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Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Secretariat Movie Poster Image
Inspiring true story about an amazing woman and her horse.
  • PG
  • 2010
  • 120 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 29 reviews

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 24 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids will learn about the inner workings of thoroughbred horse racing -- from how an owner, trainer, and groom work together to get a horse ready to race at two years old to how the parentage of that horse is important and how rare it is to win a Triple Crown. In addition to all of the historical information about Secretariat, children will also learn how difficult it was for Penny, a woman, to enter the "gentlemen's club" of horse racing.

Positive Messages

The overwhelming message is that everyone should take the risk to "run their own race," no matter how unlikely it seems at first that you'll win. Penny's unwavering belief in Secretariat and her ability to know which people she should ask for help show that with enough guidance, training, practice, and focus, you can achieve your goals.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Penny is an exemplary woman and a fantastic role model. She balances her responsibilities as a mother, wife, and daughter with great delicacy and concern, always trying to do what's best for her entire family, even when it means being temporarily separated from her children. She follows her heart to save her family's farm and is a pioneering woman in the horse-breeding and racing world. She's the only woman owner highlighted in the film.

Violence & Scariness

Some young viewers may be disturbed by the deaths of Penny's parents.

Sexy Stuff

Infrequent use of "hell," "crap," and "damn." A character says something in French that, according to another character, is something that would probably get him slapped by his mother, but the words aren't translated. Penny is occasionally referred to derisively as a "housewife," "little girl," "little lady," etc. by sexist-sounding men. In one instance, her "woman's intuition" is mocked by a rival horse owner.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults at a party drink champagne.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Secretariat is a 1970s-set biopic about Penny Chenery (Diane Lane) and her extraordinary horse. It very little content that's inappropriate for kids, although very young viewers probably won't be too excited about a horse movie in which the horse doesn't talk. It deals with sexism in the horse-breeding community and a woman's "place" in the business sphere in the early 1970s, but the language is still rather mild (mostly just stuff like "housewife" used derisively, for example). Penny is a fantastic role model for kids -- particularly young women -- and the story is uplifting and educational for families.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 5 year old Written byA co mom October 18, 2010
This movie has a bunch of issues for younger kids. There are deaths and burials (of people), a birth scene (of Secretariat), in which the Vet's hand is in... Continue reading
Parent of a 12 year old Written byMzSapphire March 12, 2011

Awesome movie

Absolutely awesome movie.
Teen, 15 years old Written bydempsey14 March 31, 2011

Very Inspirational

Let's face it, I'm not a big fan of horse movies. When my mom brought this movie home for the family to watch, I was not looking forward to it. But th... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bybeiberfever101 February 12, 2011

What's the story?

In SECRETARIAT, Penny Chenery Tweedy (Diane Lane) is a well-to-do housewife in Denver, where she raises four children with her attorney husband, John (Dylan Walsh), until her mother's death takes her back to her parents' horse farm in Virginia. With her father, Christopher (Scott Glenn), ailing from dementia, Penny decides to take over the farm's operations in the early '70s. She fires an unreliable trainer and asks breeder Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich) to come out of retirement and train her thoroughbreds. When the farm's prize mare drops a chestnut foal that stands with astounding speed, Laurin, Chenery, and groom Eddie (Nelsan Ellis) all agree that he's something special. Chenery begins to divide her time -- and her responsibilities -- between mother and wife in Colorado and horsewoman in Virginia, where she oversees the training of her beloved "Big Red" colt, who is eventually raced as SECRETARIAT, the horse that in 1973 became the first Triple Crown winner in more than 25 years.

Is it any good?

This is one of those heartwarming, inspiring tales that entire families can see together, rooting for Big Red all the way. When it comes to the magnificent horse, this is not an underdog story. Secretariat had, if the movie's account is to be believed, the heart of a champion from the moment of his birth. What is an underdog tale -- one that's fascinating to witness -- is how an upper-crust housewife transforms herself into a pioneering horse owner who defies the old boys' network of thoroughbred breeding to keep and race her horse. Even when her husband and brother demand that she sell Secretariat after his first year of racing rather than risk him losing a race and devaluing his price, Chenery stands her ground. She won't give up on her horse; she will see him run the big races. Lane is magnificent in the role, bearing the entire soul of the film on her capable shoulders.

There are some admittedly cheesy lines in Secretariat. When Eddie yells into the Kentucky sky that people are going to see something that's never been done before, it's extremely melodramatic, and Chenery sometimes talks in uplifting monologues that are a bit over the top. But you can forgive the occasional maudlin displays because the story of this extraordinary horse and its even more extraordinary owner is just so compelling. That director Randall Wallace can convey, through the use of the horse's heavy breathing, characters' nervous mutterings, and swelling gospel music, a sense of drama -- even though we all know Secretariat will win -- is remarkable.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the message in Secretariat that everyone has to "run their own race." What was Penny's race, and how was it different than her brother's?

  • How was Penny treated differently because she was a woman? Why was she referred to as a "little lady" and "housewife" so often?

  • What's the movie's message about balancing work and family? It was at times quite difficult for Penny to be away from her husband and children -- was it worth it?

Movie details

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