Follow TV Tropes


Film / Seabiscuit

Go To

Seabiscuit is a 2003 film about the racehorse of the same name.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adapted Out: Many aspects of the true story were removed to better focus the film's story arc. Among the things that were changed: Charles Howard had multiple children, Howard maintained a stable full of racehorses and jockeys, Red fell in love with, and married, the nurse who cared for him after he broke his leg. Red, prior to breaking his leg, also suffered another serious fall where his chest was crushed and had to spend many months convalescing.
  • Arc Words: Take a shot every time Howard, or someone in his presence, uses the words "The future!" More subtly: "You don't throw a whole life away just 'cause it got banged up a little."
  • Armor-Piercing Question: After Red blows Seabiscuit's first race by losing focus after another jockey cuts him off, he stubbornly and angrily defends his position by constantly asking, "What was I supposed to do?!" Howard goes quiet, then gently asks him, "Son, what are you so mad at?" Red is then forced to confront his repressed rage at being abandoned by his parents, and he's much happier for it for the rest of the movie.
  • Advertisement:
  • Artistic License – History: Also fitting in with "Adapted Out" is the real-life background of Red Pollard. The film depicts him as having grown up in an affluent family that lost its fortune in the Great Depression, forcing him to leave to seek his fortune in racing. The real-life Pollards lost their fortune in 1915, long before the Depression, when their brickyard in Edmonton was destroyed in a flood.
  • Big Eater: Red has a hearty appetite and enjoys heaping helpings once he realizes that Howard actually wants him to eat.
  • Birds of a Feather: Red Pollard and Seabiscuit. Two used and abused misfits who are angry at the world for how its mistreated them, now out to show the world what they can accomplish.
  • David vs. Goliath:
    • Seabiscuit was the David to War Admiral's Goliath.
    • Not just to War Admiral. Seabiscuit was never expected to amount to anything, he was even forced to lose to build the confidence of other horses.
      • Though physically this is Artistic License on the part of the filmmakers. In reality, and in Laura Hillenbrand's original book, War Admiral was a short solid bay—in other words not unlike his closely-bred cousin Seabiscuit, but with a lighter frame.
      • It is also urban legend that Biscuit was held back to give other horses ego trips. A racehorse trainer (especially one as good as Jim Fitzsimmons) would never sabotage one owner's horse to benefit another, that's how you lose clients and your reputation. Biscuit lost races and trained poorly because he was sour and refused to cooperate.
  • Advertisement:
  • End of an Age: The Wild West being fenced off and cattle herding falling out of favor due to the rapid transport of the steam engine is what forces Tom Smith to give up his idyllic cowboy lifestyle to become a horse trainer, eventually leading him to Charles C. Howard and Seabiscuit.
  • Fiery Redhead: Red can be brash and impulsive. At the start of the movie, he has clear rage issues that eventually subside. Doesn't make him any less fiery, however.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Bet War Admiral's trainer wishes he'd taken their offer for a match race back when they were still green, rather than waiting till Seabiscuit had become a nation-wide phenomenon with enough victories under his hooves to break the Admiral completely.
  • The Great Depression: The Stock Market crashing is what sets off the plot.
  • It's All My Fault: Implied for Charles regarding his son's death. In the film, Charles pressures his young son to drive down to the lake to go fishing instead of staying home reading. His son initially declines, but eventually does so to make him happy, then ends up in a fatal accident. Charles cannot be thinking anything but this as he cradles his son's lifeless body.
  • Like a Son to Me: Charles comes to love Red like a son and continues to support him even in the wake of a serious injury. Eventually, Charles becomes more preoccupied with keeping Red safe than winning races.
  • May–December Romance: Marcela falls for Charles, who is around twenty years older than her.
  • Meaningful Echo: "You don't throw a whole life away just 'cause it got banged up a bit." First said by Tom Smith to Charles Howard to explain why he saved the live of a race horse with a bum leg just because he can't race anymore, later said by Charles to Tom to explain why they should give Red another chance, even though he lied to them about being completely blind in his right eye.
  • Mood Whiplash: Red is growing up in an affluent household while elsewhere, Charles C. Howard celebrates his rags-to-riches success with friends. Then the Stock Market Crashes.
  • New Technology Is Evil: While not evil per se, the film likes to show how the popularity of bicycles and automobiles just cannot match the enrichment that working with horses bring to people's lives. For instance, Howard's investment in automotive manufacturing leads to his downfall when the Stock Market crashes, and leads to the death of his son when the kid goes out driving in a truck, whereas investing in horse racing with Seabiscuit gives him the will to live again.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Charles Howard's son dies in a truck crash. It's the final straw that breaks the back of his already strained first marriage, sets him into a deep depression, and causes him to give up bicycles and automobiles in favor of horses again.
  • Parental Abandonment: Red's career starts when his parents, who are broke and unable to support all their children, abandon him to a small-time horse trainer. The reality was less harsh, as Red stayed in touch with his parents and helped them financially once riding Seabiscuit began to pay off.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Played up in the film, though certainly true by traditional horseracing standards. Charles C. Howard even uses this to get good press.
    Howard (laughing): I don't know what's worse! Our horse is too small, our jockey's too big, our trainer's too old, and I'm too dumb to know the difference!
  • Reality Is Unrealistic/Moody Mount: Interviews with some of the crew reveal that they actually toned down the real Seabiscuit's bad behavior, which is well documented, out of fear the audience would think they made it up for the movie and/or for laughs.
  • Team Dad: Charles C. Howard has bits of this, especially to Red Pollard, as does Tom Smith. Howard also has bits of Team Mom as well.
  • Team Mom: Charles Howard and Marcela both play this part.
  • The Day the Music Lied: During the historic match race against War Admiral, Seabiscuit jumps out to an early lead. After a while, though, he begins to slow, accompanied by mournful music, allowing War Admiral to catch up. But Seabiscuit slowing was a Batman Gambit on the part of his jockey, George Woolf, and (injured) regular jockey, Red Pollard, who knew that the horse would push himself harder if the other horse was matching his speed. It worked, and Seabiscuit won. This was, as Hillenbrand's book described, Truth in Television (well, except for the music).
  • Slobs vs. Snobs: Seabiscuit and his trainers (from the rough and rugged Western horse racing style) versus War Admiral and his trainers (from the clean and pristine Eastern horse racing tradition).
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Refreshingly averted. The film takes artistic liberties here and there, especially to make the characters look more sympathetic (see Reality Is Unrealistic/Moody Mount above), but for the most part it stays true to life. If anything, they downplayed some of the fantastic events of the real story!
  • Weight Woe: Very much Played for Drama, as Red and the other jockeys have eating disorders forced on them by their employers to keep them at the ideal weight for riding. Part of the reason Red warms to Howard is that Howard lets him eat.


Example of: