|A scene from DreamWorks Pictures' War Horse.|
"What's interesting about this story is that you're watching the horse, go through the war but you're not necessarily watching a war film," explained producer Kathleen Kennedy. "It's not a story that's designed to take you to the front lines to watch what happens to these animals in war. It's really a story about how the horse comes into contact with all the aspects of the war and the people who represent all the different sides of the war."
The new film by director Steven Spielberg, "War Horse," is a story for all ages set in England and Europe where quiet pastures have been unearthed by the conflict of the First World War. At the heart of the story is the remarkable friendship between a horse by the name of Joey and a young man called Albert, who tames and trains him. What audiences witness when the two are torn apart by circumstances is the extraordinary journey that Joey takes through the war and the inspiring influence that the horse has on all those he meets -- British cavalry, German soldiers, a French farmer and his granddaughter -- before reaching the story's stirring climax in the heart of No Man's Land.
If you've been around horses, you know they can exhibit a ubiquitous demonstration in person perception. So, the idea of taking a journey with an equine -- uprooted from its familiar surroundings on a family farm and the beloved relationship that it had with the owners' son, and sold to the British Army at the outbreak of the war -- is not as preposterous as it might sound.
Even actor Tom Hiddleston, who plays Captain Nicholls, the British army officer who takes possession of the farm horse, Joey, as his personal mount, came to realize how expressive horses can be. "I'm amazed by the strength of the bond between horses and people. Horses will teach you about who you are much more than you could possibly learn on your own. They can sense fear, arrogance, true confidence, true self-possession and inner peace," he said.
This rider knows this to be true of at least one horse, a little pony that I rode as a child, who knew exactly what I was feeling. Every time I thought I was in control of the reins and headed for an afternoon ride, he would bite down on the bit and haul my saddle back to the barn. On one occasion, my escorting equine hauled me right into a stall. It wasn't until I knew what I was doing, and had gained a little confidence, that the feisty little pinto allowed me control of the reins. Then out of the barnyard we flew.
"War Horse," based on both Michael Morpugo's 1982 children's novel and the hugely successful international theatrical hit that is arriving on Broadway next year, was adapted by Richard Curtis and Lee Hall. It has been nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Drama and besides an Oscar nod is likely to rekindle our affection with other horse movies.
Below is a list of beloved films about horses:
1. "National Velvet" (1944) is the classic story about a girl who wins a horse in a lottery and turns him into a champion.
2. "The Man from Snowy River" (1982) is a story about a young man, left stranded after his father’s death, who proves his manhood by single-handedly rounding up a herd of wild horses, while pursuing the rich rancher's daughter.
3. "The Horse Whisperer" (1998) is a beautiful story woven from the lives of a workaholic mom and her injured daughter, an abused horse and the horse whisperer whose gift for healing broken spirits, touches all of them.
4. "Hidalgo" (2004) is the story of a cowboy and his mustang, Hidalgo, who travel halfway around the world to enter a race across 3,000 miles of the Arabian Desert's punishing terrain, against Arabia's finest horses and riders and the evil schemers who vow victory at all costs.
5. "Dreamer" (2005) is the inspiring story of a father who, for the love of his daughter, sacrifices everything to save the life of a racehorse and help to restore its promising future on the track.
6. "A Day at the Races" (1937) is a comedy featuring the Marx Brothers.
7. "Flicka" (2006). A young girl tames a wild horse and proves to her father that she has what it takes to one day run the family's ranch.
8. "The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit" (1968) is a comedy about a businessman who enlists his daughter and her show horse as the means for promoting a product.
9. "The Black Stallion" (1979). Based on Walter Farley's children's book of the same name, it is about a boy who, after surviving a shipwreck, is stranded on an island with a beautiful Arabian stallion, who he befriends. Once rescued, they ride in a race against the best horses in the country.
10. "Seabiscuit" (2003) is based on the story by Laura Hillenbrand about an undersized Depression-era racehorse whose victories not only inspired the spirits of its team, but a nation.
Bonus: “Secretariat” (2010) is the story of the 1973 Triple Crown winner, Secretariat, who is considered by many to be the “greatest racehorse of all time.”
Looking to read another inspiring story about a horse? Reckless was a little sorrel mare purchased by a Marine to pack ammunition to the front line and carry the wounded back to safety. Read more here