The film is adapted by Melissa Mathison, Jeanne Rosenberg and William D. Wittliff. It is directed by Carroll Ballard. The movie stars Kelly Reno, Mickey Rooney, Teri Garr, Hoyt Axton, and the Arabian horse Cass Ole. The film features music by Carmine Coppola, the father of Hollywood producer Francis Ford Coppola, who was the executive producer of the film.
Alec Ramsey is aboard the steamer Drake off the coast of North Africa, where he sees a wild black stallion being forced into a makeshift stable and heavily restrained by ropes leading to his halter. Captivated by the horse, Alec later sneaks to the horse 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 and shoves the boy away.
Later in his bunk, Alec's father shows Alec his winnings from a card game and gives him a pocket knife and a small statue of Bucephalus, and tells the story of how Alexander the Great became Bucephalus' master. Later that night, Alec is thrown out of his bunk; the ship has started to capsize. In the chaos, Alec grabs his knife and his Bucephalus statue, and makes his way to the black stallion and manages to free him. The stallion then jumps into the sea. Alec himself is swept overboard by a gigantic wave. Once in the water, he swims toward the stallion and managed to grab hold of the ropes of the stallion's restraints.
Alec wakes on the shore of a deserted island and starts to explore. He finds the stallion caught in his restraints with the ropes stuck between the rocks. With his knife, Alec manages to free the stallion once again and the stallion runs away. For a time, the two keep their distance. Alec discovers means to survive by catching fish and seaweed. As Alec suddenly faces a cobra eye to eye, the Black comes to the rescue and kills the snake, only to run off again.
By now, Alec decides to try to get closer to the horse and offer him some seaweed. The hungry stallion finds himself unable to resist, but visibly struggles with his distrust for humans. Eventually, the hunger wins and he takes Alec's offer; their bond has been sealed and the two are now inseparable. Alec even manages to ride the unbroken horse, after many times falling off the horse. One day, a fishing ship arrives, rescuing both Alec and the stallion.
Back home, Alec is given a hero's welcome. The Black has a temporary home in Alec's backyard, but a garbage man not knowing that there is a wild horse in the backyard is chased by the Black, who races off down the street after being spooked by a passing car. Alec chases after him through every part of town, but loses track of him. The next day, Alec meets Snoe (and Napoleon) who tell him where the Black is. Alec finds the stallion in the barn of Henry Dailey, a retired racehorse jockey, who apparently spent all night catching the Black. Alec arranges for the Black to stay at the barn.
When Alec wonders how fast the Black is, Alec 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 immediately starts plotting to get the Black into a match race between two of the country's current champions, to be held at Santa Anita, California. To do that, he sets up a secret demonstration at night where the press can witness his speed, keeping the identity of Alec and the Black secret. The news about the mystery horse is soon widespread and the Black is entered into the race.
The race is the most anticipated horse-racing event of the year. Before the two champions and the Black enter the starting gate, the Black gets into a fight with one of his opponents, wounding his leg. Alec does not see the wound until he is in the gate. As he dismounts, the bell rings and the horses take off. Alec desperately tries to stay on his horse and trying to stop him. He falls behind, but the Black won't stop. When Alec regains his balance, the Black is well on his way to catch up with his opponents. Alec now encourages the Black to run as fast as he can, remembering the wild rides on the island, as they catch up. The Black eventually wins by two lengths.Kelly Reno as Alec Ramsay
Mickey Rooney as Henry Dailey
Teri Garr as Mrs. Ramsay, Alec's mother
Hoyt Axton as Mr. Ramsay, Alec's father
Clarence Muse as Snoe
Michael Higgins as Jim Neville
Ed McNamara as Jake
Doghmi Larbi as Arab
John Burton as Jockey No. 1
John Buchanan as Jockey No. 2
Kristen Vigard as Becky
Fausto Tozzi as Rescue Captain
John Karlsen as Archeologist
Leopoldo Trieste as Priest
Frank Cousins as African Chieftain
Don Hudson as Zaurog
Marne Maitland as Drake Captain
Tom Dahlgren as Veterinarian
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 in order to secure El Mokhtar's services.
Napoleon was portrayed by Junior, who previously appeared in National Lampoon's Animal House as Trooper, Niedermeyer's horse.
The film received two nominations for the Academy Awards:Mickey Rooney was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
Robert Dalva was nominated for Best Film Editing.
In addition, Alan Splet was awarded with a Special Achievement Award for sound editing.
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.
Caleb Deschanel was nominated for Best Cinematography by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards.
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" .
2001: AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills – Nominated
2005: AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores – Nominated
2006: AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers – #64
Also, the film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
The film was followed in 1983 by a sequel, The Black Stallion Returns, which also starred Reno. 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.