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Secretariat: Movie Review

Hannah Goodwyn


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Being recognized on ESPN’s 100 Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century list (at No. 35) is just one of the honors Secretariat has garnered since his Triple Crown win in 1973. His remarkable rise to horseracing fame is now chronicled in a feature film starring Diane Lane and John Malkovich.

An inspiring film about an incredible moment in sports history, Secretariat gives the back-story with particular interest in owner Penny Chenery Tweedy. This drama goes beyond the race track, setting up Penny’s courageous story with Christian elements sprinkled throughout (including a narrated scripture reading).


Penny Chenery Tweedy (Lane) knew little about horse-racing. But when her ailing father's ranch was in jeopardy, she set her housewife and mother duties aside and became the driving force behind reestablishing Meadow Stables’ spot in the race to breed a winner. Despite her critics, Tweedy enters the male-dominated sport and, with the help of veteran trainer Lucien Laurin (Malkovich), brings an underdog racer to the national spotlight.


Directed by Randall Wallace, the writer of Braveheart, Pearl Harbor, and We Were Soldiers, Secretariat is an incredibly powerful story about courage and perseverance. Its engaging story evokes a sense of joy, the same feelings Tweedy must have felt while watching her "Big Red" run. Secretariat also is strong for its beautiful cinematography captured by Oscar winner Dean Semler (Dances with Wolves). The authentic action shots Semler gets on the race track are particularly good.

Embodying the spirit of Penny Chenery is actress Diane Lane (Under the Tuscan Sun, The Perfect Storm). Her confident portrayal of the housewife/mom turned race horse owner is notable. There’s depth in each acted moment, the highs and lows of this drama, that gives life to the piece, and makes you care about this pioneering woman and her remarkable horse. Acting alongside Diane Lane is John Malkovich (In the Line of Fire, Man in the Iron Mask – also a Randall Wallace work). In the role of Lucien Laurin, Secretariat’s French Canadian trainer, Malkovich brings comedic relief while still conveying dramatic strength.

Every good movie needs to tell a compelling story, and that is only enhanced by a solid script. Secretariat wins big in this respect. Screenwriter Mike Rich is to thank for that. He’s no stranger to writing quality family films. His writing resume includes The Nativity Story, Radio, The Rookie, and Finding Forrester. Basing his script off of author William Nack’s Secretariat: The Making of a Champion, Rich perfectly captures the horse's life, trails, and Triple Crown win. The decision to add biblical scripture from the Book of Job perfectly encompasses the passion of the animal and the spirit of this winner's story.

Rated PG for brief mild language, Secretariat is appropriate for most ages. Gambling is referenced in the film; however, it's secondary to Penny and Secretariat's triumphant tale.


Though many may consider Tobey Maguire's Seabiscuit (2003) as the preeminent horse-racing film, Secretariat beats it by lengths. Regardless if it has the same box office success, it's the kind of movie that makes you care about the lives up on screen. By the end, you'll be cheering this underdog to victory along with the Kentucky Derby crowd.

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About The Author


Hannah Goodwyn served as a Senior Producer for, managing and writing for the award-winning website. After her undergraduate studies at Christopher Newport University, Hannah went on to study Journalism at the graduate level. In 2005, she graduated summa cum laude with her Master's from Regent University and was honored with an Outstanding Student Award. From there, Hannah began work as a content producer for For ten years, she acted as the managing producer for the website's Family and Entertainment sections. A movie buff, Hannah felt right at home working as's