Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
1776 Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Engaging historical musical has some bawdy humor, language.
  • G
  • 1972
  • 166 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 7 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Stands out for positive role models.

Positive Messages

What this movie shows is that our Founding Fathers could be just as bitterly divided and prone to human error and weakness as anyone else. Movie shows the impact of individuals well-known and relatively obscure in America's declaration of independence from England, and how history is far more colorful than the dry facts and figures so often presented in text books. 

Positive Role Models

The Founding Fathers are not deified in this movie as fault-free geniuses sent from on high, but are instead presented as flawed human beings who, despite their various imperfections and vices, unite to, at the risk of their lives, declare independence from England and to begin to create a government in which the people rule instead of royalty. 


A rifle shot. A cantankerous debate in the Continental Congress turns into a physical altercation. 


Surprisingly bawdy jokes throughout. Jefferson openly expresses his sexual yearnings for his wife to Adams and Franklin -- such yearnings are preventing him from concentrating on writing the Declaration of Independence. Adams counters with his own sexual yearnings for his wife, and that he's still as virile as ever at 41. Franklin makes a joke that at his age, "the pen is mightier than the sword." Reports come back to the Continental Congress of how the militia in New Jersey are sleeping with prostitutes and have contracted venereal disease. 


"Son of a bitch." "Hell." "Ass." "Dammit." "Christ." "Goddamn." While lamenting that he hasn't seen his wife in six months, Jefferson tells Adams, "I burn," and Adams counters with his own sexual yearnings for his wife. In reference to virility, Franklin makes a joke that at his age, "the pen is mightier than the sword." Bawdy comparison between an ox and a bull. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some of the founding fathers drink rum or express the desire to drink rum throughout the movie. Reference to the drunkenness of the militiamen in New Jersey. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that 1776 is a 1972 musical about the Founding Fathers in the Continental Congress in Philadelphia debating whether to remain as colonists or to break from England. Those used to more ponderous and dramatic presentations of our Founding Fathers as sanctimonious orators prone to dramatic proclamations of the glories of democracy might be surprised by the humor and outright bawdiness in some of the scenes. For instance, Thomas Jefferson tells John Adams and Benjamin Franklin that he has writer's block and can't come up with anything for the Declaration of Independence because he "burns" for his wife, who he has not seen in six months. Adams expresses similar yearnings, and Franklin then makes a joke about how at his age it's best to stick to writing because "the pen is mightier than the sword." A letter to the Continental Congress from George Washington reports on the general drunkenness of militia in New Jersey, and how their demand for prostitutes is greater than the supply of prostitutes in New Jersey, and that many have contracted venereal disease. Another Founding Father is constantly talking about or drinking rum while the Congress is in session. There is mild profanity, such as "son of a bitch," and "hell." This musical brings the Founding Fathers back down to earth and humanizes them, and shows that they could be just as divided, just as prone to good and evil, just as irrational temper, as any of us, especially the politicians of this or any other age. Teamwork, courage, and integrity are emphasized.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byosu_dad October 4, 2014

Can get a bit baudy...

The story is a bit wordy and slow moving, so younger kids may not follow the story well. There's not a lot of action per se, but it is very interesting to... Continue reading
Adult Written bycole thornton April 9, 2008

Education and fun also

Excellant film of the Continental congress and the fight to get the independence approved and the Declaration of independence passed. A very accurate reproduct... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byThe Hannah Claire March 7, 2012


I love this movie. You can follow when you are a kid but there are some parts in there that kids might not understand but aren't quite appropriate. There i... Continue reading

What's the story?

1776 is a musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The courage, the strategy, the dream of freedom, and even the tragic compromise on slavery are all there.

Is it any good?

At least once a year, every American should watch this musical. The characters and the issues are vividly and frankly portrayed, and we see the founding fathers' faults as well as their virtues. If we didn't know how it all turned out, the suspense would be unbearable. Expect some bawdy references and mild cursing, but otherwise it's a great pick for a fun and educational movie night for older kids. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what they learned about our nation's history and the extraordinary people who shaped it. What characteristics do they find admirable? 

  • Did anything surprise you in how the Founding Fathers were portrayed in this musical? How is their portrayal different from common perceptions and beliefs? 

  • What are some other examples of historical events conveyed as musicals? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history

Character Strengths

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