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The Electric Horseman

original movie poster
Directed by Sydney Pollack
Produced by Ray Stark
Written by Shelly Burton
Paul Gaer
Robert Garland (screenplay)
Starring Robert Redford
Jane Fonda
Valerie Perrine
John Saxon
Willie Nelson
Music by Dave Grusin
Cinematography Owen Roizman
Editing by Sheldon Kahn
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Universal Pictures
Rastar Films
Release date(s) December 21, 1979
Running time 120 min.
Language English

The Electric Horseman is a 1979 adventure and romance film starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda and directed by Sydney Pollack. It was the third time Redford and Fonda had starred together in a film, having previously teamed on The Chase (1966) and Barefoot in the Park (1967).[1]



Sonny Steele (Robert Redford) is a former championship rodeo rider who has sold out to a business conglomerate and is now reduced to making public appearances to sell a brand of breakfast cereal. Prior to making a Las Vegas promotional appearance to ride the champion thoroughbred Rising Star, Sonny discovers the horse has been drugged and is injured. Identifying with the plight of the horse and disillusioned with the present state of his life, Sonny decides to kidnap the animal and travel cross country in order to release it in a remote canyon where herds of wild horses live. Hallie Martin (Jane Fonda), a television reporter eager to be the first to break the Rising Star story, catches up with Sonny and follows him on his unusual quest across the countryside. While en route, the unlikely pair fall in love, all the while having to avoid the pursuing authorities.


The film was directed by Sydney Pollack, who had previously directed Redford in This Property Is Condemned (1966), Jeremiah Johnson (1972), The Way We Were (1973) and Three Days of the Condor (1975), and later in Out of Africa (1985) and Havana (1990). Pollack had also previously directed Fonda in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969).[2] With most of the action taking place outdoors, the movie was filmed on location in Nevada, Utah and Zion National Park.[3] The Electric Horseman is noted as being the debut acting performance of long-time country and western singer Willie Nelson, who plays the role of Wendell Hickson.[4] It was also only the second film performance of character actor Wilford Brimley, who would later team with Redford in The Natural (1984).[5]

Willie Nelson contributed significantly to the film's soundtrack, singing five songs including "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys", "Midnight Rider," "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," "So You Think You're a Cowboy" and "Hands on the Wheel."[6] Released on December 21, 1979, the film did strong box office business earning $30 million in the United States.[7][8] The film was nominated for an Academy Award in 1980 for Best Sound.[9] The Electric Horseman has since been released on VHS, Laserdisc and DVD.

The film was co-produced by Columbia Pictures and Universal Pictures, and distributed by Columbia in the U.S. and Universal overseas, though the U.S. rights would later revert to Universal.[10]


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