All the Pretty Horses (film)

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All the Pretty Horses
All the Pretty Horses Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBilly Bob Thornton
Screenplay byTed Tally
Based onAll the Pretty Horses
by Cormac McCarthy
Produced by
  • Robert Salerno
  • Billy Bob Thornton
CinematographyBarry Markowitz
Edited bySally Menke
Music by
Distributed byMiramax Films[2][1] (United States)
Columbia Pictures[3] (International; through Columbia TriStar Film Distributors International[4])
Release date
  • December 25, 2000 (2000-12-25)
Running time
117 minutes[3]
CountryUnited States
  • English
  • Spanish
Budget$57 million[2]
Box office$18.1 million[2]

All the Pretty Horses is a 2000 American Western film produced and directed by Billy Bob Thornton, based on Cormac McCarthy's novel of the same name, and starring Matt Damon and Penélope Cruz. It premiered on December 25, 2000 to mostly negative reviews. It grossed $18 million worldwide on a $57 million budget.


In 1949 young cowboy John Grady Cole is rendered homeless after his family's ranch is sold. He asks his best friend Lacey Rawlins to leave his family ranch in San Angelo, Texas and join him to travel on horseback to cross the border 150 miles south, to seek work in Mexico. They encounter a peculiar boy named Jimmy Blevins on the trail to Mexico, whom they befriend but from whom they then separate. Later on, they meet a young aristocrat's daughter, Alejandra Villarreal, with whom Cole falls in love.

Cole and Rawlins become hired hands for Alejandra's father, who likes their work, but Cole's romantic interest in Alejandra is not welcomed by her wealthy aunt. After Alejandra's father takes her away, Cole and Rawlins are arrested by Mexican police and taken to prison, where they visit Blevins, who has been accused of stealing a horse and of murder, and is killed by a corrupt police captain. Cole and Rawlins are sent to a Mexican prison for abetting Blevins' crimes, where they must defend themselves against dangerous inmates. The pair are both nearly killed.

Alejandra's aunt frees Cole and Rawlins, on the condition that she never sees them again. While Rawlins returns to his parents' ranch in Texas, Cole attempts to reunite with Alejandra over her family's objections. Her aunt is confident that Alejandra will keep her word and not get back together with Cole–so much so that she even gives Cole her niece's phone number. Cole urges Alejandra to come to Texas with him. She, however, decides she must keep her word and though she loves him, she will not go with him.

Cole sets out to get revenge on the captain who took Blevins' life, as well as to get back his, Lacey's and Blevins' horses. After making the captain his prisoner, he turns him over to a group of Mexican men, including one with whom Cole had previously shared a cell when they were imprisoned by the captain. Cole is spared the decision to kill the captain, but it is implied the men to whom the captain was turned over will do that.

Returning to the United States and riding through a small town in Texas, stringing two horses behind the one he is riding, he stops to inquire what day it is. It is Thanksgiving. He asks a couple of men if they would be interested in buying a rifle, as he needs the money. One is a sheriff's deputy and arrests him because all three horses have different brands, and they suspect Cole is a horse thief.

In court, Cole tells the judge his story from the beginning. The judge believes him and orders Cole freed and the horses returned to him. Later that evening, Cole shows up at the judge's home, troubled. The judge had said good things about him in court, but Cole feels guilty that Blevins was killed, although there was nothing he could have done to prevent his death. He is upset with himself for not having spoken up at the time. The judge tells him he is being too hard on himself and it could not have been helped; he must go on and live his life. Cole rides to Rawlins' family's ranch, where he returns his friend's horse.



All the Pretty Horses was filmed in New Mexico and Texas.[citation needed] The version that Thornton presented to Miramax was over three hours long. Harvey Weinstein demanded that the film be cut down to under two hours and also put aside the original musical score by Daniel Lanois, having Marty Stuart replace it.[5]

Peter Biskind suggests in his book Down and Dirty Pictures (2004)[6] that the demand to cut the length of the film was at least partially done as payback for Thornton's refusal to cut Sling Blade (1996). Thornton's cut had an effect on the storytelling. Damon publicly criticized Weinstein's decision, saying to Entertainment Weekly, "You can't cut 35% of the movie and expect it to be the same movie."[citation needed] In an interview with Playboy, Damon expressed his displeasure with the changes, saying, "Everybody who worked on All the Pretty Horses took so much time and cared so much. As you know, the Cormac McCarthy book is set in 1949 and is about a guy trying to hold on to his old way of life. The electric guitar became popular in 1949, and the composer Daniel Lanois got an old 1949 guitar and wrote this spare, haunting score. We did the movie listening to his score. It informed everything we did. We made this very dark, spare movie, but the studio wanted an epic with big emotions and violins. They saw the cast, the director, Billy Bob Thornton, and the fact that we spent $50 million, and they never released our movie—though the cut still exists. Billy had a heart problem at that time, and it was because his heart fucking broke from fighting for that film. It really fucked him up. It still bothers me to this day."[5] The idea of releasing the Thornton cut of the film is complicated by the fact that Lanois owned the rights to his score and has so far refused to license it.[5]

Critical response[edit]

Reviews were generally negative, criticizing it as a poor adaptation of the novel and a dramatically un-involving film. It currently holds a 32% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 100 reviews. The site's consensus states: "This adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel comes off as rather flat and uninvolving. Scenes feel rushed and done in shorthand, and the romance between Damon and Cruz has no sparks."[7]

Entertainment Weekly critic Lisa Schwarzbaum said: "Faced with a choice of blunt instruments with which to beat a good book into a bad movie, director Billy Bob Thornton chooses heavy, random, arty imagery and a leaden pace."[8] The New York Times reviewer A. O. Scott thought the film "as slick and superficial as a Marlboro advertisement".[9]

Roger Ebert disagreed, awarding the film three-and-a-half stars out of a possible four.[10]




  1. ^ a b "All the Pretty Horses (2000)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved February 22, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c "All the Pretty Horses (2000)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 24, 2009.
  3. ^ a b "All the Pretty Horses (15)". British Board of Film Classification. February 20, 2001. Retrieved November 30, 2016.
  4. ^ "Film #15229: All the Pretty Horses". Lumiere. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c Kevin Jagernauth (December 19, 2012). "Matt Damon Says Original Cut Of 'All Of The Pretty Horses' With Daniel Lanois Score Still Exists". The Playlist. Archived from the original on February 3, 2016. Retrieved January 30, 2016.
  6. ^ Biskind, Peter (2004). Down and Dirty Pictures. ISBN 9780684862583.
  7. ^ "All the Pretty Horses Movie". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on February 9, 2010. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
  8. ^ "All the Pretty Horses". Entertainment Weekly. December 22, 2000. Archived from the original on December 14, 2007. Retrieved January 22, 2010.
  9. ^ Scott, A. O. (December 25, 2000). "All the Pretty Horses". The New York Times. Retrieved November 25, 2010.
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 22, 2000). "All the Pretty Horses Review". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved November 25, 2010.

External links[edit]