A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Teaches historical lessons about American racism and all the laws and rules used to govern it. Also teaches about the small steps taken to break through the racial barrier and the bravery of the men and women who took those early steps. Viewers should be aware that there are several examples of systemic racism and overt bigotry (including slurs).
Positive Role Models
Though most of the men depicted are fictitious versions of real-life airmen, and the characters have many human flaws (e.g., vanity and pride), they're flat-out heroes, risking not only life and limb but also their very humanity to try to change an unfair system. They also succeed, saving lives and going down in history.
Written by Black and White men and directed by White director Robert Markowitz. Sheds light on a piece of American history that highlights systemic racism. Acknowledges the complexity of being a patriot as a Black man in the United States. Main characters are mostly Black men in complex roles who are given the space to be both flawed and heroic. Though the film is an inclusive story about barrier-breaking Black men, there's little other kinds of diversity (age, sexuality, disability, etc.), and women are barely present. Though it ends on an uplifting note, it does have a bit more nuance than many other Hollywood movies that show its characters "overcoming racism."
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Violence & Scariness
Plane crashes (mostly stock footage); many characters die, leaving their friends to grieve. Characters argue, use racist slurs, threaten one another. Blood appears -- sometimes spatters -- when pilots are shot, though open wounds are never shown.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One instance of innuendo: A character wonders whether he has lipstick on his collar.
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Language includes "s--t," "ass," "damn," "son of a bitch," "bastard," "hell," "d--k," "balls," "goddamn," and one exclamatory use of "God." White characters repeatedly call Black characters the "N" word and "boy." "Colored" is used as a neutral term by Black and White characters.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Many characters smoke cigarettes, cigars, and a pipe. Two pilots drink alcohol in one scene.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Tuskegee Airmen is a WWII-era drama based on the United States' first all-African American Air Forces squadron. Laurence Fishburne and Cuba Gooding Jr., are part of the film's majority-Black main cast. Characters navigate systemic racism and overt bigotry and go on to save the lives of American bombers, demonstrating courage, perseverance, and self-control all the while. Language includes White characters calling Black ones the "N" word and "boy," plus several instances of "s--t," "ass," "damn," "son of a bitch," and more. Planes crash, and characters die, sometimes with a bit of blood (but no open wounds are visible), and those left behind are shown grieving. Adults smoke often and drink occasionally. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Originally produced for cable, this drama smacks of a low budget, cutting corners and skimming through history. But The Tuskegee Airmen's director, Robert Markowitz, does the best with what he has, making excellent use of a strong cast and using real war footage to help illustrate the flying and battle sequences (and save money on visual effects).
The actors are the movie's best asset, filling in the blanks for what might have been, in a longer, deeper movie, strong characters. In only a few short scenes, heavyweights such as Fishburne, Gooding Jr., Courtney B. Vance, and Andre Braugher suggest deep desires and complicated lives lived. The result is undeniably rousing and ultimately moving. It's hard to deny the power of the true story and the effectiveness with which the movie tells it.
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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.
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Our Editors Recommend
Black History on the Screen: Science, Technology, Engineering & Math
Great Movies with Black Characters
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