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War Horse (2011) - Movie Review for Parents

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating
User Rating 3.5 Star Rating (11 Reviews)


War Horse
Photo © DreamWorks

Bottom line: War Horse is a live action film based on the popular novel. The movie is beautifully filmed and follows the poignant story closely, but parents should know the movie contains intense war violence throughout.

MPAA Rating: PG-13, for intense sequences of war violence
Guide age recommendation: 13+
Genre: Drama
Starring: Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup, Tom Hiddleston
Studio: DreamWorks Pictures
Director: Steven Spielberg
Release Date: December 25, 2011

War Horse - Overview

When a drunken competitive streak inspires Ted Narracott to bid high enough to win a thoroughbred horse, it seems the hasty choice may mean ruin for his family. His wife Rosie laments that they will surely lose their small English farm, but their son, Albert, names the horse Joey and forms a fast bond with the horse, determining to train him to work the fields as a work horse so the family can be saved. Against the odds, Albert and Joey succeed. But, WWI has finally reached their tiny town, and Ted sells Joey to the army. From there, we follow the story of Joey as he winds his way through countrysides and battlefields, meeting many people and seeing many places along the way.

As the mount of a kind-hearted British cavalry officer, Joey is treated well. But before long he finds himself enduring harsh conditions on the German side of the line. Joey touches the lives of many as the cruel war rages on around him. Throughout the crushing trials, Joey finds solice in kind souls and in his best friend, a black steed named Topthorn. Despite loss and hardship of the sorest kind, Joey proves himself a hero and changes hearts along the way.

War HorsePhoto © DreamWorks Pictures

War Horse - Guide Review for Parents

War Horse is based on a kids/young adult novel by Michael Morpurgo. The story of a remarkable horse and his experience with people and soldiers from countries on both sides of the battle reveals the humanity, and lack thereof, that exists among people no matter which side they fight on. The intellectual story has a lot of heart and a subtle anti-war message delivered through the eyes of a brave horse who is at the mercy of the decisions of the man. While the movie follows the book closely, the film seems to focus more on the war and images of battle and less on the relationships and horses.

The film is stunning to watch and powerful both in the beautiful imagery and the candid and harsh images of the battlefield. The poignant messages of bravery, loyalty and love are delivered through the movie, but I wish there had been a little more emphasis on the horses and and the bonds they forge and less emphasis on the horrifying battles going on around. But, that perspective is coming from a mom who has no great love for war-themed movies. Regardless, the movie is targeted at a higher age group than the book and could be very disturbing to young children. Even teens who are sensitive to violence may find this movie is too much for them. However, teens interested in learning about WWI and those who are not disturbed by war violence will find this to be a touching, thought provoking and even somewhat educational story.

War violence is heavy throughout the movie. We see soldiers shot, stabbed, gassed and more. However, there is very little blood and gore. Some kids and teens may also be disturbed by the harsh treatment of the horses in some scenes, and by the devastating injuries they sustain. While these scenes can be hard to watch, these were the realities that existed during the war, so the treatment of the animals is a thoughtful theme in the film and allows for great discussion topics both about the war and about how the treatment of animals reflects upon us in general.

Again, parents should know that this film is loud, violent and often disturbing, although there is very little blood and gore. However, for families with older kids who are not too unsettled by war violence, the film can spark meaningful conversations and is a thoughtful and educational experience.

War Horse - Content Overview

*May contain spoilers.

  • Violence (Extreme): This movie contains heavy war violence throughout. We see soldiers shot, stabbed and more in views from on the battlefield and in the trenches. Very little blood and gore is shown. We also see horses mistreated and the wounds and scars from their abuse. Due to the war violence including gun shots and different types of explosions, the movie is also very loud in some parts. The level of violence could be very disturbing to kids.
  • Scary Scenes (High): Scenes listed under "violence" could be very scary and unsettling for kids. The main character horses, soldiers and others are often in perilous situations being shot at and more.
  • Sex/Nudity (None)
  • Drugs and Alcohol (Medium) Ted is a drunk and is shown drinking. A few others in the movie are shown drinking.
  • Language (Low): The words "hell" and "damn" are used.
  • Disrespectful/Imitative Behavior (High): Ted drinks a lot and makes a poor decision to keep bidding on a horse the family cannot afford. Some characters mock or are condescending to others. Many scenes of war and battle may be tempting for kids to imitate.

  • Sad/Unsettling Scenes (Extreme): Soldiers are scared while in battle and sad to see their comrades die. Some tense family moments arise when Ted buys the horse, and also when he gets angry and threatens to shoot or otherwise hurt the horse. A grandfather speaks of the loss of his granddaughter.
  • Movie Topics Kids Might Have Questions About: war, animal cruelty, how much animals can understand and communicate, auctions, drinking, farming
Disclosure: The studio provided a free screening of this movie for review purposes. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 5 out of 5
Awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, Member kaylabo

Once you read and watch this story you will get the crying and it's so sad and you want to touch the character and say I feel you it so sad

2 out of 4 people found this helpful.

See all 11 reviews

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