Sixteen films to watch and books to read after visiting History Colorado’s The Power of Horses exhibit.
So, you’ve already visited History Colorado’s newest exhibit, The Power of Horses, took a spin on the vintage pony ride located in our lobby, and spent way too much on horse-themed items from our gift shop. Now what?
Luckily, with their unmistakable presence in American popular culture, it is easy as ever to keep the fun going at home. This National Horse Day (December 13), whether you’re itching for a classic western read or a light-hearted children’s movie, we’ve got you covered with a list of films to watch and books to read after (re)discovering your inner horse girl at our museum.
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy (Book, 1992): A national bestseller and the first read in Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy, this book tells the story of a young John Grady Cole. At only sixteen, John—the last of a long line of Texas ranchers—embarks on a journey to Mexico with an old friend and some trusty horses.
C’era una volta il West / Once Upon a Time in the West (Film, 1968): This epic spaghetti western (western movies made in Italy during the 1960s and 1970s) stars Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, and Claudia Cardinale and is a story of wealth—and how far people will go to get it. Conflict over unsettled land brings greed to the forefront, leaves a father and his children dead and his bride widowed, and creates a trail of violence that leaves no character untouched. In 2009, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. | Available on Amazon Prime.
How the West Was Won (Film, 1962): Starring John Wayne and Debbie Reynolds, this film spans several decades of the Prescott family’s westward expansion during the nineteenth century.
True Grit (Film, 2010): An adaptation of the 1968 novel of the same name, this 2012 remake of an old classic follows a teenage farm girl, a trigger-happy law enforcement officer, and a Texas Ranger on a dangerous adventure to avenge wrongs. | Available on Netflix and Amazon Prime.
How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang (Book, 2020): The 2020 debut by C Pam Zhang tells the story of Chinese American immigrants arriving in the United States during the Gold Rush. With their dad dead and mom gone, newly orphaned immigrants Lucy and Sam must survive the West on their own, deepening sibling ties and making memories along the way. The novel was longlisted for the Booker Prize, won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature for Adult Fiction, and was Barack Obama’s 2020 Book of the Year.
Huck Out West by Robert Coover (Book, 2017): One of several novels to imagine the lives of Mark Twain’s greatest characters after The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, this book explores a scenario where Tom decides to return to civilization and Huck doesn’t, leaving him lonely in a country of “bandits, war parties, and gold.”
No Country for Old Men (Film, 2007): A neo-western crime thriller based on the 2005 novel of the same name, this beloved film follows three main characters: Llewelyn Moss (a hunter and welder who stumbles across two million dollars left over from a drug deal gone wrong), Anton Chigurh (a killer desperate to find the missing money), and Ed Tom Bell (the sheriff responsible for the investigation). This epic film chronicles what happens when the three cross paths. | Available on Hulu and Amazon Prime.
The Sisters Brothers (Film, 2018): The year is 1851 and Charlie and Eli Sisters find themselves on a journey through the Northwest. Based on the 2011 novel of the same name, this movie follows the adventure that leads them to the mountains of Oregon, a dangerous brothel in the small town of Mayfield, and eventually, the Gold Rush land of California. | Available on Hulu.
All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone by John J. Jacobson (Book, 2009): In this adventure story and debut novel from John J. Jacobson, Lincoln Smith—a young Texan and son of a famous Ranger—thinks of himself as the last true cowboy. Longing for the days of the Old West, he joins the French Foreign Legion, which lands him in a number of strange situations with unfamiliar characters.
Concrete Cowboy (Film, 2021): A 2021 Netflix original based on Greg Nori’s novel Ghetto Cowboy, this film follows a rebellious Black teen (Stranger Things’s Caleb McLaughlin) as he spends the summer with his estranged father (Idris Elba) and his tight-knit community of Philadelphian Black cowboys. | Available on Netflix.
The Harder They Fall (Film, 2021): In this Netflix original, with an all-star cast (including Idris Elba, LaKeith Stanfield, and Regina King), an outlaw discovers his enemy is being released from prison and he reunites with his old gang as a result. | Available on Netflix.
Wild Wild West (Film, 1999): Starring Will Smith and Kevin Kline, this 1999 action western film follows two Secret Service agents who are brought on board when President Ulysses S. Grant learns that inventor Arliss Loveless is planning to kill him. Though dysfunctional together, the two manage to close in on Loveless with the help of a mysterious stranger (played by Salma Hayek). | Available on Peacock and Amazon Prime.
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (Film, 2002): This animated western film by DreamWorks chronicles the adventures of a wild mustang as he journeys through the untamed American frontier. Along the way, he develops a friendship with another confident young horse and falls in love with a beautiful mare named Rain. | Available on Peacock and Amazon Prime.
Rango (Film, 2011): A chameleon (Johnny Depp) who has lived as a sheltered family pet finds himself in the grip of an identity crisis. When he accidentally winds up in a frontier town called Dirt, he takes the first step on a transformational journey as the town’s new sheriff. Though at first Rango only role-plays, a series of outrageous encounters forces him to become a real hero. | Available on Amazon Prime.
Black Beauty (Film, 2020): Adapted from the 1877 novel of the same name, this film follows a beautiful wild horse who is captured and brought to Birtwick Stables and forms a strong bond with a spirited teenager named Jo Forge. | Watch on Disney+.
Secretariat (Film, 2010): Based on the true story of champion racehorse Secretariat, this biographical sports drama follows an inexperienced Penny Chenery as she takes over the family farm and fosters a gifted colt that ultimately makes history as the Triple Crown winner in 1973. | Watch on Disney+.
The Power of Horses runs through May 8, 2022 at the History Colorado Center.