Ride Like a Girl

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Short takes

Not suitable under 10, Parental guidance to 13 (Coarse language, Adult themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Ride Like a Girl
  • a review of Ride Like a Girl completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 26 September 2019.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 10 Not suitable due to coarse language and adult themes.
Children aged 10–13 Parental guidance recommended due to coarse language and adult themes.
Children over the age of 13 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Ride Like a Girl
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes and coarse language
Length: 98 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Ride Like a Girl is the true story of Michelle Payne (Teresa Palmer) and her tumultuous journey from childhood on a farm near Ballarat, Victoria, to being the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup – horse racing’s toughest two-mile race. The youngest of 10 children, Michelle is raised by her father Paddy (Sam Neill) who lost his wife in a car accident when Michelle was six months old. Michelle follows in her siblings’ footsteps and leaves school at 15 to become a jockey. Pursuing her dream to the ‘big smoke’, Michelle faces the harsh reality of sexism in the sport of horse-racing and struggles to find a horse owner to take a chance on her. After early failures she manages to find her feet with the support of her brother, Stevie Payne (played by himself) who has down syndrome. A family tragedy and her own near fatal horse fall makes Michelle reconsider her dreams and face the decision on whether to give up horse racing. However, against all medical advice and protests from her siblings but with the support and love of her dad and brother Stevie, Michelle meets the Prince of Penzance and gets back on a horse again. Overcoming impossible odds and a suspension for careless riding, Michelle is given an opportunity to ride in the 2015 Melbourne Cup. With the chances of 100 to 1, alongside her brother and strapper Stevie, Michelle defies the odds and makes history as a trailblazer for women in sport.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Death of a parent; Death; Excessive exercise and calorie restriction; Sexism

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Siblings throw bread rolls at each other at the dinner table.
  • Siblings grab a young girl’s hair after she ate the Christmas pudding and refuses to do her chores.
  • Father forces his son’s injured ankle into his riding boot and the son winces in pain.
  • Father kicks over a chair in the hospital after hearing that his daughter is in a coma.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Michelle is thrown from her horse after finishing a race, forcing her head to hit the ground and her horse to fall. Her horse gets back up but Michelle is taken to hospital.
  • Ambulance attendants race to help Michelle after her fall and a commentator is heard saying she is unresponsive. Michelle is seen in a comatose state and is hooked up to a breathing apparatus and an IV to keep her stable. The doctor tells her family that she has bleeding in her brain and damage to her frontal lobe.
  • A male jockey is thrown from his horse during a race and Michelle is charged for careless riding as a result.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • A narrator mentions that Michelle’s mother died in a car accident when she was six months old.
  • Michelle is told that her sister Brigid had a fall. The next scene cuts to her funeral. Her father is heard speaking and her family are shown visibly distressed by the accident and loss of their sister.
  • After Michelle wakes up from her coma, she is unable to speak or read. She slowly regains mobility and her memory. She appears visibly distressed as she cannot spell her own name.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Siblings receive news that their father has had a heart attack.
  • Stevie, Michelle’s brother with down syndrome, asks Michelle what will happen to him if their father dies. She answers that she will take care of him. He then asks what happens if she dies? Michelle becomes visually upset as she realises the importance of her presence in Stevie’s life.
  • Writing across the screen reads “16 broken bones later”, highlighting the dangerous side of horse racing.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Coke Zero and Berocca mentioned as what Michelle had for breakfast before the Melbourne Cup.
  • TAB is shown in many locations on the day of the Melbourne Cup to show people placing bets on the horse race.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Michelle asks a male horse owner if he will let her have a ride on one of his horses, and he replies with, “that depends on whether you give me one”.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • A newly engaged and later married couple are seen kissing.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Family members drink alcohol at a wedding.
  • Alcohol is drunk after a race as a celebratory drink.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • “Go get stuffed”
  • “I’m going to dig up mum” – young Michelle says after an argument with her siblings, saying her mum would stand up for her if she was alive.
  • “shut up”
  • “bloody idiot”
  • “dingbat”
  • “they know stuff all”
  • “welcome home stinky”
  • Child farts during church service and his siblings laugh.
  • Michelle in a post-race interview tells her critics to “get stuffed”.

In a nutshell

Directed by Rachel Griffiths, Ride Like a Girl is a heart-warming movie that encapsulates the phrase, “if you fall off, get back on the horse”. Stevie Payne who has down syndrome and plays himself in the movie is a standout, his comedic moments, hard work, and compassion shine in the movie. Importantly, the movie does not shy away from the controversies and allows the audience to uncover the dangerous side of horse racing. Suitable for a family with older children/teens.

The main messages from this movie are that women can do or be anything if they never give up, and the importance of family.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Perseverance
  • Resilience
  • Faith
  • Importance of community and family

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Sexism. Michelle is shown throughout the movie being told by men that she is not good enough or should go back to where she belongs. Men often make sexual jokes at her expense and it impacts her mental health. Families could also discuss the importance of women in sport.
  • The dangerous side of being a jockey including keeping a low weight. In the movie, the school nun thinks Michelle has bulimia as she leaves class frequently during the day. Her father responds with, “I’ll take it you’ve never been a jockey”. Later in the movie, Michelle loses 3 kilograms in one week to meet weight for an upcoming weight. She drastically reduces her food consumption such as only eating an orange for dinner and wraps herself in glad wrap and garbage bags and turns the heat up in her car to lose any water weight. This may be confronting for younger viewers and parental guidance is advised to discuss the pressure to meet weight for jockeys.