A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The story takes place before Abraham Lincoln became a career politician and was practicing law. During the story he takes on a tremendous challenge, even though the odds are against him, because he believes it's the right thing to do. With a clear, calm demeanor he succeeds. Underscores the idea of American justice and fairness.
Positive Role Models
There's hardly a better role model than old Abraham Lincoln, here made into an appealingly wise, cunning, funny character. He shows empathy and courage, wisdom and kindness. He's shown to be a man of the people, associating with just about everyone. He does have a slight mean streak from time to time, which manifests itself in the face of hypocrisy, but it's possible to overlook this in the face of all the other great attributes.
Violence & Scariness
In a key scene, we see a fistfight that results in a man's death. A gunshot is heard and bloody knife is found at the scene. This stuff is mostly shown artfully, or at a distance. Otherwise, an angry mob attempts and fails to lynch the murder suspects. A couple of bullies are seen picking on a family from out of town. There's a lot of talk about "hanging" the accused murderers. Minor characters die, and characters sometimes talk about death. Characters occasionally argue and threaten one another.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some minor flirting, and dancing.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Several minor characters are shown to be falling-down drunk. Drinking directly leads to the killing at the center of the plot. One of the jurors at the trial is a comical drunk; he brings his own jug to court and hiccups from time to time.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Young Mr. Lincoln -- a 1939 classic directed by John Ford -- has some violence, centered around a murder, as well as some talk of "hanging," some arguing and threats, and images of an angry mob. Rather than a bloated, boring biopic, this one shows the future American president only as a young man, trying to find his way in life, and Henry Fonda portrays Lincoln as a thoughtful, kind, canny, and funny fellow, with the tiniest hint of a mean streak whenever faced with hypocrisy or unfairness. Minor characters are seen drinking to excess. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
In 1939, John Ford was already a master and had won the first of his four Best Director Oscars; this film is a perfect, smooth combination of all of Ford's favorite themes. He seamlessly works in patriotism, myth, broad humor, dancing, and a love of history, as well as his unerring, poetic visual sense. Just witness the scene in which Lincoln (a terrific Henry Fonda, wearing a prosthetic nose and chin) arrives at the scene of the crime. He's framed from the back, a still, solid, black silhouette in the center of the commotion.
All of these moments of humor, beauty, sadness, and suspense, are perfectly smoothed and balanced into one streamlined experience; everything belongs (even the fictional and non-fictional fits together). It would have been easy to treat Lincoln with too much reverence, but Ford and screenwriter Lamar Trotti find a middle place for him, comfortable dealing with the uneducated and simple folks as well as those in positions of power. He comes across as a complex and appealingly human character, suffering regular pains and making regular decisions.
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.