Movie review by
James Rocchi, Common Sense Media
Appaloosa Movie Poster Image
Old-fashioned Western features great performances.
  • R
  • 2008
  • 114 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Extensive discussion of the battle between the rule of law and lawbreakers, the settling of the West (including "dealing" with Native American populations), and the nature of violence and the cost it exacts.


Fairly extensive, including discussions of rape and murder; many on-screen deaths from firearms (including several seen up close); fighting; scuffles; discussion of "gun work" as a profession; discussion of hanging as a punishment for capital crimes; characters being bound and threatened.


Discussions of whoring; scenes of lovers in bed talking; some female rear nudity (briefly and at a distance). Some kissing.


Occasional strong language includes "damn," "hell," "f--k," "s--t," "piss," and "goddamn." Some discussion of sexual conduct as being "whorish." Native Americans are referred to as Indians.


Some period firearms are mentioned by name.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink wine, beer, and hard liquor, occasionally to excess; cigars, cigarettes, and pipes are smoked.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this film is a classic Western -- full of gunfights, close-quarters shootings, and other violent acts. Although the violence is mostly bloodless, it's quite realistic: You clearly see its consequences in every action scene. There's also a complex depiction of the choices that a female character makes regarding her lovers that at least partially depicts the limited choices available to women in 1882. Characters also smoke, drink, swear, and talk about "whoring," and there's brief rear female nudity.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byDr.Q November 16, 2009
I found like it great that the this western took the shootings how where in those days and not making a 6 shot look a submachine. This is how a dual was kept, s... Continue reading
Adult Written byMovie Man August 7, 2009

"Appa-loser" OR "Sour Appaloosa!" (Your Pick)

I hated this film. IUt weas so ungodly boring that I was about to get on a plane, go to Hollywood, got to the director, and say "What is wrong with you?... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byYeah. February 27, 2011

Check my page for other great recommendations.

I'm not here to give a review because if it shows up on my page its a 5 star movie and so therefore you know what i think about it.
Kid, 11 years old February 28, 2010

What's the story?

In the territory of New Mexico in 1882, the town of Appaloosa is besieged by rogue rancher Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons), who protects his workers even when they break the law. After a rape-murder attracts the attention of the town sheriff, who refuses to let Bragg's men walk away from the crime, Bragg simply kills the lawman and his deputies. The town's leaders hire Virgil Cole (Ed Harris, who also directed) and his partner, Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortenson), to become the town's new lawmen and stop Bragg. For a while, the town of Appaloosa is peaceful -- so much so that Cole reaches out to the newly arrived Ms. French (Renee Zellweger), but Bragg soon chafes against the new order that Cole and Hitch are enforcing.

Is it any good?

APPALOOSA has a number of things to recommend it -- Harris is an able director, the ensemble cast is first rate, and the story is based on a novel by best-selling author Robert B. Parker. (Parker is perhaps best known for the Spenser private eye series.) But unlike revisionist modern Westerns such as Unforgiven and The Proposition, Appaloosa is a classic, old-fashioned, straightforward story -- good men and bad men, gunfights and stare-downs, long rides and short bursts of action.

That said, "straightforward" doesn't mean "simple"; there are some superbly acted moments in Appaloosa. As Bragg, Irons starts out as a grizzled lunatic, but as the storyline progresses, he becomes more civilized, more charming ... and more dangerous. Zellweger's newly arrived piano-playing mystery woman is prim and proper, but she's also got a fairly fluid sense of allegiance. Even the easy, gruff interplay between Cole and Hicks is full of shifts and unspoken truths, and Harris and Mortensen settle into playing two lifelong friends as if they were exactly that, while still holding the screen in their individual scenes. Like many classic Westerns, Appaloosa takes a hard look at what's gained -- and what's lost -- as the frontier becomes part of civilization and how the many people who shaped and settled the American West struggled to create a civilized community that had no more use for them. Beautifully shot, full of action, and far richer than it seems to be at first glance, Appaloosa is a welcome reminder of why Westerns matter on the big screen.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the film's central idea: What happens when lawbreakers become lawmakers? Is there a difference between state-sanctioned killing in the name of order and murder in the name of greed and expediency? Families can also discuss the enduring popularity of the Western genre. Are these movies a chance to re-discover America's past, or a chance to re-invent it through fiction?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate