takes a chance on a little red horse. With the help of Lucien Laurin, played marvelously by John Malkovich, she transforms Secretariat into the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years. It has all the cheesy morals you’d want about not listening to the negative comments of others and how persistence pays. But the greatest feat this film accomplishes is making the race scenes, about which we already know the outcome, feel as tense and exciting as if we were watching them for the first time.
The Black Stallion
Forever engrained in my mind, from the many childhood viewings of this film, is the scene where Alec feeds sugar cubes to the horse on the boat. It is the first of several touching “boy and his horse” scenes. As we’ve learned from the finale of LOST and the strange relationship between Chuck and Wilson in Castaway, being deserted together on a remote island creates a bond unbroken. Alec tames the wild horse, ultimately racing him to victory. I credit The Black Stallion with forging and supporting my early love for horses.
My Little Pony: The Movie
Every little girl of the 80s had to have loved My Little Pony. Their first feature film follows the ponies as they fight for their lives against the wicked witch Hydia and her two horrible daughters Reeka and Draggle. The witches create Smooze, a flowing, singing purple ooze that engulfs anything in its path. With the help of a few human kids and the magical wing-flapping Flutter Ponies, they are able to reclaim their peaceful home. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anything better than colorful, singing, magical ponies fighting evil and winning.