Horses have been seen in motion pictures since the initial invention of the movie camera. This is because these animals were a vital part of early 1900’s life. This was an era in which film began to gain widespread popularity. Even after more than 100 years later we are still seeing the legacy that horses have had. Therefore they continue to be seen on screen.


The western has for decades featured horses as an important element. There are so many films of this genre featuring these animals that when people think of westerns they often imagine a cowboy on horseback. Sometimes they are used a symbol for society. Other movies use a large number of them create a sense of spectacle.

Those who want to see what being drunk on a horse looks like should check out True Grit (1969) and its 2010 remake. Both films tell the story of an alcoholic marshal tasked with tracking down an outlaw. He is joined by a strong headed young woman who he must keep safe. Throughout the film, Rooster (the marshall) spends his journey enjoying whiskey as he rides his steed.

Unforgiven was directed by Clint Eastwood, who also stars as the lead character. He is a former criminal who comes out of retirement for one last job. Horses play a key role in the film. When a woman is injured the sheriff fines those responsible. In order to avoid punishment they must each pay with horses. This is deemed to be a light sentence by people in town who put a bounty on the criminals.

Clint Eastwood and his partners strive to seek out this bounty. They spend a significant number of scenes on horseback. It is during these moments that we as an audience learn more about his violent past. In these types of movies the horse is not merely an animal. It is an important resource and valuable asset.

The spoof film Blazing Saddles subverts the overuse of horses in the western genre. At the end of this Mel Brooks comedy the main hero rides off to seek further adventures. He starts off in the traditional fashion of galloping on his horse. However, when he gets a certain distance he dismounts and enters a limousine. This scene parodies the standard ending for most westerns.

Other Genres

War Horse is set before and during the First World War. It tells the story of a farm boy who forms a strong bond with his new horse. Eventually the animal is taken by the military to help with the war effort. It is send abroad where it encounters characters from each side of the conflict.

This story began as a novel written by Michael Morpurgo. It was then adapted into a stage show which became the favourite of Queen Elizabeth II. In 2011 Steven Spielberg turned it into a film which has become one of the most popular movies to feature a horse as the main protagonist.

Black Beauty is similar to War Horse in a number of ways. The main difference is that the animal in the former speaks via narration by Alan Cumming. The eponymous horse starts his life on a relaxing farm. However, he is later made to work for a taxi company in London. The movie chronicles his many adventures.