The Cup

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
The Cup Movie Poster Image
True sports tale about overcoming tragedy has mature themes.
  • PG
  • 2012
  • 96 minutes

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

Positive Messages

Promotes perseverance, grace under pressure, bravery, close family ties, and striving for excellence: "Being a champion isn't about winning. It's about toughing it out."

Positive Role Models & Representations

The real-life Damien Oliver, already a horse-racing star in Australia's sporting world, proves that his ability to win is based on more than athleticism and skill. After a devastating tragedy, he must depend upon his inner strength, resilience, and courage to prevail. Supporting characters are loyal, compassionate, and encouraging and exhibit great faith in Damien. Women appear as courageous and loyal as well; however, they act solely as support for the main characters.   


Two disturbing horse-racing accidents occur; one is shown in news footage of an actual event, and the other is reenacted. (Spoiler alert: In both instances, the jockeys suffer fatal injuries.)


A couple is shown in bed together. A married couple kisses.


"Hell" and "crap." 


Qantas Airlines and Godolphin Racing and Stables are mentioned, as are numerous Australian products and services including Shannons Insurance, Goldner Transport, and 3AW. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters are briefly seen drinking alcoholic beverages both at home and in a bar. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Cup is a sports movie based on real events that occurred in 2002. Horse racing is a major sport in Australia; "The Cup" refers to the Melbourne Cup, the country's most important annual horse race. Only a few scenes actually portray specific races; the primary focus is the personal stories of a famed Australian jockey, his family, and the Irish trainer who comes to Melbourne for the big race. Heavy dialects may trip up some viewers. The film, which is sometimes sad, contains actual footage of a racing tragedy and one disturbing on-camera racing accident. (Spoiler alert: Deaths occur, as do a funeral and a lengthy hospital sequence in which a life hangs in the balance).    

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What's the story?

THE CUP opens with Damien Oliver (Stephen Curry), a likable and spirited jockey, winning 2002's Jockey of the Year award in Australia. He's introduced by his beloved older brother Jason, who admits he's simply not as talented a jockey as Damien. The award comes at a time when Australia's racing industry is excitedly prepping for the Melbourne Cup, its most important annual horse race. Trainer Dermot Weld (Brendan Gleeson) is expected to bring Media Puzzle, a fiery, headstrong equine contender all the way from Ireland. When Weld matches his prized horse with Damien, the horse-and-jockey duo becomes an immediate sensation. Only Media Puzzle's reputation as "difficult" may stand in their way...unless one counts an outstanding horse from a prosperous sheik's stable. Only a week before the race, however, tragedy strikes the Oliver family, bringing back horrific memories of Damien's and Jason's dad, who was killed in a race when both were little boys. Damien struggles with his grief and his intensified desire to give meaning to his own life. Although his family and Dermot Weld are firmly at his side, Damien alone can determine whether or not he'll ride in the Melbourne Cup and whether he has the resilience to win again.

Is it any good?

The Cup was shot with skill by Simon Wincer, a noted Australian director, with stirring music, beautiful horses, and fine performances. It will delight horse lovers and other sports fans who enjoy a rousing competition laced with tragedy, even though the outcome will not come as much of a surprise. The movie moves from great joy to great sadness and back. There are no villains here. Even the Arab sheik whose horse may defeat our hero is sympathetic and pleasant. Because much of the film's plot deals with death and its aftermath, this is a safe bet for mature kids only.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the fact that many sports movies are based on actual events. What is it about sports and specific "big games" that make for good movies? Are these movies still satisfying to you even if you know the outcome?

  • What is meant by the movie's contention that being a champion isn't about winning, it's about toughing it out? Does this statement ring true for you? In what ways was Damien Oliver a champion?


  • Is it important to you to know that animals have not been hurt or killed during a movie production? Find out more about the history of protecting animals during filming.

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love horse tales

Themes & Topics

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