Balloon Man

Movie review by
Sabrina McFarland, Common Sense Media
Balloon Man Movie Poster Image
Ex-NFL player scores as first Black balloonist master pilot.
  • NR
  • 2021
  • 98 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Turn a setback into a comeback. When one door closes, another door opens. A friend in need is a friend indeed.

Positive Role Models

Bill Costen made history as the first African American hot air balloon master pilot. The film’s director is Costen’s daughter Chantal Potter, who considers her dad a hero. In recognition of Costen’s more than 40 years of safe flying, he received an award from the Balloon Federation of America.


Reportedly kids are whipped as a form of discipline for bad behavior. Costen is shown holding a rifle in his hands in an old photograph. References to the Ku Klux Klan.


References to dating, kissing, and flirting at college-related events and after-work parties.


Sponsorship logos on balloons; labels on bottles and cans of alcohol beverages; and clothing  bearing words or names. Balloon official claims that green is the only color that matters.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Costen admits that he's a fan of beer. He also mentions sitting in a bar. Costen speaks about his shyness and need for a few nips in order to speak with a woman. Consumption of cans and bottles of beer and champagne. Discussion about people getting drunk. Crowds toasting.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Balloon Man is a documentary about the life of Bill Costen, a former NFL player who reinvented himself. Costen made history as the first Black hot air balloon master pilot. When he was 9 years old, Costen’s mother died. References to the Ku Klux Klan. Images include brand names and logos on balloons, beer bottles and cans, and wording on clothing. There's a discussion about getting drunk, scenes of toasting, and an image of drinking from a champagne bottle. Reportedly, kids were whipped as a form of discipline for bad behavior. A rifle appears in a photo. There are references to kissing and flirting. Balloon Man includes the powerful themes of compassion, courage, and perseverance.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8 and 13-year-old Written byFeeddawolves October 13, 2021

The First Black Ballonist

Decision is that both my son and daughter get to gain this historical knowledge once I watch it as well. Previews and the fact within itself is why my rating is... Continue reading
Adult Written byTanya_rufer March 28, 2021


Just a quick word to tell everyone. I am very sorry to share this testimony on the internet. I never believed until my husband left me and the kids for 7 months... Continue reading

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What's the story?

In 1970, Bill Costen became an NFL draft pick for the Buffalo Bills. During his first game as a rookie lineman, Costen scored a touchdown. But by the end of the season, Costen was cut from the team and told by management that "it was just one of those things." Costen soon launched a career as a balloonist and businessman. He took to the sky and made a historic landing as the first African American hot air balloon master pilot. Notes Costen about his newfound journey among the clouds, "I was always confident that I could do anything."

Is it any good?

Debut documentary filmmaker Chantal Potter offers a loving and engaging tribute to her dad Bill Costen. "From the year I was born, I was flying," says Potter, who traveled with the Costen balloon crew as a child. "I remember looking through a tiny peephole of a large wicker basket with the entire world beneath my feet." She reveals the roots of the Costen family in Omaha, Nebraska with a skillful blend of insightful interviews, flashback footage, and photos from the past. Costen fondly recalls moments of his life as a young boy and time spent at his grandmother’s house and church. He also remembers going to an all-Black grade school where African American history wasn't taught. The memory created a new endeavor for Costen and a way of giving back to others. The balloonist tours with an exhibit of his African American memorabilia. Costen says that "it's amazing how many Black kids have no idea of their heritage." Because of films such as Balloon Man, kids may become more aware of their heritage.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the courage of Bill Costen in Balloon Man. How does he also demonstrate compassion, perseverance, and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?

  • What makes Costen a career role model? How do the challenges of being a hot air balloon master pilot differ from that of professional football player?

  • What may have been Costen’s reasons to play for a farm team instead of another NFL franchise? What is a farm team, and what's the history of the term?

  • What can be the significance of searching family ancestry? What methods can be used to explore heritage history?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love African American stories

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