A water-retaining curtain (WRC) has become a useful facility in selective withdrawal and sedimentation control, but the force analysis of a curved curtain is still lacking. Based on flume experimental tests and numerical simulations, this paper analyzes the variation laws of pressure difference and thrust of WRC. The results show that under the uniform inflow condition, the distribution of pressure difference on the WRC is relatively even, and the maximum value is located at the upper part of the curtain. When arc length–height ratio increases, the location of maximum pressure difference gets lower. In addition, the variation law of thrust of WRC conforms to the classical resistance equation. The drag coefficient is found to fit a power function of the water-retaining ratio, a second-degree polynomial function of arc length–height ratio, and linear function of inclination ratio. The results also yield a simplified forecasting formula of thrust of WRC which is proposed and verified using flume simulations and a real reservoir model test. The newly developed formula systematically considers the water-retaining height, arc length and inclination degree, providing a rapid and accurate algorithm to predict the thrust, and lays a theoretical foundation for practical application.