Whiskey for my horse, beer… also for my horse.
The relationship between a man and his horse is a sacred pact so prevalent in cinema, it could be its own genre. Here's our list of the five greatest films about the love between a man and his horse, just in time for the release of what promises to be the sixth greatest film about the love between a man and his horse, War Horse.
1. Seabiscuit (2003)
A troubled boy and a rough-and-tumble horse race their way to happiness. (Somebody give me an advertising job.) Tobey Maguire plays a jockey blinded in one eye by his side job as a bareknuckle boxer and Seabiscuit plays the undersized but plucky horse that can redeem him. Or something. Seabiscuit is a little saccharine, but the chemistry between Maguire and the ten or so horses that played Seabiscuit is palpable — rumor has it sparks flew behind the scenes as well. [Make sure you take out that bestiality joke before this goes up. — Ed.]
2. Hidalgo (2004)
You know you’ve reached a whole new level of man-horse love (some might say neurosis) when you start talking to your animal without a shred of self-awareness or irony. Viggo Mortenson loves Hidalgo like a friend. His only friend. In a dark and cruel world. Add in an epic race across the desert for untold riches and fame, and you’ve got the makings of an at times uncomfortably intense man-horse love story. Then you learn Viggo Mortensen purchased the horse that played Hidalgo after filming was done, presumably because he couldn’t bear to part with it, and your heart melts a little bit.
3. Black Beauty (1994)
This may be the oldest man-horse love story known to man. Or horse. It also changes things up a bit, since the whole movie is narrated from Black Beauty’s perspective — apparently even the most beautiful horses have complicated feelings. And when Black Beauty saves Squire Gordon’s life on that bridge? That’s true love. If you don’t tear up a little at that point, I just don’t have any hope for you.
4. Secretariat (2010)
Secretariat: Kentucky’s greatest horse-racing legend (aside from the mint julep). A god among horses. The Incredible… Horse. The only thing more majestic and powerful than this horse was the synergy between this horse and his jockey: the pair went on to win basically every racing record ever. Actually, in the movie version, there is something more powerful: Diane Lane’s love of money. Anyway, when the real Secretariat died, they found out that his heart was much larger than that of a normal horse. Because of love. And also a genetic condition.
5. The Black Stallion (1979)
The Black Stallion is kind of like Cast Away, but with a horse instead of a volleyball and with a stirring race at the end instead of bitter disappointment. It's based on a series of books that have more entries than than it has any right to, including one called, I shit you not, The Black Stallion and Satan. (Spoiler Alert: Not that Satan.) The Black Stallion has the distinction of being the only of these man-horse-love movies selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. Take that, Diane Lane!