All Quiet on the Western Front

Movie review by
Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media
All Quiet on the Western Front Movie Poster Image
Classic anti-war epic tells dire, exhausting tale.
  • NR
  • 1930
  • 136 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 6 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive messages

The overwhelming message is that war for war's sake is wrong. It damages the lives of young men beyond what most people can understand. The film shows how propaganda and patriotism are used to romanticize war and argues for a more realistic understanding of fighting. The film depicts post-traumatic stress disorder way before there was a name for it, and shows men crying, frightened, and under enormous stress, which is unusual for a movie of this time.

Positive role models & representations

Almost all the men are depicted as innocents with good intentions who find themselves in horrible situations. The main characters look after their friends, respect their superiors (except for one particularly bad one, who they hijack and spank when he's drunk).

Violence

Brutal war violence throughout -- and that's the point. In one scene a soldier has stabbed an enemy soldier and then regrets the act as the man slowly dies lying in a trench next to him. He begs forgiveness, promising to take care of the man's family, all while sobbing with guilt, fear, and grief.

Sex

Occasionally the soldiers (all male) discuss women longingly -- in one scene several men look at a poster of a woman and talk about her body and how they'd like to date her. In another scene, several men meet a few French woman and exchange food for offscreen sex.

Language

Occasional "hell" and "damn." Lots of yelling at others, sometimes insultingly -- like calling another soldier a "yellow rat."

Drinking, drugs & smoking

Several scenes with drinking, sometimes to severe drunkenness. These scenes almost always serve to illustrate the darkness of the war, and rarely look enjoyable. Occasional smoking of pipes, cigars, and cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this anti-war epic from the 1930s digs into the physical, psychological, and emotional damage that war wreaks on soldiers in great detail. Soldiers are wounded and die, sometimes in agony, sometimes in a bloody mess, and sometimes slow and painfully. The war scenes are graphic, but don't compare in gruesomeness to more modern fare, and there's something about watching the black-and-white movie with old-fashioned characters that lessens the impact of the violence. That said, it's still intense and not for kids, though older teens can probably handle it. The soldiers occasionally talk about women and allude to sex. In one scene, several soldiers bring food to French women in exchange for (offscreen) intimacy.

User Reviews

Adult Written byjmo97 June 20, 2016

Heartbreakingly powerful view of Germans fighting in WWI

Even though this movie is over eight decades old, it is still very intense in depicting its war scenes. I was very impressed by this film that shows how war aff...
Adult Written byMovieLover4Lyfe October 26, 2010
If you like war epics, this is your movie. Mature children should be able to handle the content.
Kid, 11 years old November 1, 2012

Great but Gory

I saw this movie when I was in a WWI class. This movie is good at showing that war is bad. One point made me laugh. The end ties the movie all together. Some...
Teen, 13 years old Written byBestPicture1996 December 26, 2009

Absolutely phenomenal movie, a must-see for all

The 3rd recipent of the honorable Best Picture prize, "Western Front" is easily one of the greatest movies I have ever seen, and not just about war! I...

What's the story?

It's World War I in Germany, and soldiers are marching through the streets, rallying young students to join the war effort. In one classroom a patriotic professor encourages his class of young men to enlist, using every military recruitment tactic in the book. In a rush of excitement, the entire class joins up. Basic training is tough, but the young men are still enthusiastic about heading to the front. Once they hit real action, however, the reality of war sets in. The men cry, wet their pants, shriek in terror, and watch their comrades die pointless deaths. As the original group shrinks, due to death and serious injury, the morale of the group sinks to horrible lows. Poor morale combined with a lack of food, severe homesickness, and the realization that even a visit back home doesn't comfort the soul drags the main character -- Paul -- into depression. But his friendship with an older soldier who has become a mentor and father figure seems like it will save him. In the end, the darkness of war wins out.

Is it any good?

This Academy Award-winning film, based on a book by German author Erich Maria Remarque, is a classic; the story itself is powerful. It tells of the utter hopelessness and despair of young men sent to fight for something they don't believe in. And the film, while old-fashioned cinematically and culturally, makes an impact with its depiction of trench warfare, camaraderie, and the emotional journey of men as they deal with loss and fear. But the film is also heavy-handed in getting its message across, which occasionally undermines its message.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about war. What beliefs do family members hold about military service, war, and the defense of one's country? Have family members been involved in wars -- either in the military or protesting against war? What stories have you heard from family or others about war?

  • Talk about propaganda films, or movies that have a strong viewpoint, like this one. What cinematic elements in this movie help convince the audience of its viewpoint?

  • Does the lack of gory, bloody, in-your-face violence lessen the impact? Why or why not?

Movie details

For kids who love drama

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