The Electric Horseman

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
The Electric Horseman Movie Poster Image
Warmhearted romance with an anti-corporate perspective.
  • PG
  • 1979
  • 122 minutes

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

Positive Messages

This film stresses the value of a single individual standing up for what he or she believes in. It also illustrates that people can redeem themselves by performing good deeds and being unselfish. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Both leading characters travel a great distance in this film: he starts from a place of self-destructive unhappiness, she from driving ambition and soullessness. As the story unfolds each develops a righteous moral center, the courage to stand up for justice, and an ability to create a meaningful personal relationship. Corporate villains are one-dimensional: greedy, manipulative, and amoral.


Sole action sequence is a lengthy chase in which police on motorcycles and in sedans try to capture a man on horseback. The vehicles are upended, crash, run off the road; no one is hurt. The hero surprises a stalking woman and pushes her to the ground; she slaps him.


Romantic kisses and embraces as two characters fall in love. An assumption can be made that the two have had sex off camera. Some skimpy and low-cut clothing in scenes set in Las Vegas.


Occasional swearing includes: "s--t," "hell," "damn," "for Christ's sake," "son-of-a-bitch," and "ass."


Caesar's Palace, Tioga RVs, Kellogg's, Kenworth truck.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

At the film's opening, Sonny Steele is a reckless alcoholic: falling, slurring his words, misbehaving, always drunk. Early scenes take place in Las Vegas and there's much on-camera alcohol consumption, as well as smoking. The leading female character uses sleeping pills. In addition, a central part of the story concerns a horse who has been mistreated with heavy steroid and tranquilizer use.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that early in The Electric Horseman the leading character is a self-destructive alcoholic who slurs his words, falls, and barely functions, though he eventually cleans up. The other leading character has insomnia and uses sleeping pills. There is one exaggerated police chase with cars and motorcycles crashing, flying through the air, even exploding, but no injuries. Romantic scenes are limited to warm kissing and embracing and an assumption that the two lovers have had sex off-camera.

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What's the story?

Sonny Steele (Robert Redford) was once a world-renowned rodeo cowboy, but he's now the spokesperson and "logo" for a breakfast cereal -- beholden to greedy corporate types and to his own self-destructive alcoholism. Dressed in a comical electric cowboy suit, he makes rodeo appearances and sales pitches while riding on Rising Star, a famous thoroughbred stallion. When he learns that the horse is being mistreated, Sonny snaps and instinctively (and literally) makes a run for it -- galloping out of a Las Vegas casino and into the surrounding desert to save Rising Star. He's tracked by Hallie Martin (Jane Fonda), an ambitious newspaper reporter who will do almost anything for a great story. Despite law enforcement close behind and Hallie complicating things as she does her best to get her headline, Sonny is determined to get the stallion to safety.

Is it any good?

Redford and Fonda, along with Rising Star, light up the screen in this very romantic movie with a purpose. It is commercialism, an intrusive media, and corporate bad guys versus a lone cowboy on the prairie accompanied by a beautiful horse, a woman in transformation, and the music of Willie Nelson.

Made in 1979, the one-note business baddies are corny and the quest is far-fetched, but the message is clear, the story is accessible, and the romance and resolution are delightfully uplifting.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the characters changed over the course of the movie. What were their tipping points? What would the movie have been like if neither character transformed?

  • Different movies reveal a variety of attitudes about alcohol and drug abuse. What point of view do these filmmakers' seem to be expressing about the issue? How does this film show the effects of alcohol and drugs on both Sonny and Rising Star?

  • How would you handle being given orders that you didn't think were fair?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance

Themes & Topics

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