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The Black Stallion

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
The Black Stallion Movie Poster Image
Breathtakingly beautiful, magical classic is a must-see.
  • G
  • 1979
  • 118 minutes
Parents recommend

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 14 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 8 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Themes include courage and perseverance. The movie explores the deep bond that can develop between people and animals. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Alec is a brave boy who manages to survive after a shipwreck. He learns the importance of responsibility and patience when training the horse who helped save his life.

Violence & Scariness

The shipwreck scene is intense and may be upsetting to kids. A ship catches fire and takes on water. Passengers are shown panicking, and a man even takes a knife to a young boy and cuts off his life jacket. The boy's father shoves the man into fire. A boy is shown alone and scared in the shipwreck's aftermath, surviving alone on an island. 

Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters smoke cigarettes, cigars, and pipes (accurate for the era) and drink alcohol. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Black Stallion, based on the novel by Walter Farley, is about a young boy named Alec (Kelly Reno) who develops a deep bond with the horse who saved his life in the aftermath of the shipwreck that took his father's life. There's some violence and peril -- the shipwreck is shown in detail as passengers panic amid rising waters and out-of-control fires, and Alec's father shoves a man into a fire after he's caught trying to steal the boy's life jacket. Given how upsetting the shipwreck scene is, parents may want to skip that part and start when Alec lands safely on the beach. Characters smoke cigarettes, pipes, and cigars (accurate for the era the movie takes place in). Alec is a brave boy who manages to survive in harsh conditions and learns the importance of responsibility and patience. This is a beautiful movie for the whole family and one of the best horse-themed movies ever made. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bysarah_from_yale April 9, 2008
Parent of a 9 and 9 year old Written bykptown December 12, 2010

wonderful movie

A beautiful, moving film! The kids enjoyed it, but the storm at sea is very very dramatic and was scary for them. The boy disobeys and lies to his mom, which... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old April 20, 2010

Worth The Watch!!

Pretty Cool Horse Movie, in fact, I wish I could ride like that!!!!!! Story about a gorgeous Arab and a fantastic story about how an enthusiastic boy tries to t... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old September 12, 2011

Great Movie!

the ship sinking scene is really intense it even freaked me out about that but everything else is fine if you have someone who is 9 and under you should have p... Continue reading

What's the story?

As THE BLACK STALLION begins, a young boy named Alec Ramsey (Kelly Reno) is on a ship with his father. Everything seems mysterious to him: the exotic passengers, the high-stakes poker game his father is playing, the wild and beautiful black horse he comforts with sugar cubes. Then the ship is destroyed in a storm, and only Alec and the horse survive. Alec patiently and persistently tames the horse; eventually they're rescued and return to Alec's home. When the horse runs to a farm, Alec meets Henry (Mickey Rooney), a former trainer. They enter the horse in a race against two champions -- can he and Alec triumph?

Is it any good?

Walter Farley's novel was adapted by director Carroll Ballard and Francis Ford Coppola's studio into one of the most breathtakingly beautiful, genuinely magical movies ever made. Part of the magic is that the movie has the courage to be quiet. There's very little dialogue, and there are long stretches without a single word. This allows The Black Stallion's images to do the work, and the cinematography by Caleb Deschanel is a joy for the eye and the spirit, creating exactly the right atmosphere for what Pauline Kael said "may be the greatest children's movie ever made."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Black Stallion's more intense scenes. Are they more or less scary than explosive scenes in action/superhero movies? Why? Do different kinds of scary/violent scenes have different impact?

  • How does Alec demonstrate courage and perseverance? Why are those important character strengths?

  • For those who've read the Walter Farley novel the movie is based on, how do the two compare? Why do you think filmmakers sometimes make changes to book stories? Which do you usually like better -- the book or the movie?

  • The friendships in this movie aren't particularly traditional; can you think of other movies about unusual friendships? What do they have in common?

  • What's the importance of the story Alec's father tells about Alexander the Great and his horse? Why does the horse trust Alec? Why is it important for Alec to win the race? 

Movie details

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love horses

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