Top 10 Horse Racing Films

Top 10 Films checks out the greatest horse racing films from inspirational true stories to feel-good comedies about lucky days and big wins. Seabiscuit, Secretariat, National Velvet and Phar Lap are among the runners…


Seabiscuit, Top 10 FilmsA story behind the money bets and cheering crowds, Seabiscuit is based on the true drama of an underdog horse that against all odds becomes a champion. The story became an American obsession during the Great Depression and the film captures the impact this horse, and its successes, had on those around it.


Horse racing in the movies is another way for cinema to relive the emotional intensity of competition and the often inspirational journeys taken by those who scale the heights of professional sports. Disney film Secretariat tells the story of perhaps the greatest Thoroughbred racehorse ever, who won the Triple Crown in 1973, chronicling his journey to unbelievable heights. Another feel-good triumph.

50 To 1

Who doesn’t love a great underdog story? 50 to 1 isn’t as well known as the likes of Seabiscuit but it’s another great example of exciting, dramatic horse racing in cinema. Similar to Seabiscuit, 50 to 1 follows the exploits of a horse called Mine That Bird which, against all odds, won the 2009 Kentucky Derby.

Let It Ride

Let It Ride, Richard Dreyfuss, FilmRichard Dreyfuss stars as a gambler willing to bet it all when he discovers he’s having the luckiest day of his life at the races. While his good fortune is a bit of Hollywood fantasy, you too could “let it ride” if you check out the latest horse racing result here. This delightful comedy is warm-hearted and funny; a genuine feel-good movie!


A film, like other great horse racing movies, about the impact of a Thoroughbred racehorse on those that own, train and raise it, Dreamer stars Kurt Russell as a father whose troubled relationship with his daughter is the backdrop to nursing an injured horse back to champion-winning health. Another inspirational film.

National Velvet

A young Elizabeth Taylor plays Velvet Brown who is convinced her horse can win Britain’s biggest race despite its unruly character. When fate plays its hand, she decides to ride him herself despite lacking experience at top level competition.

Phar Lap

Considered one of the greatest horse racing films ever made, Simon Wincer’s brilliant 1983 movie is based on a true story as a horse is raised to be a champion by an unlikely source. The racehorse’s mysterious and tragic death is perhaps what makes this story stand out as much as his efforts on the racetrack. Indeed, there’s a tinge of sadness that lingers long after the credits have rolled. But this is a powerful drama, one that again displays the emotional power of those relationships built between owners/riders and their horses. It’s a sports movie fans should check out.

The Cup

Another horse racing drama from director Simon Wincer – who made the incredible Phar Lap – that fails to reach the heights of his best effort but still ranks amongst the best horse racing movies. It tells the story of Damien Oliver’s journey to win the 2002 Melbourne Cup against the backdrop of familial tragedy and his horse Media Puzzle’s underdog status enlivening his fairytale win.


For this entry, we go back in time to the late 1800s when a disgruntled cowboy makes the treacherous trip to Arabia to compete in a deadly cross-desert horse race. It’s another feel-good entry in the genre. The film also boasts some wonderful photography displaying both the beauty and harshness of the desert. Hidalgo is a nice alternative to your typical horse racing films but still meets the expectations of genre fans.


All the great horse racing movies concentrate on the people behind the champion-winning horses but none quite like Champions. In the film, in which John Hurt plays real life jockey Bob Champion, we see the horse-riding professional battle testicular cancer, his treatment and recovery preceding a return to championship racing and triumph at the 1981 Grand National.

Over to you: what are the great horse racing films in your opinion?

Written and Compiled by Rory Fish

About the Author
Rory Fish has loved movies since he can remember. If he was to put together an "all time" top 10 of absolute favourites it would have to include North By Northwest, 12 Angry Men and Sunset Boulevard.

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  1. Avatar
    ArchE Reply

    Champions and Phar Lap are stands out within the genre for me.

  2. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    I haven’t seen most of these. I’ll add much of these to my list as well. Well done article, Rory.

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    Spencer Bowles Reply

    We too ran into ’50 to 1′ and thoroughly enjoyed it. It got a limited release here in the US but it’s racing footage is as good as it gets. Rare to see these inspiring stories today amid all the cartoons being made.
    MINE THAT BIRD , the horse, was quite the character. Thanks Rory for finding this treasure.

  4. Avatar
    Graham Johnston Reply

    No Ruffain? !!!

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