Held yearly for centuries, the Ocean of Fire--a 3,000 mile survival race across the Arabian desert--was a challenge restricted to the finest Arabian horses ever bred, the purest and noblest lines, owned by the greatest royal families. In 1890, a wealthy sheik invited an American, Frank T. Hopkins, and his horse to enter the race for the first time. During the course of his career, Hopkins was a cowboy and dispatch rider for the U.S. cavalry--and had once been billed as the greatest rider the West had ever known. The Sheik puts his claim to the test, pitting the American cowboy and his mustang, Hidalgo, against the world's greatest Arabian horses and Bedouin riders--some of whom are determined to prevent a foreigner from finishing the race. For Frank, the Ocean of Fire becomes not only a matter of pride and honor, but a race for his very survival as he and his horse attempt the impossible.
Frank T. Hopkins, a cowboy working in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show is troubled by the events he saw at Wounded Knee and by the way the Indians are treated in the show. Billed as the world's greatest endurance rider, an Arabian sheik challenges the title and the rider to come ride in a great race across the desert. Once there he becomes embroiled in political intrigue - a desert prince is trying to seize the sheik's breeding secrets to the great Arabian horses. Also an Englishwoman is trying to win the rights to breed one of her thoroughbred with the great Arabian champion. Hidalgo is the small, mixed breed horse that Hopkins rides and is a metaphor for Hopkins himself who is a half-breed born to a Lakota Indian woman, but has hid it from most everyone. If you take the film on surface value, it is a fun film; however the political overtones can be overweighing. It clearly offers cowboys and Arabs (nee Indians). The sheik's daughter wants her freedom and exposes her face to the cowboy. Then there are gaping plot holes - it is amazing how many Arabs, including a lowly goat herder do speak English. Nevertheless, if you want to suspend your belief and can overlook the political implications of the movie, it can be a fun ride. Contains considerable violence, both in a depiction of the massacre at Wounded Knee and later killings during the Arabian adventure. There is one particularly grueling event involving an injury to Hidalgo.
Frank Hopkins was a rider for the Army, who was at the Wounded Knee Massacre, which would haunt him for life and he copes by turning to the bottle. He joins Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, and is billed as the greatest horseman and his horse, Hidalgo is billed as the greatest horse in the world because of the countless races he has won. But an Arab questions that claim because they have not competed in a race like the Oceans of Fire which is very grueling. Hopkins decides to join it. So he travels to the Middle East to enter and has several rivals and there are those who don't want him to win. And Frank gets to face some of the demons that plague him.
In 1890, a down-and-out cowboy and his horse travel to Arabia to compete in a deadly cross desert horse race.
- The movie starts off with a Frank Hopkins and his horse, Hidalgo, running a long distance race; they catch up to a snooty 'gentleman', race him, and beat him. Frank is having a victory drink in the saloon when a young army officer gives him orders to take to a high officer who is watching an Indian reservation, Wounded Knee. Frank gets there, sees the Indians, but just takes the orders to the officer. The orders are to take the weapons away from the Indians and pretty much get them to fight so they can be shot. Hidalgo turns Frank back towards the reservation when he hears gunfire and when he gets there, every Indian is dead.
Eight months pass and Frank and Hidalgo are apart of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Frank's a drunk who is introduced as the "Hero of Wounded Knee". At one point, Frank is asked by one of the Indians in the show to help him save the mustangs because the army wants to kill them all since they aren't pure bred and since they are wild.
After one show an Arabian man named Aziz and a British gentleman talk to Bill about his claim that Hidalgo is the greatest horse alive. Aziz's boss (Omar Sharif), the sheik, wants this claim to not be used anymore as he thinks his horse is the greatest. They offer Frank a challenge to race across the Arabian dessert to prove that Hidalgo is better. After some words of wisdom from Annie Oakley, Frank and Hidalgo set off for the Middle East.
On the ship they encounter Lady Anne Davenport, who says that her mare has to win the race so she can win breeding rights to the Sheik's stallion.
They arrive in the Middle East and Frank gets a servant who's punishment for stealing milk is to serve the "cowboy" during the race. The race begins with everyone racing like a bat out of hell, then they all slow down to a walk, and they walk, and they walk. Everyone keeps telling Frank that he should drop out. At one point a rider and his horse fall down a dune and the rider is forced to stab his horse. The rider riding the sheik's horse tells Frank it's against the rules to help his fellow riders. The sheik's rider gets to the first stop in first place and pays the persons guarding the well to not give Frank any water. When Frank gets there he is told there is no water to which he makes a comment about a group of soldiers guarding a dry well. He steals the water after trapping the guards under their tent. Soon after, a sand storm hits so he and Hidalgo have to take shelter in a ruin city.
Their water is now filled with sand. They finally reach the half way point, which entails a days rest. During this time, Lady Davenport offers 30% of the winnings if he pulls out of the race. He tells Hidalgo this and that's the end of that. Same night, Frank goes back to his tent to find the sheik's only daughter there; she tells Frank a few tips to keep him and his horse alive. While she's in there, her bodyguard named Jaffa and Aziz come in and think she's been naughty with Frank. As punishment he's cuffed to a pole and is told 'he'll have the same thing happen to him as what happens to stallions when they aren't useful for breeding'. Bout this time, raiders attack the camp and so Frank is trying to fend off the man who's trying to cut off his parts while everyone else minus Aziz is fighting. Aziz steals the sheik's book on how he breeds his horses. Frank finally is freed by the sheik's daughter who's eventually kidnapped while everyone is still fighting. The sheik and Frank figure out that Aziz knows where she and the book are so Frank beats it out of him. She's with the sheik's nephew who wants the sheik's horse. Frank, Aziz, and Jaffa take a horse to the nephew's city. After the trade is made, the nephew sees black on his hands after he pets the horse, wrong horse. They flee, but not before Jaffa is shot by Aziz who then is shot by Jaffa before he can kill her. Back at camp, the sheik thanks Frank. The race continues.
Lady Davenport and her group are traveling when they are "attacked" by the nephew. She tells the nephew to steal the sheik's horse, kill Hidalgo, and leave Frank to die in the desert so her mare can win the race. The nephew and his group chase Hidalgo and the sheik's horse. The sheik's horse gets away from them, but Hidalgo and Frank fall into a pit where Hidalgo gets a spear to the top of the leg, Frank cuts it out. He's then saved by a rider, who helps him get Hidalgo up. The nephew has a pair of cheetahs released and they attack. Hidalgo and the other rider's horse try to stomp them out of the way; Hidalgo succeeds. The other rider is then killed by the nephew, who turns his attention to Frank. They fight and it ends up with the nephew standing on one of his own traps. Frank gets his lasso out and ropes one of the spears that sticks up causing the nephew to fall in and be speared.
Hidalgo is about dead and Frank's about to shoot him when 'ghost warriors' appear. The sheik's rider mocks him, then Hidalgo gets all better. Lady Davenport's horse is well in the lead; the sheik's horse gains, with Frank in the back. He soon passes the mare and heads for the sheik's horse. Frank and Hidalgo win and literally head for the beach which is a few yards away.
The sheik's daughter and Frank talk, Frank and the sheik talk.
Some time later...
The army has a bunch of mustangs in a corral where they will be shot. Frank shows up and hands the officer an order that says to release all the horses cause they've been paid for. Frank used his winnings to buy them and set them free, keeping his promise to help his Indian friend from the beginning of the movie. Frank lets Hidalgo go free to run with the wild mustangs.