Captain America: The First Avenger

Movie review by
Betsy Bozdech, Common Sense Media
Captain America: The First Avenger Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Comic book adventure mixes patriotism, explosive action.
  • PG-13
  • 2011
  • 124 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 52 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 231 reviews

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

Positive Messages

The movie celebrates the idea of the hero as someone who demonstrates courage, integrity, and perseverance, believes in something greater than him/herself, and stands up for those who can't stand up for themselves. Self-sacrifice, friendship, and loyalty are also key themes. There's a very pro-America message, which is reinforced by the strong patriotism of the 1940s setting. Although Captain America at one point professes a reluctance to kill people, he and his soldiers don't have any qualms offing tons of bad guys or using violence as their main means to solve problems.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Steve Rogers/Captain America is about as wholesome as superheroes come. As both a skinny weakling and a strapping soldier, he's brave, compassionate, resourceful, loyal, and kind. He doesn't have the personal demons/conflict that mark darker heroes like Batman; he is unquestionably a good guy. And though he doesn't seem to mind dispatching Nazis and other bad guys, he also says at one point that he doesn't really want to kill anybody -- he just hates bullies. Agent Carter is a positive female role model; she's respected and good at what she does. Captain America's team is a diverse group (especially for the '40s). The bad guys are clearly evil.


Frequent strong explosive action violence and weapons. Buildings, vehicles, and more are engulfed in fireballs; lots of gun use. A villain known as Red Skull has a monstrous/skeletal face that could be very scary to younger kids. The bad guys are developing super weapons powered by a mysterious energy source; they're extremely powerful, and some can completely vaporize people. Characters are killed, many impersonally/mostly bloodlessly in gun fights and big explosions, but a few (including some we care about) in more upsetting ways -- a couple are shot point-blank, and one goes through a propeller (blood is spattered). Car and motorcycle chases, fist fights, and war imagery. A child is held hostage. A character commits suicide rather than be captured.


Some flirting and a couple of kisses; romantic tension between two main characters. Soldiers ogle a woman when she wears a pretty dress. One implied mooning by a soldier; several scenes with Steve/Captain America shirtless.


Several uses of "hell," plus very infrequent use of "ass," "damn," "son of a bitch," "oh my God," and British slang like "bloody." Some insults, like calling soldiers "ladies" to demean them.


Tie-in to vast quantities of related merchandise.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Dr. Erskine drinks some schnapps; he later implies that he had too much, but he's not shown drunk. Soldiers drink beer (and harder liquor) in a pub/bar; one is a little tipsy. Captain America tries to get drunk but is unable to.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Captain America: The First Avenger is a 1940s-set comic book-based superhero adventure that's full of explosive action violence. Expect tons of gun battles, fireballs, and fistfights (all of which are even more in-your-face in the 3-D version of the movie), as well as a scary-looking villain. In most other respects though, it's pretty tame as these kinds of movies go. Captain America is wholesome, compassionate, and brave; he doesn't have the dark side that many other superheroes do, and he's not a ladies' man or a party animal. There are a couple of tame kisses and a little bit of drinking, as well as a few uses of words like "hell" and "ass," but what lingers after the last bomb has exploded and the last fight is over are the movie's messages about standing up against bullies and doing the right thing. (That and a very strong sense of "U.S.A! U.S.A!" patriotism.)

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byCriticus March 30, 2019

A Solid Start to the MCU

Here's a fairly successful movie. It straddles the line between kid-friendly and mature-level themes with the result that it appeals to people of all ages.... Continue reading
Adult Written byCamiero Namihatei December 10, 2020

Good but violent.

In my personal opinion it is up to you for the maturity of your kid. But I strongly recommend that parents watch this first. First of all when other characters... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bySosie98 July 26, 2011

Captain Amazing

I loooovvvveeeeddd this movie, but it was extremely violent!!! I especially loved Chris Evans who was pretty much the hottest soldier ever in his uniform. Peggy... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byjohnny1399 July 25, 2011

great movie

this movie is very good. it has a good message and the captain is a good role model. i think the movie is good for ages 7 and up.

What's the story?

In CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER, it's 1942, and World War II is raging. Despite the fact that he's frail and asthmatic, all that Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) wants is to join the Army so he can have a chance to fight Nazi bullies. That chance comes in the form of Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a scientist who's developed a special serum that turns scrawny Steve into brawny Captain America. After being sidelined by Col. Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) and turned into a one-man recruiting ad/war bond salesman, Rogers gets back into the thick of things when a rescue mission uncovers intelligence about the nefarious plans of HYDRA, a Nazi experimental science division led by evil Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving). With the help of a motley crew of soldiers and lovely-and-capable Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), Rogers focuses on stopping Schmidt before the villain can unleash his mysterious, extremely powerful super weapons on the world.

Is it any good?

If you crossed Raiders of the Lost Ark with Hellboy and added a dash of Pearl Harbor and director Joe Johnston's own The Rocketeer, you'd be well on your way to creating this movie. It's well-paced, patriotic World War II adventure with an undercurrent of sci-fi/fantasy mysticism and a hero who's very easy to root for. Rogers/Captain America is such a good guy, in fact, that he's sometimes a little bland -- he's definitely a great role model, but you might find yourself wishing he had a bit of Wolverine or Tony Stark's snark. (The movie's a little short on humor overall, actually; Captain America's ragtag team of soldiers provides most of the laughs, but they don't get all that much screen time.)

Speaking of Tony Stark, those who are well-versed in their Marvel history will enjoy seeing Dominic Cooper as Tony's equally suave/tech-savvy father, Howard, in a supporting role. And there are plenty of other moments that fans of the comics will enjoy, too -- when pre-makeover Steve uses a garbage can lid as an impromptu defense, for instance, foreshadowing his iconic shield, or the way the movie ends (it would be a spoiler to say more). All in all, Captain America: The First Avenger is an entertaining adventure -- rah-rah patriotism and all (it works well within the 1940s setting) -- but it lacks that certain something that could have made it a cultural touchstone.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what sets Captain America: The First Avenger apart from other superhero films. How does Captain America compare to Batman? Iron Man? Is he more or less of a "good guy" than those characters?

  • At one point Steve Rogers says he doesn't want to kill anybody, but during the movie he dispatches plenty of bad guys. Was that his only option?

  • How does the fact that much of the movie's violence is larger than life affect its impact? How is it different watching masked human soldiers (like the HYDRA minions) get hurt than individual characters?

  • What did you think of the scenes where Captain America performed on stage to inspire people to buy war bonds and join the Army? What does that say about the role of celebrities in our society?

  • How do the characters in Captain America: The First Avenger demonstrate courage, integrity, and perseverance? Why are those important character strengths?

Movie details

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