Dark Horse

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
Dark Horse Movie Poster Image
Stirring, inspiring docu about unlikely champion.
  • PG
  • 2016
  • 85 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

Rewards can come to those who follow their dream, even in the face of predicted failure. Ordinary people can experience moments of greatness. Perseverance pays off. Triumph of the underdog.

Positive role models & representations

People who are struggling to make ends meet band together to back a racehorse, a venture that helps restore their personal dignity. The owners spend thousands on a treatment to improve the injured horse's quality of life when experts advise putting the animal down. The horse himself is an underdog who triumphs.


Horses and jockeys fall during races. Dream falls and cuts a tendon, an injury that would normally result in putting the horse down.


"Bloody," "shove it."

Drinking, drugs & smoking

Adults drink alcohol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dark Horse is a Welsh documentary that tells the inspiring story of a group of mostly poor mineworkers who pooled 10 pounds per week to successfully breed, train, and race a thoroughbred horse, inserting themselves into a realm ordinarily reserved for the wealthy and titled. Adults are seen drinking alcohol in many pub scenes, and a few scenes could be upsetting to sensitive animal lovers -- horses and jockeys fall during races, and there's discussion of putting injured animals down. But ultimately this is a celebration of perseverance and the triumph of the underdog.

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What's the story?

In DARK HORSE, villagers in a dying Welsh mining town -- many holding multiple jobs since the mines' closure -- band together to breed a thoroughbred. Although ownership of racehorses is largely confined to those with millions in disposable income, this group -- led by a barmaid and a retired tax consultant -- pay 10 pounds per week to buy a mare, pay stud fees, and eventually raise and train Dream Alliance, a horse that would go on to win beyond expectation, giving an entire village a dose of joy and hope in the process. His owners are moved by his courage: "He doesn't ask for anything, and he gives everything," one observes with admiration.

Is it any good?

This is a stirring, inspiring documentary about ordinary people venturing into the extraordinary. Director Louise Osmond masterfully intercuts interviews with giddy owners, a skeptical assistant trainer, and an astonished bookie with scenes of the adorable foal after birth, his training, and actual race footage, capturing the proud beauty inherent in both horses and strivers of all kinds.

These particular strivers are bent on crashing prescribed British class barriers, refusing to allow ridicule, condescension, and conventional wisdom to deter them. The owners' sense of triumph against socio-economic bias is echoed in sweeping shots of well-dressed racing patrons parading their finery at the race courses the miners have invaded. The barmaid sums up how the horse transformed its owners' lives: "I wasn't just Jan the cleaner. When I went to the races, I was Jan the owner."  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Dark Horse demonstrates the power of perseverance. Why is that an important character strength?

  • What message does the movie send about social class? Do you think certain sports (or other activities) have financial barriers to participation?

  • When the villagers decided that a lack of money wouldn't stop them from breeding and racing a thoroughbred, what do you think motivated their defiance? Does it seem like they got something out of backing the horse that they hadn't expected?

Movie details

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