Above and Beyond

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Above and Beyond Movie Poster Image
Stirring docu about heroic WWII pilots who aided Israel.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 86 minutes

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Kids say

age 12+
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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Following your heart and conscience is satisfying and right. Historical actions have relevance over decades. Values true heroism; characters take great risks for a righteous cause.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Real-life interviewees exhibit courage, resourcefulness, strong values, and an early commitment to an important cause. As they tell their stories, their intelligence, perspective, and compassion are evident. Focuses on Jewish pilots, but references other non-Jews who joined their effort.


War and newsreel footage includes some air battle sequences, aftermath of bombings, strafing, planes shot down and crashing. Infrequent images of concentration camp survivors. A few principal pilots to whom we are introduced by the testifying witnesses are known to have been killed, and their deaths are described. 


Interviews cheerfully recount some romantic and slyly sexual escapades during wartime (vague, no details).


Decrepit German planes are referred to as "Messers--ts." One elderly pilot salts his interview with some obscenities and Yiddish phrases: one "f--k," "s--t," "beautiful boobs," "half-ass," "tuches."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

References drinking while on leave.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Above and Beyond is a black-and-white documentary that tells the story of a group of American World War II pilots who went to Israel in 1948 to form the core of a fledgling Israeli Air Force. With meager supplies, little equipment, and many substandard planes, they had a quest to boost the military capabilities of a young country fighting for survival. Exuberant, brave young men became thoughtful, proud, senior citizens eager to tell their stories by the time they were interviewed decades later. Some newsreel and actual war footage is included, showing bombed-out villages, planes crashing. Though there's plenty of humor, there also are some sad moments when men we've gotten acquainted with via the stories of those interviewed are killed. A few scenes show survivors of Nazi death camps. One memorable man peppers his recollections with some profanity ("s--t," "half-ass," and one use of "f--k") and some colorful but perhaps offensive Yiddish expressions ("tuches,"  "farshtunken").

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What's the story?

Actual wartime footage, 1948 newsreel film, some recreations, and, most prominently, a series of interviews with the actual participants provide a clear picture of an important event in the history of the State of Israel and a tribute to the American men who risked their lives in support of its rebirth in ABOVE AND BEYOND. After the United Nations voted in 1947 to partition Palestine, with room for both a Jewish homeland and an Arab state, a combination of neighboring countries, including Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq, refused to honor the terms set forth. War erupted in the spring of 1948. The Jewish populace, both native to the area and refugees from Europe's Holocaust, was eager, committed, and ready to defend their land but had scant resources, little equipment, few weapons, and no air power or military expertise. It was David (600,000 Jews) versus Goliath (50 million Arabs) again. Enter a "coalition of the willing," mostly young American men who were up for the challenge of fighting on the side of their Jewish brethren, using their wartime air force expertise, clandestine acts (smuggling, lying, circumventing the law), and amazing bravado to prevent another Jewish catastrophe in the making. ABOVE AND BEYOND is the story of these men.

Is it any good?

This excellent production is highly recommended. It will appeal to teens, families, and everyone interested in understanding the nuts and bolts of heroism and the individual contributions made by men and women throughout history. 

Sheer good fortune was on the side of director Roberta Grossman and producer Nancy Spielberg: Seven of the principal players in this historical act of heroism lived long enough to tell their tales. Articulate, warm, proud, funny, and deeply moving, their testimony fills the screen with vivid memories of a time and place decades earlier. Details have not been forgotten, nor have the men who didn't survive. As the few who joined together to repair the planes, fly them, and engage the enemy became an entire volunteer air force, with Jewish and non-Jewish fighting men, the odds became higher, and then victory was achieved. A little-known chapter in the ongoing difficulties in Israel, Above and Beyond provides insights, facts, and thoughtful awareness of the bond nurtured by those fighting for a common goal. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how historical documentaries have relevance today. What insights and information in Above and Beyond help us understand current events in the Middle East?

  • In terms of this film, define "heroism." What were these young men willing to risk? What motivated them to join in Israel's war after they'd survived World War II and were safely back home? 

  • What is a "decisive moment"? After watching these interviews, in what ways do you think the efforts of these young men in 1948 affected their entire lives? Have you or any of your family members ever experienced a "decisive" moment?

  • How does Above and Beyond promote courage and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

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For kids who love history

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