Catch-22

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Catch-22 Movie Poster Image
Classic, violent black comedy about the follies of war.
  • R
  • 1970
  • 122 minutes
Parents recommend

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

War and its accompanying bureaucracy, rather than being glamorized, is scorned and ridiculed. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Yossarian, for all his loud claims of insanity, emerges as one of the few who keeps his sanity and humanity in a world turned topsy-turvy by the ravages of war and the bureaucracy of the military. Other characters stand as examples of the harm that warfare does to people.

Violence

Plentiful scenes of soldiers injured, dead, or dying. A man's stabbing is shown twice in the film. A scene of an injured and dying soldier inside a bomber as Yossarian tries to save his life, is shown repeatedly, and is later revealed to have his side open and bloody, with exposed intestines. A prostitute's body is found on the street after having been thrown out an open window by a character who has raped her. Rape is discussed, but not shown. A pilot in a propeller plane swoops too low and is shown graphically cutting a man in half at the waist with his wing. Shortly after, the pilot commits suicide by flying into the side of a hill. 

Sex

Soldiers are seen frequenting brothels. There are two instances of full-frontal female nudity, and one of a male's naked backside.

Language

While not constant, soldiers and officers do say "bastard" and "son of a bitch" from time to time. "F--k" is used once, as is the middle finger. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters smoke cigarettes quite regularly, as was the norm of the era, and one of the main characters is always seen with a pipe. While on leave from the base, the characters are seen drinking wine. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this 1970 adaptation of Joseph Heller's classic satire of warfare and the military presents an unsentimental picture of war. There are several scenes of graphic violence, including a shot of a dying soldier's bloody intestines, plus a man being cut in half by a fighter plane. Soldiers go to brothels and there are a couple scenes of nudity. Though dark, the movie includes plenty of black humor, which takes some of the edge off the violence. While not right for every teen, the film provides an excellent opportunity to discuss the harsh realities of warfare along with the film's deeper, timeless message. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymoviesrule1424 July 15, 2012

It's a good classic but has sexual content, dirty words, and bloody images.

The movie has lots of bloody war violence and some sexual content; b---h, a--hole, pu--y, ba---rd and f--ker are all used.
Adult Written byBalloutkid November 14, 2011

A must read

One of the most profoundly telling novels ever written; Catch-22 transports the reader into the depths of the human condition, illustrating the bleak reality th... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bySlipperyQ January 25, 2012

Utterly Breathtaking

I don't know why the novel isn't on here, but I just finished it and it was incredible, quite possibly the best I've ever read. It's the onl... Continue reading

What's the story?

Captain John Yossarian (Alan Arkin) is trying to end his tour of duty as a bombardier in World War II Italy, but every time he gets closer to reaching the required number of missions, "the brass" raise the number of flight missions needed to achieve this goal. He claims to be crazy and requests that he flies no more missions due to this, but by claiming to be crazy and unable to fly, he shows that he is rational and sane and must fly. Such is the CATCH-22, the no-win situation Yossarian finds himself in as he's mired in warfare and military bureaucracy with his fellow comrades in the absurdities of battle and day-to-day survival.

Is it any good?

The film version of Catch-22 -- while firmly rooted in the countercultural tenor of the early 1970's -- stands the test of time almost as brilliantly as the classic 1961 novel. Coming off the success of The Graduate, director Mike Nichols and screenwriter Buck Henry's next project was an adaptation of Joseph Heller's classic antiwar dark satire. The film boasts an all-star cast (for 1970, anyway) of everyone from Alan Arkin to Orson Welles, Bob Newhart to Martin Sheen. Its evergreen comments on the devastation of war, the absurdity of bureaucracy, and the blind greed of those who profit from others' misery hold up even today.

Catch-22 isn't so much a linear plot as it is a collection of instances involving revolving cast of characters responding to war in their own ways. There is Dobbs (played by Jon Voight), who finds the markets and the money to be made in the "opportunity." There is Orr (played by a very young Bob Balaban), who views his plane crashes as "practice runs" for a future escape. And then, there is Yossarian, who, for all his glib talk and outrageous antics and claims of insanity, emerges as the only character who seems sane surrounded by so much craziness.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the term "Catch-22." Since the release of this classic novel by Joseph Heller in 1961, the term is used to describe many situations besides those encountered during war. What are some examples of "Catch-22" in day-to-day life? 

  • As the film's hero, how does Yossarian compare to other heroes in war movies? How is Catch-22 a different sort of war movie than others you've seen? Do you think it translates well from the book?

  • How does Catch-22 use satire to make profound comments on war, bureaucracy, and definitions of sanity?

Movie details

For kids who love drama

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