Darkest Hour

Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
Darkest Hour Movie Poster Image
Mild but talky look at Churchill's early days in power.
  • PG-13
  • 2017
  • 114 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 7 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The story of this part of Churchill's career is all about courage -- specifically, the courage to stand by your core beliefs against all odds. The British faced a dreadful choice: Give in to the Nazis in order to survive, or refuse to surrender and possibly lose many, many lives as a result. Churchill led them down the latter path. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Many noted political figures appear; each is given reasonable motivation for his choices, whether to fight or surrender. Even the king (George VI) is portrayed positively, as wise and patient. But Churchill is the hero here; he's shown wrestling with doubts and political strife before taking his famous "We shall fight" stand. No notable female characters or diversity.

Violence

The film is set in wartime, but no violence is shown. It takes place almost entirely in England before the Blitz. British troops are shown holed up in a French church moments before an attack (via bomb, in an explosion viewers don't see). A little bit of blood on wounded soldiers.

Sex
Language

At least one use of "s--t," plus "goddamn," "bugger," "good God."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Churchill was a drinker, which is shown, but he's never shown drunk. Lots of smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Darkest Hour is set during an extremely stressful time in British history: when the Nazis were at their most powerful, rolling through Europe and threatening the United Kingdom's very existence. It focuses on Winston Churchill's (Gary Oldman) role in that military reality and the courage he found to stand by his core beliefs against all odds. Although it's set during wartime, no violence is shown beyond a bit of blood on injured soldiers (a bomb falls on soldiers, but we don't see it on-screen). In fact, rather than action and battle, the film offers lots of talk and political maneuvering, so younger viewers might have trouble sticking with it. There's also some drinking and quite a bit of smoking, which is accurate for the era. 

User Reviews

Adult Written byterra100 December 16, 2017

Superb acting and cinematography, but requires a patient watch

If it weren't for Gary Oldman's remarkable acting and the unusual cinematography choices, this film would be a bore. But, it is a lovely historical d... Continue reading
Adult Written byPizza G. December 28, 2017

For older audiences

This movie is fairly tame for its genre; one of the only reasons I'd recommend holding off is because of its slow pacing and lack of action. The portion of... Continue reading
Kid, 8 years old December 23, 2017

Darkest Hour is an amazing movie, but contains some adult material

Darkest Hour is a high quality film about the second world war, but contains a lot of drinking and smoking. There is also a scene in which a bomb is dropped, bu... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byKabir T December 31, 2017

What's the story?

As the Nazis rampage through Europe in DARKEST HOUR, England's political turmoil pushes the controversial, iconoclastic Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) to the nation's top political post. His reign as prime minister is dominated by an existential dilemma: Should the vastly outgunned UK fight it out or surrender to the Germans -- saving lives and hoping for the best? His position hanging by a thread, the new leader must make perhaps the most momentous decision in British history, with the clock to invasion ticking down. 

Is it any good?

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. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what kind of movie Darkest Hour is: a war movie, a biopic, a historical document, a personal drama? Who do you think it's intended to appeal to?

  • Is this how you imagined Winston Churchill? How does he exhibit courage? Why is that an important character strength?

  • How did the film affect your view of Churchill? Facing the same odds, in that same situation, what choice do you think you'd have made? 

  • How does the film depict drinking and smoking? Does the era a movie is set in affect how you view these things?

  • How accurate do you think the movie is? Why might filmmakers choose to alter the facts in a story that's based on true events?

Movie details

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love politics and history

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate