Black Hawk Down

Movie review by
Kelly Kessler, Common Sense Media
Black Hawk Down Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Excellent but very violent depiction of a risky rescue.
  • R
  • 2002
  • 144 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 18 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 57 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Stands out for positive role models.

Positive Messages

The film shows valiant attempts by Special Forces troops to rescue their trapped comrades. It also tries to provide some context as to why the American military as well as UN forces got involved in the conflict. There's some attempt to show why some individuals on both sides were fighting, their motivations for taking up arms. 

Positive Role Models

Tremendous self-sacrifice and sacrifice for the good of other soldiers during moments of intense battle. Movie goes beyond simplistic "good vs evil" to show the different motivations many of the American soldiers had for fighting in Somalia.


EXTREMELY graphic deaths of soldiers (dismemberment, beatings, impaling, etc.). After the set-up of the characters and context for the first 45 minutes, the next 90 minutes are one long battle scene. Graphic imagery of cutting open an injured soldier and getting to his artery to try and keep him alive. 


Frequent profanity, including regular use of "f--k" and its variations. "S--t" and "ass." Character makes a gesture with his hand to represent masturbation. Somalis are referred to by some in military slang as "skinnies." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some beer drinking, cigar smoking, cigarette smoking.  Reference made to how the Somalis will be high on khat on the afternoon of the mission the soldiers are going to undertake. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Black Hawk Down is a 2001 war movie based on the true story of the bravery and grave danger faced by American Special Forces while at war against a brutal warlord and his militia amidst the civil war-ravaged Somali capital Mogadishu. The first 45 minutes or so sets up the context, introduces the officers and soldiers, outlines their mission, and then the next 90 minutes are essentially a nonstop battle of American infantry and helicopters against armed and desperate Somali militia men and boys. The movie does not shy away from war violence -- casualties, blood, and graphic injuries are a constant. Surgery in the midst of battle is performed; soldiers are cut open and entrails are exposed. A nearly cut-off finger dangles from a hand. Frequent profanity, including regular use of "f--k" and its variations. What emerges overall is the bravery and selflessness of the soldiers in the midst of a battle unexpected in its ferocity, as well as an attempt to go beyond simplistic "good versus evil" dramatizations that have historically typified war movies. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byD-Fresh August 26, 2010

Quite possibly the best war movie ever made

"We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm."
- Winston Churchill.

Wat... Continue reading
Adult Written bylangston w. October 8, 2020

Amazing War Movie Has Violent Scenes

Black Hawk Down is an amazing true story. The writing, directing, and acting are all top notch. The other good news is that, for a war movie, the content in Bla... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written by9001 April 9, 2010

Wonderful movie, but extraordinarily graphic, intensely violent, and disturbing. Adults only 18+.

I watched this movie, and it was great, but very, very intense. Throughout the first part of the movie it didn't have a lot of graphic content, but it was... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byMatty123. February 1, 2021

What's the story?

In the early 1990s a humanitarian crisis in the country of Somalia brought international attention to the region. On October 3, 1993 the United States military sent approximately 120 members of US Special Forces to capture the warlord General Aidid or any of his top lieutenants. This supposedly quick operation turned into a two-day frantic mission and withdrawal. BLACK HAWK DOWN depicts the costly rescue attempt by US Rangers and Delta Operators sent to retrieve men trapped when their black hawk helicopters were downed. Trapped in a Somali war-zone, the soldiers struggle to regroup, save their wounded, and avoid the sights of a frenzied and armed militia. Through hostile fire, already injured men re-enter the war-zone in a valiant attempt to "leave no man behind."

Is it any good?

Directed by Ridley Scott (Alien, Thelma and Louise, Gladiator), BLACK HAWK DOWN is a fast-paced trip through blood and guts. Scott's desire for realism comes through in the film's connections to the real US Rangers. Many of the pilots used in the film participated in the actual 1993 conflict. The film does a fine job of creating viewer sympathy for its characters.

Although the action scenes truly serve as the leading lady, the film uses recognizable celebrities to create identification with their characters. Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, and Tom Sizemore provide known faces to a few men caught in the chaos. The film was rewarded for its dramatic battle scenes with Academy Awards for Best Sound and Best Editing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about issues regarding life, death, war, and honor. Why did the soldiers return to the ground to continue fighting? Do you think it was right to send soldiers there in the first place? How may this conflict relate to ones in the present? Parents may also want to discuss this film's historical accuracy by comparing it against a documentary that covers the same events.

  • How is this similar to and different from other war movies, past and present? 

  • How did the movie attempt to provide context for the tremendous problems in Somalia, and how the United Nations and the U.S. military attempted to address the situation? 

Movie details

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