A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Though the outcome is not a happy one, this film proves that one individual speaking out and acting on behalf of a larger group is necessary, admirable, and may require great courage. High on the list of desirable traits portrayed are: taking risks for the safety of others, questioning authority, and providing unconditional love and support for people who are doing the right thing. On the negative side, corporate interests are not to be trusted, depicted as callous, unethical, and perhaps criminal. Additional themes include communication, curiosity, and perseverance.
Positive Role Models
Karen Silkwood, though unconventional and flawed, proves to be a newly enlightened woman who battles ignorance, corruption, exploitation of the work force, and the ruthlessness of the powerful. She is able to influence only a very few of her fearful, complacent, or unwilling co-workers, but she refuses to give up even when faced with great bodily harm. Karen is a stellar example of someone who has few resources at hand, but uses her intelligence, tenacity, and sense of justice to shake up an unfair, dangerous system. Union representatives are shown as cautious, patronizing, but finally helpful. Not a single member of the corporate hierarchy displays any positive behavior.
Violence & Scariness
Four separate sequences show women being "decontaminated" by undergoing painful, dehumanizing cleansing treatments: scouring, scrubbing, high pressure hosing. One unanswered punch is thrown. There are two car accidents: in one, a deer is hit and the occupant of the car is slightly injured; in the second, the tragic aftermath is shown briefly.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
In several romantic scenes, a man and woman in love engage in kissing, embracing, some foreplay, with one off-camera suggestion of oral sex. A teasing flash of female breast is played as humor. One leading character is involved in a lesbian relationship, but none of the couple's sexual activity is shown.
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Occasional language includes: "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "bulls--t," "motherf--ker," "Goddamn," "asshole," "pecker." Slurs used are: "dyke," "gook," and a negative reference to a "colored person."
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Products & Purchases
Coca Cola and Coors beer are frequently consumed to indicate lifestyle choices. Other brands mentioned or seen: ex-lax, Wonder Bread, Lone Star beer, Rice-a-Roni, American Airlines.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Set in the early 1970s multiple characters drink beer in scene after scene and smoke throughout. Three characters share a marijuana cigarette, and availability of pot is discussed.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that, above all, Silkwood is a very sad and disturbing movie about corporate greed and class difference that tells an inspirational story. There is occasional profanity: "f--k," "s--t," "asshole," "bitch," and more, as well as a few slurs: "dyke," "gook." Sexual scenes are presented as loving expressions of feeling and include kissing, embracing, and, except for one brief flash of breast, no nudity. Smoking and beer drinking are continuous and there is one scene in which characters share a marijuana cigarette. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
For adults and teens who are inspired by such thought-provoking and inspirational stories, this is a welcome and memorable viewing experience, though a disturbing and sad one as well. Never-resolved controversy surrounded the life and death of Karen Silkwood. Mike Nichols, along with a talented creative team, took highly sensitive material, uniformly moving performances, and issues that still resonate with the public, and delivered an outstanding and timeless motion picture.
For adults and teens who are inspired by such thought-provoking and inspirational stories, Silkwood is a welcome and memorable viewing experience, though a disturbing and sad one as well.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.