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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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?
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?
- In theaters: October 17, 1979
- On DVD or streaming: May 1, 2001
- Cast: Kelly Reno, Mickey Rooney, Teri Garr
- Director: Carroll Ballard
- Studio: MGM/UA
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters, Friendship, Horses and Farm Animals
- Character strengths: Courage, Perseverance
- Run time: 118 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
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