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For thousands of years, humans have admired horses. So, it comes as no surprise that some of Hollywood’s biggest hits include equine protagonists.
From animated to live-action, these iconic films include some of the most beloved horse characters. Some of these movies are even based on real-life horses.
These famous horses in movies deserved to be recognized for their cinematic importance.
Here are seventeen famous horses from movies.
1. Spirit (Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron)
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is one of the most iconic and beloved horse movies. The 2002 Dreamworks film tells the tale of Spirit, a fiery and courageous dun Kiger mustang.
People of all ages love Spirit’s fighting attitude as he journeys through the American West on his quest to return to freedom. The film became such a success that Netflix even created their own mini-series based on the movie.
A real-life Kiger Mustang, also by the name of Spirit, was used as the model for his animated counterpart. Also, read our article about the real horse that inspired Spirit, and 4 interesting facts about the Spirit: Stallion of Cimarron movie.
The 2010 Disney movie Secretariat is based on the legendary 1973 Triple Crown winner, Secretariat. Secretariat was a chestnut Thoroughbred stallion and one of the most successful racehorses in history.
The movie tells the extraordinary real-life story of Penny Chenery as she takes over her ailing father’s racehorse stables. Despite her lack of knowledge, she navigates the male-dominated horse racing industry, fostering the great Secretariat to a record-breaking Triple Crown win.
The principal horses to portray Secretariat were Thoroughbreds Trolley Boy, Secretariat’s great-great-great-grandson and Longshot Max.
Also Read: 8 Interesting Facts About Secretariat.
Another iconic horse racing film, Seabiscuit tells the incredible tale of the iconic racehorse, Seabiscuit. Seabiscuit was a bay Thoroughbred stallion that became an unlikely champion and beacon of hope during the Great Depression.
The 2003 film by Gary Ross is based on the real-life events of Seabiscuit’s career. Despite his rough beginning, Seabiscuit became an underdog as he won some of the biggest races in America. He even beat War Admiral, the 1937 Triple Crown winner in a one-on-one match, as the film expertly portrays.
The former Thoroughbred racehorse Popcorn Deelites portrayed Seabiscuit in the Oscar-nominated film. Popcorn Deelites now resides at Old Friends, a facility in Kentucky for retired Thoroughbred racehorses.
4. Joey (War Horse)
Steven Speilberg’s 2011 film War Horse tells the emotional story of a boy named Albert and his horse Joey as they navigate life through WWI in Europe. Joey is a striking bay Irish Hunter that Albert’s father sold to the British Army.
A heartbroken Albert tries to stop the sale of his beloved horse Joey, but is too late. Despite being too young to enlist, Albert is determined to reunite once again with his beloved horse in this sentimental story.
In this multi-Oscar-nominated movie, 14 horses played Joey, with Finder’s Key, a Thoroughbred, playing the ‘personality shots.’
The 2004 hit film Hidalgo tells the epic journey of Frank Hopkins as he travels to Arabia to compete in the challenging Ocean of Fire race with his horse, Hidalgo. Hidalgo is a striking Mustang that Hopkins rode as part of the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show.
Hidalgo and Hopkins journey abroad to compete in the grueling 3,000-mile race, that tests the endurance of both the horse and rider. The Mustang and his rider were matched up against the finest Arabian horses as they compete to be “the world’s greatest endurance horse and rider.”
Five paint horses played Hidalgo in the film: RH Tecontender (TJ), RJ Masterbug (RJ), Impressivelybetter (Oscar), Honky Tonkin Tuff (DC), and Ima Stage Mount Two (Doc).
After filming, Viggo Mortenson, who played Frank Hopkins, bought TJ and even rode him to the movie premiere.
Also Read: 8 Interesting Facts About the Hidalgo Movie
6. Shadowfax (The Lord of the Rings)
Though Shadowfax might not be a main character in the Lord of the Rings saga, he is certainly still iconic. The stunning silvery-gray stallion is considered “lord of all horses” as he comes from the Mearas, the greatest horses of Middle-earth.
The only person capable of riding Shadowfax is Gandalf, who rides the noble steed bareback and bridleless. In addition to being able to understand human speech, he also possesses incredible speed, strength, and intelligence. Two Andalusian horses, Blanco and Demero, played the role of Shadowfax.
7. Maximus (Tangled)
Thanks to his quirky personality, Maximus the horse became a favorite among fans. Starring in the hit 2010 Disney movie Tangled, Maximus is a beautiful white palace horse for the Royal Guard of Corona.
Maximus starts off as the arch-rival of Finn Ryder, who is wanted by the Royal Gaurd. Fortunately, Rapunzel intervenes and the two soon become an unstoppable duo. Maximus, along with Rapenzul’s other sidekick Pascal, provide comedic relief throughout the movie.
Also, if you’re a Disney lover, take our fun Disney horses quiz!
8. Black Beauty
Black Beauty is one of the most iconic horses in film and literature. There have been several film and TV adaptations based on Anna Sewell’s 1877 novel, always depicting the complicated life of the beautiful black horse, Beauty.
The two most notable film adaptations of the book are Warner Brother’s 1994 movie, where Beauty is a stallion, and Disney’s 2020 adaption, where Beauty is a mare. Each movie narrates the story from the perspective of Beauty, as the horse meets both kind and hurtful people.
In the 1994 Black Beauty film, a black Quarter horse by the name of Docs Keepin Time portrayed Beauty. In the 2020 film four Thoroughbreds, Spirit, Jenny, Awards, and Rosie, played Beauty.
9. The Black Stallion
Based on Walter Farley’s 1941 novel, the 1979 film The Black Stallion is one of the most beloved horse movies. The Black is a gorgeous black Arabian stallion that became shipwrecked along with a young boy named Alec.
While on the island, Alec forms a bond with the fiery stallion and the pair quickly becomes an iconic racing duo. The film has two sequels, The Black Stallion Returns, and The Young Black Stallion. The main horse to play the Black was a former Arabian show horse by the name of Cass Ole.
Also Read: 10 Facts About The Black Stallion Movie.
10. Silver (Lone Ranger)
A western classic, The Lone Ranger has two several adaptations including Warner Brothers’ 1956 film and Disney’s 2013 film. One of the most iconic characters of the movie is the Lone Ranger’s stunning white stallion, Silver.
Throughout the movies, Silver is the Lone Ranger’s most trusty companion. Fours horses played Silver in the 2013 adaptation and it took the crew a lot of work and makeup to keep the white horses clean.
One of the main horses to play Silver in the 2013 film was a Quarter horse who also happened to be named Silver.
11. Pilgrim (Horse Whisperer)
The 1998 hit movie, Horse Whisperer, is one of the most popular equestrian movies. The leading equine character of the movie is Pilgrim, a troubled chestnut horse.
Pilgrim and his rider Grace are left traumatized after a serious accident. Desperate to help the two, Annie, Grace’s mom, tracks down “horse whisperer” Tom Booker. At Booker’s ranch in Montana, he helps Pilgrim and Grace heal together as they slowly begin to gain their confidence back.
As mentioned in our Horse Whisperer facts guide, four horses portrayed Pilgrim in the Horse Whisperer. Three Quarter horses, High Tower, Maverick, and Cash, played the aggressive and traumatized Pilgrim. The fourth horse was a Thoroughbred gelding owned by Buck Brannaman, who portrayed calm Pilgrim.
12. Mister Ed
Mister Ed is an American sitcom that ran from 1961 to 1966. The comedic show centers around a mischievous palomino horse named Mister Ed and his owner, Wilbur Post.
Mister Ed has the ability to talk, however, he only talks to Post. This causes his doting owner never-ending chaos, frustration, and laughter. Mister Ed constantly messes around with Post, leading his wife and neighbors to think he is eccentric.
Bamboo Harvester, a Saddlebred/Half-Arabian cross portrayed Mister Ed for the entire running of the show. Before his iconic role, Bamboo Harvester was a parade and show horse. He also had a Quarter horse stunt double, Pumpkin.
Also Read: 6 Secrets Behind Mr Ed Revealed
The 2006 Disney movie Flicka is based on the popular 1941 children’s novel My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara. Flicka is a wild black Mustang mare who forms a close bond with the spirited Katy McLaughlin, whose father owns a ranch in Wyoming.
Despite her father’s objectives, Katy is determined to show him that she is capable of taming Flicka and eventually running the ranch. A sequel, Flicka 2, was released in 2010 and another sequel, Flicka: Country Pride, came out in 2012.
There was also a movie series based on the novel called My Friend Flicka that aired from 1955 to 1960, along with a 1943 film of the same name.
In the 2006 feature film, many different horses starred as Flicka. In the TV series, a sorrel Arabian mare by the name of Wahana played Flicka.
The 1961 feature film Misty is based on Marguerite Henry’s 1947 award-winning book Misty of Chincoteague. Misty is a pinto Chincoteague mare that two orphans form a special bond with.
Set on the island of Chincoteague in Virginia, the movie focuses on the famous Chincoteague pony swim. After their parents die, Paul and Maureen Beebe, move in with their grandparents on Chincoteague. They then befriend an elusive mare Phantom and eventually they eventually become the owners of her foal, Misty.
Misty was a real-life Chincoteague pony and she took part in the movie premiere. Multiple horses portrayed the famous Chincoteague pony in the film, including one of her relatives.
Airing from 1955-1960, Fury aired on NBC showcased the exciting adventures of a boy, Joey, and his horse, Fury. Fury, a wild horse, is notorious for only letting Joey ride him, except on the rare occasion where someone proves to be worthy.
Throughout the series, Fury is constantly rescuing people who end up in trouble. An American Saddlebred by the name of Highland Dale, or Beaut, played the magnificent Fury.
The 1946 film My Pal Trigger stars the legendary palomino stallion, Trigger, who plays himself. Based on a story by Paul Gangelin, the movie tells the origin story of Roy Roger’s faithful mount, Trigger, and the deep bond they share.
Trigger is one of the most iconic horses ever in film, starring in numerous motion pictures. As the “smartest horse in movies” Trigger knew over 100 tricks. His sire was a Thoroughbred and it is believed that his dam was a Quarter horse cross.
Also Read: 7 Interesting Facts About Trigger.
17. The Pie (National Velvet)
The 1944 movie, National Velvet, features one of the most beloved equine characters, The Pie. The Pie is a fiery chestnut Thoroughbred gelding that 12-year-old Velvet Brown wins in a raffle.
After enlisting the help of jockey Mi Taylor, Velvet sets out to train The Pie for the world-famous Grand National. A Thoroughbred by the name of King Charles played the role of The Pie. After the production of the movie, the crew gifted Elizabeth Taylor, who played Velvet, with King Charles.
Also Read: 8 Facts About The National Velvet Movie.