Ride Like a Girl

Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Ride Like a Girl Movie Poster Image
Woman gallops through boundaries in inspiring sports drama.
  • PG
  • 2020
  • 98 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Courage and perseverance are on full display, with many scenes demonstrating significant, long-standing, endless effort that goes into Michelle's success -- and the grit that made her keep trying against all odds. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Michelle Payne is a terrific role model; she's shown constantly training and striving to improve, move ahead in her sport. She works hard, waits tirelessly for opportunities, which ultimately impresses those who previously didn't give her a chance. Family ties are close and supportive, but even there she's sometimes told things like "Girls don't ride the Melbourne Cup" and that women have to "work twice as hard to ride half as much." Her father, Paddy, is loving to his kids but can also be strict, unyielding. Stevie, a character with Down syndrome, is treated with respect, is shown performing well at work (he's a horse trainer). One scene shows Michelle trying to lose weight to run a race; a food diary shows that she ate a single orange for dinner, and we see her sweating and wrapping her body in plastic in an attempt to reach a number on the scale. 


Violence is infrequent, but a parent has died (before the movie's story kicks in), and in one scene her grieving daughter threatens to "dig her up" so she can take her side in an argument. Another character is killed in a fall from a horse; viewers see funeral but not the fall or death. Michelle is hurt several times riding; we see her falling from a horse, lying still on the track, then recovering from brain damage. She's warned not to ride again (she does); a message on the screen tells us she broke 16 bones in 3,200 rides. One sequence depicts Michelle trying to lose weight for a race, starving herself, sweating. Some angry words/yelling.


A man makes an indecent proposal to Michelle, asking for a "ride" to give her advancement at work; she's disgusted and walks away. A newly married couple kisses sweetly. 


Language is infrequent, but "s--t" is heard a few times, "hell" once, and one character calls another a "moron." A young girl tells her family "You can all go get stuffed." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink wine at meals and toast each other at gatherings; no one acts drunk. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ride Like a Girl is a biopic about Michelle Payne, the first female jockey to win Australia's prestigious Melbourne Cup. Payne (Teresa Palmer) is a great role model, with courage and perseverance on full display as she moves forward in her field despite sexism (people tell her women can't compete with men) and sexual harassment (a man offers her advancement for sex). Violence is infrequent, but a parent has died (off-screen, before the story takes place), and another character dies during the movie. Viewers don't see the accidents that led to either death, but scenes do show a funeral and grieving relatives. Michelle is injured in several scenes, sometimes seriously. In one tense sequence, she falls hard and is shown lying motionless on the track -- and then recuperating from the injury at length. Another scene shows Michelle trying to lose weight for a race by starving herself, exercising, and sweating. Language is infrequent but includes "hell," "s--t," and "bloody." Adults drink wine at parties and dinners, but no one acts drunk. Family ties are strong and supportive, including a loving (if strict) father, and a main character with Down syndrome who's treated with respect and admiration. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byotnatt March 28, 2021

Good family film

Profile of a strong female who overcomes many challenges to achieve her dream of becoming a jockey. There were some challenging scenes about death of a parent... Continue reading
Adult Written byKen R. August 5, 2020

Ride like A Girl – Poor Title, Very Good Movie

There have been many movies made about famous Horses and Races (with one of the best also being Australian: “Phar Lap” in ’83). With this one, first-time direct... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bySlothguy_pluto December 31, 2020

Great movie!

This movie is good for people of all ages. It is great for a family movie night and is so motivational and inspiring. There are a few sad bits in it which are u... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bySmiley00111 June 3, 2020

So inspirational!!!

I love the story of Michelle Payne (The first girl to win the Melbourne Cup). This story is all about how women shouldn’t be underestimated. Great movie for hor... Continue reading

What's the story?

RIDE LIKE A GIRL tells the story of Michelle Payne (Teresa Palmer), who in 2015 became the first female jockey to win Australia's prestigious Melbourne Cup. Growing up in a large racing family and taking instruction from her former jockey dad, Paddy (Sam Neill), Michelle was taught to race and to win -- but also that her brothers were more likely to win glory for the Payne family. Surprising almost everyone except herself, Michelle rises to prominence in the race world despite many setbacks, until her unprecedented win secures her place in history. 

Is it any good?

Even people who don't give a hang about horse racing are likely to thrill to this gorgeous, exhilarating biopic about a barrier-smashing female athlete. Palmer -- all sinewy grace, with determination radiating out of every pore -- is a terrific stand-in for Michelle Payne, making us feel both her efforts (one sequence shows her waking up at 3 a.m. morning after morning to stand waiting for work at a track, while male athletes easily get the chances she's denied) and the deep thrill of her successes, returning to race over and over again despite sexism and terrible injuries. All along, the camera work is simply beautiful: It pulls out wide to admire the sight of wheeling, stamping horses running freely over green hills and in the surf and sidles in close to catch the bits of sod flung up from flying hooves and the sweat on the brows of the hardworking jockeys thundering around the track. 

The emotional beats ring true, too, especially the scenes in which the large, freewheeling Payne family gathers together for meals and to watch intently when one of their number competes in a race. Michelle is the youngest of 10 siblings, which doesn't sound fun, but Ride Like a Girl makes it feel like a blast with all of the overlapping dialogue and familial wisecracks. Best of all is the relationship between Michelle and her dad, Paddy, who alternately encourages and steadies his daughter. He's terrified of her recklessness, but the pride he feels at her extraordinary accomplishments is palpable. Michelle rebels against the strictures placed on her by society, the race world, and her cautious father, but, while she competes, it's Paddy's instruction that guides her to her ultimate victory. Hang some flowers on the neck of this lovely film and hand it a trophy: It's a winner. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about women participating in male-dominated sports like horse racing. Is it OK for women to compete with men, or should they run separate races? Are there any sports women or men shouldn't participate in at all? In what sports can men and women compete on an equal footing? In what sports have women made great strides in recent years? 

  • How frequently is Michelle told she has to do something differently or can't do something because she's a woman? How does being female change her experience as an athlete in a male-dominated sport? Do you believe Michelle's sister Bridget, who says women have to ride twice as well to get half the chances that male riders do? How do the restrictions and put-downs affect Michelle? What's her reaction? 

  • How does Michelle demonstrate courage and perseverance in Ride Like a Girl? Are these important character strengths? Are any of the characters role models?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love horses

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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