The Black Stallion (film)

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The Black Stallion
Theatrical release poster
Directed byCarroll Ballard
Screenplay by
Based onThe Black Stallion
1941 novel
by Walter Farley
Produced by
CinematographyCaleb Deschanel
Edited byRobert Dalva
Music byCarmine Coppola
Color processTechnicolor
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • October 17, 1979 (1979-10-17)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$2.7 million
Box office$37.8 million[1]

The Black Stallion is a 1979 American adventure film based on the 1941 classic children's novel of the same name by Walter Farley. The film starts in 1946, five years after the book was published. It tells the story of Alec Ramsey, a boy who is shipwrecked on a deserted island with a wild Arabian stallion that he befriends. After being rescued, they are set on entering a race challenging two champion horses.

The film is adapted by Melissa Mathison, Jeanne Rosenberg, and William D. Wittliff. It was directed by Carroll Ballard and stars Kelly Reno in his film debut, Teri Garr, Hoyt Axton, Michael Higgins and Mickey Rooney with the Arabian horse Cass Ole playing the eponymous Black Stallion. The film features music by Carmine Coppola, the father of Hollywood producer Francis Ford Coppola, who is credited as executive producer.

In 2002, The Black Stallion was included in the annual selection of 25 motion pictures for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[2][3]


In 1946, Alec Ramsey is travelling by steamer off the coast of North Africa, where he sees a wild black stallion being forced onto the boat. Captivated, Alec sneaks to the horse's stall to feed him some sugar cubes, but he is caught by the horse's supposed owner, who tells him in Arabic to stay away from Shetan.

Later, his father shows Alec his winnings from a card game and gives him a pocket knife and a small statue of Bucephalus, telling the story of how Alexander the Great became Bucephalus's master. Later that night, Alec is thrown out of his bunk during a storm. The ship is engulfed in flames and is sinking. In the chaos, Alec makes his way to the black stallion and frees him. The horse then jumps into the sea. Alec is thrown overboard by the waves and grabs the ropes of the stallion's restraints just as the ship explodes, rendering him unconscious.

Alec wakes on the shore of a deserted island and starts to explore. He finds the stallion caught in his restraints. With his knife, Alec frees the stallion again. As Alec suddenly faces a cobra, The Black kills the snake, only to run off.

Alec decides to get closer to the horse and offers him some seaweed. The hungry stallion finds himself unable to resist, and the two become inseparable. After many failed attempts, Alec rides the stallion, and they travel the beaches, united as one. One day, a fishing ship arrives, rescuing the two.

Back in America, Alec is given a hero's welcome. The Black has a temporary home in his back yard, but a garbage man startles the horse, who races off. The next day, Alec finds the stallion in the barn of Henry Dailey, a retired racehorse jockey. Alec arranges for The Black to stay at the barn.

When Alec wonders how fast the horse is, he and Henry decide to train The Black for the racetrack, while Henry teaches Alec how to be a jockey. The Black surprises Henry with his speed. Henry starts planning to get The Black into a match race between the country's current two champions. To do that, he sets up a secret demonstration at night where a prominent reporter can witness his speed. The news spreads about the mystery horse and The Black is entered into the race.

Before the horses enter the starting gate, The Black gets into a fight with one of his opponents, wounding his leg. Alec does not see the injury until he is in the gate. As he begins to dismount, the bell rings and the horses take off. Alec desperately stays on his horse while trying to stop him. He falls far behind, but The Black will not stop. Alec starts urging him to run, and The Black catches his opponents to win.



Cass Ole, a champion Arabian stallion, was featured in most of the movie's scenes, with Fae Jur, another black Arabian stallion, being his main double. Fae Jur's main scene is the one where Alec is trying to gain the trust of The Black on the beach. Two other stunt doubles were used for running, fighting, and swimming scenes.

El Mokhtar, an Egyptian Arabian racehorse, was the producers' first choice to portray The Black, but they were unable to secure his services for the film from his owners, who declined any offers. He does appear in The Black Stallion Returns, alongside Cass Ole, by which time the studio bought out the syndicate of owners to secure El Mokhtar's services.

Napoleon was portrayed by Junior, that previously appeared in National Lampoon's Animal House as Trooper, Niedermeyer's horse.[4]


The film was positively received by critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a 90% approval rating based on 31 reviews, with an average rating of 7.9/10.[5]

Awards and honors[edit]

Academy Awards[edit]

The film received two nominations for the Academy Awards:

In addition, Alan Splet was awarded with a Special Achievement Award for sound editing.

Golden Globe Awards[edit]

Carmine Coppola was nominated for Best Original Score at the Golden Globe Awards. He later won the award in this category for his score of Apocalypse Now.

British Academy Awards[edit]

Caleb Deschanel was nominated for Best Cinematography by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards.

LA Film Critics Awards[edit]

The film received two awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards for Best Cinematography (Caleb Deschanel) and Best Music (Carmine Coppola).


The film also won the 1979 National Society of Film Critics award for Best Cinematography.

In 2002, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[3]

Also, the film is recognized by American Film Institute:


In August 2009, Intrada Records released a three-disc special edition of the soundtrack containing the entire score from the film plus bonus material, including unused cues and alternate takes of some tracks as well as a restored re-issue of the original 1979 soundtrack album. This release was limited to 1,500 units.[7]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on RCA SelectaVision VideoDisc (CED) in 1981. The film was released on Laserdisc and VHS by Magnetic Video in 1985. It was re-issued on VHS as part of the MGM/UA Family Entertainment Collection in 1994 and the MGM Family Entertainment Collection in 1997. The film was released on DVD by MGM Home Entertainment in 2004 and re-issued in 2013. A restored print of the film was released on Blu-ray by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment in 2013. The Criterion Collection released a special edition of the film on DVD and Blu-ray in 2015. This release features a new 4K transfer supervised by Caleb Deschanel, five short films directed by Carroll Ballard, new interviews with Deschanel, Ballard, film critic Scott Foundas and photographer Mary Ellen Mark as well as an essay written by film critic Michael Sragow.[8]


The film was followed in 1983 by a sequel, The Black Stallion Returns, which also starred Alex Reno and Teri Garr. There was also a television series called The Adventures of the Black Stallion which aired from 1990 to 1993 and starred Mickey Rooney and Richard Ian Cox. In 2003, a 50-minute prequel called The Young Black Stallion, was shot and released for IMAX theaters.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Black Stallion, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  2. ^ "Complete National Film Registry Listing". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2020-05-20.
  3. ^ a b Cannady, Sheryl (2002-12-17). "Librarian of Congress Adds 25 Films to National Film Registry". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2017-02-04.
  4. ^ "Junior". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2011-02-02.
  5. ^ "The Black Stallion". Rotten Tomatoes.
  6. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-08-20.
  7. ^ "The Black Stallion Soundtrack (1979)". Retrieved 27 March 2022.
  8. ^ "The Black Stallion". The Criterion Collection. 14 July 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2022.
Further reading

External links[edit]