As regular as Christmas, you can guarantee that Hollywood will bring out a sporting biopic annually, whether it ends up focusing on basketball, wrestling or American Football. Somewhat surprisingly, horse racing movies have proven not only to be huge box office successes, but also hits with the critics. Below are some of the definitive horse racing based movies that have lit up the cinema world over the years.
Seabiscuit – 2003
With a cast including Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, William H. Macy and Elizabeth Banks, and seven Academy Award nominations to its name, Seabiscuit is the Granddaddy of horse racing films. This true story is set in 1930s America, a time when the country was in the midst of the Great Depression. Seabiscuit himself was an undersized horse that made an inauspicious start to its career; his temperament made it very hard for him to be handled. Thankfully, jockey Red Pollard (Maguire) is no stranger to violence and hot-headedness, and he eventually manages to tame Seabiscuit. The horse goes on to capture the hearts of the American public. This narrative has it all. It suits both genders and ticks nearly every box that is important to film fans.
Champions – 1983
Any film that features John Hurt is always going to be fantastic and Champions is no exception. The story is based on jockey Bob Champion’s heart-rendering journey to Grand National glory back in 1981. What makes this biopic truly touching is that Champion was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1979, and his horse Aldaniti had chronic leg problems.
However, against all the odds the two managed to win the Grand National, in what was a truly great sporting moment, and one that lends itself to the big screen perfectly. If you haven’t seen this one, track down the DVD and settle in for an evening of racing entertainment.
Hidalgo – 2004
This Joe Johnston vehicle stars Viggo Mortensen portraying the late American distance rider Frank Hopkins. The film chronicles Hopkins and horse Hidalgo’s journey to Arabia and their subsequent entry into the “Ocean of Fire” race, an annual 3,000-mile survival race across the desert. Not only is it a tale of pure endurance, but it also sees Mortensen go up against the American government in order to preserve wild horses and protect Native Americans. The late but legendary film critic Roger Ebert awarded the film three out of four stars.