National Velvet

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
National Velvet Movie Poster Image
Great family movie; even better for horse lovers.
  • G
  • 1944
  • 123 minutes

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Presents an idyllic view of country life in early 20th century England, and shows how different the rules were for women and girls in that era. Competitive horse-jumping is introduced.

Positive Messages

Filled with simple positive messages, expressed in words and demonstrated by actions, including: dream big; take risks and enjoy the moment, but know when it's over and move on; "everyone should have a chance at a breathtaking piece of folly at least once in life." The importance of trust and honesty is stressed. Themes include integrity and perseverance.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Despite some differences of opinion between them, both parents are ideals of supportiveness, reliability, and encouragement.  Velvet's mother is a prime example of early female accomplishment and recognition. Velvet follows in her mother's footsteps. A line early in the film, "You girls have only your faces for your fortune," is dispelled by the end. A young man, bent on dishonest behavior, learns a valuable lesson about trust and doing the right thing.

Violence & Scariness

Some horses and their riders fall. None is shown to be injured or in real trouble. The young heroine is prone to fainting. She falls from and is thrown from her horse, but never hurt. She’s also frightened when the horse is ill.  

Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking


The young man at the center of the story drinks beer in a pub. He gets very drunk, slurs his words, and staggers. Several men smoke pipes.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that National Velvet, an appealing family film released in 1944 and set in 1920s England, presents two strong female role models, both of whom succeed in fields of sport that had not been previously open to their gender: long-distance swimming and British horse-jumping. It's a movie with strong messages about dreams, risk, determination, and honesty. The only mildly frightening moments come when the preteen heroine faints, when she falls from her horse, and when the horse is ill for a time. In one lengthy sequence set during the Grand National race, a number of horses and their riders fall (in wide shots), but almost all quickly get up; no injuries are seen or referenced. A young man confesses his responsibility for a riding accident years earlier in which someone was killed. The same young man is seen drinking beer with two cronies, and he gets very drunk.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bythefklosestheass July 15, 2020

Should be OK for mature viewers

R: some usages of mature moments
Parent of a 5, 7, and 10-year-old Written byDenise A. February 15, 2016

Great movie.

Just great. My daughter (9) was completely with it the whole time, my son (6) had moments of "is that horse really hurt?" - but then watched as the h... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byEmmaLu April 15, 2011
Great movie! Had positive role models and CLEAN!!
Teen, 14 years old Written byHunterJumper13 December 23, 2010

Terrific movie for everyone

I loved this movie. As a horse owner, rider, shower, etc. I always enjoy critisizing equine-themed movies, but this one was correct in just about everything. A... Continue reading

What's the story?

In NATIONAL VELVET, when young Velvet Brown (Elizabeth Taylor) meets Mi Taylor (Mickey Rooney), the two immediately connect, bonding over their love of horses. He came to town because he found Velvet's mother's name in his late father's address book, but he has no idea what their relationship was. Velvet wins an uncontrollable horse in a lottery that she names Pi; she decides that Pi must be in the Grand National race and goes against the adults' wishes by riding him herself. She wins but is disqualified because she's a girl. Still, the family returns home in triumph, knowing that they won what was important to them. Appearance and endorsement offers follow, but Velvet knows that it's time to move on. So does Mi, who says good-bye to Mr. and Mrs. Brown. When Velvet hears that he's gone, she asks if she can tell him about his father, who helped Mrs. Brown achieve an important dream. Mrs. Brown consents, and Velvet races after Mi, catching up to him just as the movie ends.

Is it any good?

This is a heartwarming story about dreams -- wise and foolish, big and small, realized and impossible -- and about the way these dreams change those who are lucky enough to dream them. But it also deals with what happens after the dream comes true. 

The film also conveys the importance of faith -- Velvet's faith in herself, Pi, and her dream; and her family's faith in her and in Mi -- and the importance of that belief and support in making the dream come true. But most of all, National Velvet is the story of a loving family, making it a wonderful starting point for a discussion of the ways that families of all kinds can teach and support each other.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Velvet can't keep the prize, even though she won. What kinds of stereotypes about women were popular in the era of National Velvet? What kinds of stereotypes about women remain?

  • Why didn't Velvet want to make movies or do any of the other things people asked her to do after she won? What are the benefits and drawbacks of being a celebrity?

  • How do the characters in National Velvet demonstrate integrity and perseverance? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

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