Black Stallion, The (1979)

Black Stallion, The (1979)

“Alec, that Black is a desert horse. He’s fast, alright.”

After his father (Hoyt Axton) is killed during a shipwreck fire, a young boy (Kelly Reno) and a black stallion survive on a deserted island together. Once Alec (Reno) returns home to his widowed mother (Teri Garr), he befriends a retired horse trainer (Mickey Rooney) who agrees to help Alec prepare “The Black” for a race.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Deserted Island
  • Friendship
  • Horses
  • Mickey Rooney Films
  • Pets
  • Teri Garr Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary writes, this “Carroll Ballard film, co-produced by Francis Ford Coppola,” is “actually two stories: the first is magical and mystical and the second is familiar but lyrical.” He notes that the first “deals with the boy’s courtship of the stallion, beginning on the ship and continuing on the island,” with the boy having “gained the horse’s trust and affection” by “the time they are rescued.”

He adds, “In Story Two, which is filmed entirely differently, the boy returns to small-town America, and, with the help of trainer Mickey Rooney” — giving “a sincere, offbeat performance” — “prepares the black stallion for a long race in which he’ll be the jockey.”

Peary notes that he “much prefer[s] the island scenes,” though he concedes “the slow pace may put some kids to sleep.” He concludes his review by writing that this movie “has some of the most beautiful outdoor photography in film history,” with “scenes of the boy learning to ride the horse on sand and on water linger[ing] in [one’s] memory.”

I’m in agreement with Peary’s assessment. This film is indeed gorgeously shot (by DP Caleb Deschanel) and contains some truly memorable imagery; and while the second half isn’t quite as engaging, it does provide a happy “resolution” of sorts. Viewers of all ages — and especially horse lovers — will find something to enjoy in this classic flick, which was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2002 as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Note: As Peary points out, the “horse is gorgeous.”

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Caleb Deschanel’s cinematography
  • Mickey Rooney as Henry Dailey
  • Reno’s natural performance as Alec
  • Fine period detail
  • Carmine Coppola’s score

Must See?
Yes, as a beloved classic.


  • Genuine Classic


One thought on “Black Stallion, The (1979)

  1. (Rewatch – 1/26/21) A once-must – as a solid genre film in its own right but something that an FF can watch with his / her budding FF kids. And for Deschanel’s camerawork.

    Reportedly, this film was shelved for awhile since the studio balked at Ballard making what was called “an art film for kids”. But what’s wrong with that?! I’m not even a big fan of horse / horse-racing flicks, but this one is special.

    The horse (Cass Ole) and Reno are terrific together, Rooney lends fine support and Garr and Axton register well in too-small roles. FF Coppola’s dad Carmine contributed a fine score and, yes, the photography is stunning.

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