Movie review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
Buck Movie Poster Image
Powerful profile on horse whisperer has mature themes.
  • PG
  • 2011
  • 89 minutes

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Positive Messages

Resilience and perseverance; overcoming great obstacles on the path to success; the power of how we treat others; the possibility for change or not repeating abuse. Courage, integrity, and empathy are additional themes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Buck Brannaman is a mentor, upstanding citizen, kind father, loving partner, and most importantly, a survivor of abuse who has not repeated the cycle but instead found a way to help others.


A few graphic descriptions of the verbal and physical abuse of children, including descriptions of welts on the back and removal from the home; a horse attacks and bites a man's head, leaving him bleeding and in need of stitches.


"Damn" several times; "holy s--t," "son of a bitch."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mixed drinks served at a party. Descriptions of a father's drunkenness.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Buck is a riveting documentary about horse whisperer Buck Brannaman, whose backstory features how he turned an abusive childhood into a unique understanding of horses. It's a fascinating character study, but there are multiple references to his childhood abuse, descriptions of his father's violent tactics and drunkenness, and a scene of a wild horse attacking a man, leaving him bleeding and in need of stitches. Profanity includes "holy s--t," "son of a bitch," and "damn." The story is a powerful one -- and compellingly told -- about transformation and triumph over personal adversity, but it's best for older kids who can handle the heavy themes.

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What's the story?

BUCK Brannaman is a successful horse whisperer who even consulted Robert Redford's movie of the same name. But he has a dark past with a lot of tragedy, heartache, and abuse. Here, viewers follow his personal history from a child performer with an overbearing abusive father to a successful horse trainer who somehow turned his pain into an understanding of animals, showing others how to guide them without harshness or unnecessary force -- with a few interviews with Redford himself.

Is it any good?

This documentary is a remarkable tale of a man who transcended abuse and now channels that pain for the greater good through teaching gentle horse training. In every instance where Buck could turn sentimental or sweeping, it remains soft-spoken and understated. That may be due to its subject, a soft-spoken character who chooses gentleness instead of anger in spite of his own tumultuous background.

Parents and kids who are drawn to horses and their training will find valuable information here but also an incredibly moving and often difficult story of childhood abuse. The upside is that this is a powerfully told story with a one-of-a-kind subject, and in the end, it becomes a much bigger story than one about a good horse trainer. It's really about the way we treat each other, what we can learn from pain, and how we can make the world a better place because of it. Though most horse documentaries are strictly for super fans, this is one that anyone can take something away from -- at the very least, a great deal of admiration for a triumph of the human spirit that will make you wonder why we break horses when people can barely survive it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about horse whispering in Buck. Why is it called whispering? What do you think it takes to be a good horse whisperer?

  • How has Buck overcome his abuse? Why do you think his story is so rare?

  • What can we learn from Buck's approach to horse training? Is it applicable in dealing with other people? Why, or why not?

  • How does Buck promote perseverance and integrity? What about empathy and courage? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

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