Hidalgo is an 1890s adventure yarn based loosely on the life of long-distance horse racer Frank T. Hopkins and his faithful companion, a sorrel-and-white Spanish mustang who looks like he just galloped off a Bev Doolittle painting. It’s also Viggo Mortensen’s first star turn since bursting into cultural consciousness in The Lord of the Rings. The screenplay was written by John Fusco, who also gave us Thunderheart and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.
Frank (part Sioux Indian, part white) experiences a crisis after rushing orders to American soldiers who proceed to massacre a peaceful group of Indians at Wounded Knee. Eight months later we see this drunken shell of a man riding for a wild west show. That’s where he’s challenged by a Bedouin sheikh to take part in the Ocean of Fire, a dangerous 3,000-mile race across the Arabian Desert. Frank rides his steed Hidalgo through blistering heat and sandstorms against the finest-bred stallions in the East, pausing only to rescue the sheikh’s daughter from her villainous cousin and defend himself against scheming fellow riders.