By Randy White,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Stirring teen movie has adult themes, antisemitic bullying.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Integrity is important -- stay true to yourself and your values. Ignorance and cowardice often breed bigotry. With privilege can come power, as well as pressure. It's important to do the right thing. Cheating doesn't pay.
Positive Role Models
David shows strong values and integrity, choosing his friend over the coach's instructions a number of times during a football game, praying on Rosh Hashanah even though it gets him in trouble, and abiding by an honor code that means he takes the blame for another student's cheating. He's pressured to hide his religion and not speak out against others' prejudice, but he also gets into occasional fights standing up for himself. Other students are openly antisemitic, though some question the extent of these beliefs and where they come from toward the end, choosing to see the person beyond the religion, while others maintain and act upon their bigoted views.
Cast is mainly White men and boys, with female character purely as love interest. Film strongly advocates for freedom of religion, but the antisemitic views and language throughout -- including phrases like "I Jewed him down" to refer to bargaining, a swastika painted above Jewish character's bed, plus slurs like "hebe," "kike," and "sheeny" -- may be difficult to watch. The main Jewish character is a well-rounded positive role model. (He's played by Brendan Fraser, who isn't Jewish.) The "N" word is used by a bullying character who says, "He must be half ("N" word) -- he can really dance."
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Violence & Scariness
Fistfight turns into a brawl, including punches to the face, blood, hitting, kicking, and antisemitic verbal aggression, such as shouts of "get the Jew." Other physical tussles. Character jokingly says: "I'll use this razor to cut my throat." Teen is shown in distress on the floor and referred to as having a "nervous breakdown." Passing mention of suicide by hanging.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Occasional sexual references. Kiss on the cheek. Full nudity from behind while teen boys are showering.
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Frequent language includes "bastard," "s--t," "holy s--t," "bulls--t," "pr--k," "cretin," "ass," "a--hole," "pissed," "hell," "butt," "son of a bitch," "t-t," "c--k," "screw you," "jerk," "runt," "goddamn," and "Jesus" as an exclamation. Antisemitic language includes "sheeny bastard," "hebe," "kike," "fink," and "dirty Jew." The "N" word is also used.
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Products & Purchases
Greyhound bus branding shown.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens and adults smoke cigarettes. Adults drink with dinner, and underage teens drink at a bar. Passing mention of a drinking problem, though not in reference to a main character.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that School Ties is an early 1990s drama set in the 1950s about a Jewish teen (Brendan Fraser) who gets a football scholarship to an elite boys' prep school. He is a good role model in showing integrity in the face of others' bigotry and bad behavior. The cast also includes well-known names like Matt Damon, Chris O'Donnell, and Ben Affleck. Antisemitism is expressed by both adults and youngsters. Most older kids will understand that the movie aims to communicate how wrong this behavior is, but parents may want to discuss the topic further. There's smoking and a scene involving underage drinking, occasional sexual references, and a kiss on the lips and full nudity from behind during a boys' shower scene. Frequent strong language includes "s--t," "ass," and "bitch," as well as racial slurs such as "hebe," "kike," and the "N" word. A teen has "a nervous breakdown" caused by a bad French grade and is seen in great distress laying on the floor. This drama has adult themes that may not be appropriate for children and younger teens.
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Based on 4 parent reviews
Racial slurs and more cursing than implied by review
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What's the Story?
Set in the 1950s, SCHOOL TIES centers on high school quarterback David Greene (Brendan Fraser), who's offered an amazing opportunity when he gets a scholarship to an upper-crust prep school. He makes a name for himself on the football field -- as well as plenty of new friends -- but he's forced to hide his Jewish identity to get by. Everything changes when envious classmate Charlie (Matt Damon) uncovers David's secret.
Is It Any Good?
This stirring movie has an important message about freedom of religion and fitting in, with bigotry exposed as a result of ignorance and cowardice. Fraser leads School Ties' superb cast, which also includes Damon, Chris O'Donnell, and Ben Affleck. If the movie has a weakness, it's in the recycling of some of the story elements. The movie feels similar to other prep school dramas from the same era (such as Dead Poets Society), in which the worldview of sheltered schoolboys is challenged. But to its credit, it's not a simple good vs. evil story. Characters are complex and nuanced, and the film tries to balance the antisemitic tag slapped on the prep school boys with an understanding of the tremendous pressure placed on them to become carbon copies of their parents. Although it may sympathize, the movie never excuses the boys' racist behavior.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the bigotry depicted in School Ties. Does the movie have any messages about bigoted behavior? Can you think of instances when it's questioned by the characters?
David shows integrity and strong personal values in the way he behaves. Why is integrity an important character trait? What values do you think he expresses? What values are important to you?
The movie shows the benefits and powers of privilege. What are some of the less positive aspects of privilege? Do you think it's a balanced representation?
- In theaters: September 18, 1992
- On DVD or streaming: August 13, 2001
- Cast: Brendan Fraser, Chris O'Donnell, Matt Damon
- Director: Robert Mandel
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, High School
- Character Strengths: Integrity
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: language
- Last updated: March 29, 2023
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