Spirit Riders

Movie review by
Grace Montgomery, Common Sense Media
Spirit Riders Movie Poster Image
Predictable horse tale has mature themes, smoking.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 92 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

No matter how many mistakes you make, you can always redeem yourself. Those with special needs should be treated respectfully.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Although Kacie makes many bad choices, she learns it's better to help others and respect yourself than steal, smoke, and hang out with bad people. Rex and Claire show Kacie that she matters and teach her the value of hard work and being kind.


Kacie relates how her younger brother died in a fire. Kacie's boyfriend grabs her and punches another character. A scene of peril when the barn catches on fire and the horses and some of the campers are still inside.


Kacie and her boyfriend make out. Some talk about marriage, adult relationships, and crushes. Kacie wears crop tops and somewhat revealing clothing.


"Hell," "dumbass." Some insults such as "jerk," "lame brain," "freak," and "creep."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Kacie gets arrested for helping her boyfriend steal prescription drugs. Kacie, her boyfriend, and her mom are shown smoking many times, though Kacie eventually starts chewing nicotine gum to quit. Kacie's boyfriend shows up either drunk or high.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Spirit Riders is a family film about a troubled teen finding her way. The main character is shown making poor choices, including smoking, stealing, and rebelling against authority, but she faces realistic consequences for her behavior. Other characters also are shown smoking, and one is shown drunk or high. There's some violence, including one character punching another, a suspenseful scene where a building catches fire, and references to a young boy who died in a fire. The film also has some bad language ("ass", "hell") and some mild sexual content (a teen couple making out). But the film focuses on the negative consequences of poor behavior and the value of treating yourself and others respectfully and kindly.

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What's the story?

Kacie (Alexandria DeBerry from Disney's A.N.T. Farm) is caught helping her boyfriend steal prescription drugs and sent to work at Spirit Riders horse camp as an alternative to juvenile hall. Angry that she has to spend her days mucking out stalls and working with campers with special needs, Kacie lashes out at everyone. Rex (Lance Henriksen), the camp's owner, convinces her to help him train Blaze, a spirited former racehorse. As Kacie and the horse begin to form a strong bond, she starts to see that maybe she can make something of herself, if her troubled home life and bad-news boyfriend don't get in the way.

Is it any good?

SPIRIT RIDERS isn't a great family film, but it's definitely not bad either. It has a lot of clichés, some moderately cheesy acting, and a very predictable plot, but it also has a lot of heart. Kacie really learns coping mechanisms for dealing with grief, a difficult family life, and peer pressure, all lessons that would be especially valuable to tween audiences. And the subplot of Kacie becoming friends with and beginning to understand Mike's Asperger's syndrome is sweet and informative.

Though parents may not appreciate Kacie's poor attitude for much of the film, not to mention all the smoking (including by Kacie's mom), most will like the lessons shared. Tweens -- especially horse lovers -- will probably find quite a bit to like, but teens most likely will find the plot too predictable.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Kacie's behavior. Why do you think she made such poor choices? What factors in her life led her to acting out?

  • Why do you think working with animals is so helpful to many people? How do they help people?

  • Mike has Asperger's syndrome. What do you know about Asperger's syndrome? How can you make it easier for kids with Asperger's syndrome to play and interact with others?

  • What's your favorite horse movie? Why is it your favorite?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love horses

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