All Quiet on the Western Front



Classic anti-war epic tells dire, exhausting tale.
  • Review Date: October 29, 2009
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1930
  • Running Time: 136 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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).


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.


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.


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.

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.

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 -- telling 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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:August 24, 1930
DVD release date:February 6, 2007
Cast:Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, Russell Gleason
Director:Lewis Milestone
Studio:Universal Pictures
Run time:136 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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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! It shows you the graphic, painful truth, and how very young people are going into the Army and dying within their first few days; they enlisted because they thought it would be "fun." Not just for movie buffs, but for every(mature) teenager and up!
What other families should know
Too much violence
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 parts are gory. I think this movie is great.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 15 years old Written byevolinag June 12, 2012

Excellent war epic is too graphic for younger viewers

"All Quiet on the Western Front" is both a classic and a masterpiece. The movie is one of the mosr powerful and graphic looks into a soldier's life. There is a look into the propaganda that made people think that dying for their country is something great, but in the end it turns out that war is both psychologically and physically exhausting. Everything is depicted in a realistic and graphic way that makes you understand how the soldiers feel. The scenes in the hospital are especially shocking and the ending is terrific. While most other war movies focus on violence and sometimes lack story, this movie also should have won an Oscar for the best screenplay adapted from another media. "All Quiet on the Western Front" is a touching masterpiece that really deserves to be seen... You need to know that even though being released 1930, this movie is very graphic and violent. (SPOILERS may follow:) Explosions, a man's face is heavily burnt, a man's leg is amputated (off-screen), people are stabbed, an extended shot of a corpse who has been stabbed to death, people are shot, etc. All this is extremely graphic, some of it is emotional and sad. It can be considered disturbing, but nowadays most kids will have seen a lot more violence. It would most likely be rated PG-13 for violence nowadays. I think it is suitable for teens and up.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence


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