The Black Stallion (1979)

black stallion poster 1979 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great looking movie

Marketed for kids but probably more enjoyable for adults

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Black Stallion

Studio: American Zoetrope

Genre(s): Drama/Family/Action/Adventure/Sports

Release Date(s): October 17, 1979

MPAA Rating: G

black stallion boat sinking

The Black told Alec that there wasn’t enough room on the door for him

An accident at sea leaves a young boy Alec Ramsey (Kelly Reno) stranded with an untamed stallion on an uninhabited island.  Befriending the horse, Alec and the horse form a unique bond that helps them survive.  When Alec is rescued, The Black finds himself in a scary new world, and The Black and Alec’s new friendship with a former trainer named Henry Dailey (Mickey Rooney) could mean the biggest race of their life.

Directed by Carroll Ballard, The Black Stallion is a family drama adventure.  The movie is based on the 1941 novel The Black Stallion by Walter Farley.  The movie was met with critical acclaim and nominated for Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor (Rooney) and Best Film Editing.  The film won a Special Achievement Academy Award for Sound Editing.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #765).

black stallion kelly reno cobra raiders of the lost ark

I liked the part where Alec found the Ark of the Covenant

I can remember my mom trying to get me to watch The Black Stallion as a kid and being bored out of my mind.  I never was that into horses, and the movie is largely an art house film in many ways…there is little dialogue for long stretches of the movie and much of the character development is mental instead of outwardly expressed…which doesn’t make it the most kid friendly movie.

I do recommend watching The Black Stallion as an adult.  A “horse kid” will enjoy it, but a lot of the film is subtle.  Alec’s father, his relationship with his mother, the ties to Mickey Rooney’s Henry, and Alec’s bond with the horse is deeper than a standard “kids’ movie”.  Where The Black Stallion does fall into kids’ territory is the conclusion of the film.  I honestly didn’t know how the film ended and kind of expected a darker ending due to the tone of the film throughout…but it ends up rosy and positive.  It is a bit too clean.

black stallion running on beach kelly reno

He doesn’t get riding on the horse will be faster…

The cast is good.  Kelly Reno has a lot on his shoulders essentially carrying the movie for most of the runtime.  He has a great supporting cast in Mickey Rooney and Terry Garr.  Clarence Muse (who broke a lot of barriers in film) has a small role in the movie, and unfortunately, Hoyt Axton (who can be fun in films) is cut short.

The movie really excels in the cinematography and sound.  The film looks great.  From the sinking of the ship, to the glorious island, to rainy night race tracks, to a major race, the visuals give a lot to the film, and the soundtrack was provided by Francis Ford Coppola’s father Carmine Coppola.

black stallion mickey rooney kelly reno horse

Kid…You better win or I’ll turn your horse into glue

The Black Stallion might be marketed as a film for children, but it is far more challenging than most films.  It raises the question of what is a “family film” since adults will probably enjoy it more than kids.  The movie deals with a lot of emotions (death, loss, fear, etc.), and it doesn’t go through the motions of explaining them and playing them out for the viewers.  This is fine for adults, but not all kids will take the film that well and tolerating the film’s pacing (unfortunately) is also unlikely…but that doesn’t necessarily mean a change in the times.  Kids will be kids, and The Black Stallion might be tough for many in the long run.  The Black Stallion was followed by The Black Stallion Returns in 1983 and a TV series The Adventures of the Black Stallion (1990-1993).

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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