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Lincoln (2012) - Movie Review for Parents

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


Photo © DreamWorks Pictures

Bottom line: Lincoln is smart, riveting and unique view of a small but intense period of American history and Lincoln's presidency. The movie focuses on the political strife happening in congress, but some scenes of violent battle and a couple of scenes with images of disturbing carnage are shown.

MPAA Rating: PG-13, for an intense scene of war violence, some images of carnage and brief strong language
Genre: Biography/Drama
Age recommendation: 13+
Runtime: 127 minutes
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones
Studio: DreamWorks Pictures
Director: Steven Spielberg
Release Date: November 9, 2012 (limited, expands Nov. 16)
Release Date:

Lincoln - Overview

Lincoln depicts the final four months of Abraham Lincoln’s life and presidency. More specifically, how his wisdom and foresight allowed him to stay the course and move others in a contentious and passionate battle less bloody than the one raging on the battlefields, but of great and lasting importance: the battle in congress over passing the amendment to abolish slavery.

Through his insightful stories and his insight into human nature, Lincoln was able to convince many hearts and minds that slavery needed to end. But what about those whom he could not convince? Lincoln and other sympathetic political figures had to play a careful and heated political game in order to get the numbers to pass the amendment, and they also had to carefully navigate the line between right and wrong and all of the gray area in between.

Lincoln - Guide Review for Parents

Watching Lincoln, you truly get a sense of the laborious research and focus that went into making the movie. Most moviegoers wouldn't expect a historical film to be riveting, but Lincoln will have you on the edge of your seat; not with visual affects and action, like the usual edge-of-you-seat thriller, but with intellectual suspense and historically vital events which are gripping to see unfold.

Spielberg took great care to get the facts right, and more importantly, to the character of the man right. Lincoln depicts both Lincoln's family and political life, and portrays how deeply conflicted he was in some of his most important decisions, and how difficult it was for him to navigate the treacherous political waters both as president and as father and husband.

While this movie is incredibly well done and would certainly be a valuable film for older kids to see, there are some very disturbing battle scenes, and the intellectual nature of the film may be difficult for kids to follow. Most of the movie focuses on the political battle, but the few scenes that depict the war are difficult to watch. I highly recommend the movie for teens, but if you are at all concerned about how your child will handle the battle scenes, preview the movie first. I'm planning to take my 10-year-old to the film, and I know just the two scenes I will need to tell her to cover her eyes. She hates war violence, so she will have no problem doing that, and I think she will really enjoy the rest of the film. The movie has plenty of rich and deep historical and intellectual content for kids to discuss and write about.

Lincoln - Content Overview

*May contain spoilers.

  • Violence (Extreme): The scenes depicting Civil War violence are relatively few, but they are impactful. We see soldiers fighting, with a close-up of some soldiers killing others, kicking them, and drowning them. We also see a lot of terrible carnage in a scene where Lincoln slowly surveys a gruesome battlefield. One scene shows amputated limbs being disposed of, and a hospital scene shows badly injured soldiers.
  • Scary Scenes (Medium): Scenes listed under "violence" could be frightening for some viewers.
  • Language (High): Some profanity is used in the movie. Some racial slurs are also used during the course of arguing about slavery.
  • Disrespectful/Imitative Behavior (High): Characters in the movie argue with each other about the right to own slaves. In order to accomplish a greater good, some politicians resort to unethical means. Battle scenes depict soldiers fighting and killing each other.

  • Sad/Unsettling Scenes (Extreme): Lincoln has several conflicts within his family that weigh on his heart and mind. His wife is greatly troubled by the loss of their son. Some scenes depict families' grief over losing sons in the war.
  • Movie Topics Kids Might Have Questions About: war, leadership, politics, ethics, slavery
Disclosure: The studio provided a free screening of this movie for review purposes. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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