Dark Horse (1992)

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Dark Horse (1992) Movie Poster Image
'90s drama about overcoming challenges has some violence.
  • PG
  • 1992
  • 98 minutes

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Positive Messages

Empathy, perseverance, and courage are important themes. The outside of a horse is the best thing for the inside of a man. Sometimes people act badly because they're scared, and compassion rather than punishment helps them the most. Many people don't know what they want.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A high school girl mourns her mother's death and the loss of old friends after her dad moves her away from her life in the big city. She abandons her straight-A diligence, cuts school, and starts sneaking out at night as she deals with the ensuing depression. Her dad works so much that he rarely spends time with his two grieving children. He's a hothead who always accuses and yells first, then thinks and feels guilty later. After being arrested for reckless driving, a teen is put on probation and required to perform community service at a horse ranch that hosts handicapped kids. The veterinarian who runs the ranch straightened herself out after making bad decisions as a teen. A horse owner who treats his animals badly owes the ranch thousands of dollars. A girl in a wheelchair gets angry about the hand she's been dealt, then overcomes her injuries.


A drunk teenager tries to drive and, when stopped by his friends, starts a fistfight. The same drunk teen pushes an unwilling girl into his truck, but she manages to shove him out and drive off on her own; she drives the stolen car away from her attacker and is arrested for reckless driving after a small crash. A girl's spinal cord is injured when she tries to save a horse after a car crash. The horse is injured, recovers, and is injured again when a tractor comes loose from its chains and plows into a barn. A vet must decide whether to put the injured animal down.


A high school boy kisses a high school girl. A girl dances suggestively with a drunk boy, then suggests they leave to be alone together.


"Idiot," "stupid," "crud," "jerk brain."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A high school student is suspended for drinking on campus. Teens drink beer at a party. Two of them throw back slugs from a flask. One attempts to drive drunk, but his friends stop him.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dark Horse is an uplifting 1992 tale about overcoming life's obstacles aimed at tweens and teens. The movie targets the sense of powerlessness some high school-age kids feel knowing they are not yet in full charge of their lives. Still mourning the death of her mother and adjusting to a move far from her friends, Allie makes bad decisions, hanging out with teens who drink and drive, which leads to a car accident and court-ordered community service at a horse ranch. A girl's spinal cord is injured when she tries to save a horse after a car crash. The horse is injured, recovers, and is injured again when a tractor comes loose from its chains and plows into a barn. A vet must decide whether to put the injured animal down. A boy kisses Allie. Language is confined to "stupid," "idiot," and "jerk brain."

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What's the story?

DARK HORSE refers both to depressive teenager Allie (Ari Meyers) and the high-strung horse she comes to love. Allie is still mourning her deceased mother, and her dad has geometrically increased her pain by moving the family away from her familiar big city and her friends. She sinks from straight-A to D student, and bad decisions cascade until she sneaks out with a teen drinker who pushes her into his car. She drives off without him and causes an accident that leads to court-ordered community service on a horse ranch. Her turnaround begins when she meets an equally troubled horse. They heal each other but not without another auto accident that wounds them both seriously and requires they both dig even deeper to return to health.

Is it any good?

Many touching and wise moments raise the old story of overcoming emotional and physical challenges to a level far above others in this genre. Allie goes jarringly from riding a powerful champion horse to wheelchair confinement. She begins to work toward recovery when she receives support and encouragement from the permanently handicapped kids she used to help. She is further stirred from self-pity and surrender to heroism when her horse is injured. Mimi Rogers is a ray of enlightenment as Dr. Hadley, the veterinarian who manages to nicely suggest the dad has shirked his responsibilities to his motherless children. Dark Horse is a fine choice for families with older tweens and up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Dark Horse wants you to view Allie's bad decisions. Does the movie show her learning from her mistakes?

  • How does the movie portray teen drinking? Does it make that illegal activity seem cool, or does it caution against it? How can you tell?

  • Does the movie suggest that sometimes kids can be wiser than their parents? What are some examples of that? Do you agree?

  • How do the characters in Dark Horse demonstrate compassion and empathy? What about perseverance and courage? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love horses

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

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