12 Strong

Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
12 Strong Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Good cast in violent, patriotic, fact-based war movie.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 130 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 11 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 8 reviews

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Some of the Taliban's worst aspects (like violent suppression of female education) are decried. Movie's tone is clearly patriotic, but complexities of war are also hinted at: the emotional cost of taking a life, even in war, and the possibly hopeless circumstances of American involvement in Afghanistan. That helps it rise above any tendencies to de-humanize the enemy. Themes include teamwork, compassion, and communication.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Soldiers are courageous and behave reasonably. They don't use slurs to describe enemies, and they show concern at times for individual Afghani people. 


Pervasive war violence, including dismembered body parts and gore. Disturbing, execution-style killing of a woman who's been severely beaten. Weapons include machine guns and rocket launchers.


Nothing shown, but there are a few references to sex (e.g., in one instance, a husband says to his wife, "Just the tip?").


Language is frequent and includes variants of "f--k," "s--t," "hell," "ass," "goddamn," "bitch," and "Jesus Christ," as well as occasional sexual references.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Brief scene of an Afghani warlord drinking vodka. Cigarette smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that 12 Strong may star Marvel hero Chris "Thor" Hemsworth, but it's not appropriate for the Avengers' younger fans. This is a violent war movie about U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan right after the 9/11 attacks. Expect some disturbing scenes -- such as the execution of a helpless woman who's been severely beaten -- as well as dismembered body parts and gore. There's also brief drinking and smoking, frequent strong language ("f--k," "s--t," and more), and a couple of sexual references. But it also offers themes of communication, compassion, and teamwork and looks beyond surface patriotism to the complexities of war, such as the emotional cost of taking a life.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAsdfghjkl1 March 13, 2019
Adult Written byWar Movie Lover August 2, 2020

For sure very good

R: intense disturbing sequences of war violence, strong language and bloody images
Teen, 13 years old Written byPhoenix45266 March 10, 2021


Half the time CSM doesn't know what they are talking about. this is fine. i watched it when i was 8 and it became one of my favorite movies. it is a little... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old May 1, 2020


First of all, just let me say it was a great movie, but, it was incredibly violent. Guns, bombs, And blood galore. 12 strong even has a scene where a woman is s... Continue reading

What's the story?

In 12 STRONG, a Special Forces unit of 12 Americans (including soldiers played by Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña, and Travante Rhodes of Moonlight) is sent to Afghanistan shortly after 9/11 to assist a Northern Alliance general (Naveed Negahban). The team's overarching objective is to help take a Taliban stronghold city. To do so, they must overcome initial distrust between them and the general and navigate difficult country in which horses are the most practical form of travel. The unit's adventure is based on the now-declassified true story of the "horse soldiers" who represented America's first military response to the 9/11 attacks. 

Is it any good?

This is a solid war movie that manages to be patriotic while at least scratching the surface of the complexities of American involvement in Afghanistan. The filmmakers behind 12 Strong make a good effort to establish what these soldiers have at stake at home, but the movie's focus is on the action and their experience in country, rather than on characterization. Luckily, the movie has a fine cast, led by Hemsworth and the always-excellent Shannon and Peña; they do enough to make us buy who they are. And Rhodes has a touching side story with an Afghan boy. The action is well-staged, and the story moves along at a good clip. We're always generally aware of the objectives and the dangers. 

It can be unsettling to watch stories "based on" real events, especially those involving war. In virtually any big-screen adaptation, events and characters must be compressed. But in war movies, people's lives and deaths are at issue. And in a story spurred by the 9/11 attacks, there's a particular danger of extreme patriotism and the devaluing of human life. Fortunately, 12 Strong avoids much of that peril by staying tightly focused on the unit's mission. It avoids painting the Americans as too saintly -- though you do have to wonder how the Afghans might feel about being painted as secondary in the battles, especially in the climactic one. And it avoids taking a condescending view of the Afghan people, while simultaneously depicting some of the horrors of the Taliban regime. The movie also hints at the likely overall futility of extended U.S. involvement, as when one Afghan essentially says, "You're our allies today; you're our enemies tomorrow." The incredible feat these particular soldiers helped accomplish is a tale that should be told, even if the movie version is more competent than truly absorbing. Still, the story is intriguing (modern American soldiers ride into battle on horseback against machine guns and rocket launchers), and the performances are strong. Just don't expect it to make a deeply lasting impression.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the messages that war movies like 12 Strong send. Is this a patriotic film? Does it make war seem "cool"? Does it make it clear that human beings die -- and kill -- in war? 

  • How accurate do you think this fact-based movie is? How could you find out more? Would it bother you if important details were changed or left out? Why do you think filmmakers might sometimes choose to tweak the facts?

  • How did the movie's violent scenes make you feel? Were they more or less upsetting than what you might see in a superhero/fantasy action movie? Why? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How does the movie show the importance of communication, compassion, and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love action

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

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