Parents' Guide to

Darkest Hour

By Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Mild but talky look at Churchill's early days in power.

Movie PG-13 2017 114 minutes
Darkest Hour Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 12+

Based on 10 parent reviews

age 12+

Absorbing atmospheric slice of history

So good to see a movie that does not have blood spilling from every body shown on screen, no explosions, swearing or semi clad women or pumped up males You might have to explain the history but there is ample to learn and watch and engage in rather than the usual hypnotic mindless garbage. Worth a look as the direction, production and lighting is fabulous , historical accuracy is of course truncated as it is a film but a lot there to consider and explore. Acting superb.
age 12+

WWII Era Gives Glimpse into Daily Life of Winston Churchill

"Darkest Hour" is the story of Winston Churchill becoming prime minster during World War II and his struggle not only against the swiftly approaching German army, but also his political opponents in parliament. This movie gives a look into Churchill's daily life as prime minister including his home life, his meetings with the King of England, and his motivation to write his powerful speeches. This movie is likely to appeal to an audience with an interest in WWII or British history but few outside of that audience due to its slow pacing. There's some mild language in this movie and a couple shots of German airplanes dropping bombs from the air. There is a lot of smoking in this movie. Positive messaging remains throughout this film--the idea that one must stand up for what's right even if it means losing everything one has--because freedom is worth that risk.

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (10):
Kids say (19):

Joe Wright's drama features a transformative turn by the excellent Gary Oldman as Churchill; unfortunately, the limited-scope biopic doesn't have much more in its arsenal than that. The cast of Darkest Hour is excellent, but the inner workings and relationships of the people they play are unexplored, giving the actors little chance to shine. The film recounts a key moment in British, European, and world history: Churchill's choice to resist the superior Axis forces to the end, rather than surrender (expressed in his famous "We shall fight" speech). But instead of filling the film with tension and desperation, Wright and screenwriter Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything) focus on destructive political struggles. Keeping the focus on the back-and-forth in Parliament and the king's slowly won approval distances viewers from the actual stakes. It feels as if the movie is about Churchill's political life, rather than the survival of the British civilization and its people. For instance, the desperate, Hail Mary evacuation of Dunkirk is a key plot point ... but it's represented in the film by gentlemanly politicians civilly (mostly) debating the options. It's perhaps an unfair comparison, but Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk showed just how gripping that story could be. Not that Darkest Hour should have been a war film, but the audience does need to feel the weight that's bowing Churchill's back, not just be told about it.

The film commits the familiar sin of relating history almost exclusively through the mouths of the powerful. There's Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup), upon whom history hasn't smiled; lesser-known Viscount Halifax (the always-great Stephen Dillane); and King George VI himself (Emmy winner Ben Mendelsohn). There's a nice secretary (Lily James), but her story isn't explored, and the way her relationship with Churchill is portrayed here pales in comparison to a parallel arc between another secretary and Churchill in Netflix's The Crown. It's only toward the end of Darkest Hour that we're reminded there are actual people among the "British people." In what will surely become the movie's signature scene, Churchill unexpectedly consults/manipulates average citizens on the dire question facing the nation. It's only then that we're reminded what stands to be lost, destroyed, killed. As for Oldman, he's dependably watchable. (Read: He's less fun to watch than you'd expect.) The script simply doesn't help him; Churchill's famed wit is barely present. Bottom line? Darkest Hour is a patriotic, if too genteel, representation of the events leading to one of the most famous speeches of the 20th century.

Movie Details

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