A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that violence here includes men killed by swords and arrows, a (briefly shown) crucifixion, and horses fallen in combat. A fiance plots murder against her husband-to-be, and there's a brief hint of royal incest. There's a conflict between Christianity and Islam (with a stalwart Christian-Catholic warrior as the hero), but a message that many Muslims are good guys, and Christians aren't necessarily honorable or correct.
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What's the story?
In war-torn 11th-century Spain, warrior-knight Rodrigo (Charlton Heston) runs afoul of the royal family again and again because of his inflexible morality. He captures Islamic Moorish princes raiding Christian towns and, instead of handing them over for execution, frees them, earning the Moors' friendship and respect. He suspects the new King Alfonso contrived the assassination of his brother over the throne, and is exiled as a result. He even kills the father of his bride (Sophia Loren) in a duel over honor, casting a shadow over their marriage. But Rodrigo's reputation as "El Cid," a wise leader, wins him an army of followers, and bring the Moors to his side, in defense of Spain against a new threat, crazed Arab conqueror Ben Yussef (Herbert Lom). Though Rodrigo is no fan of King Alfonso and is implored to crown himself king, the righteous El Cid chooses a more noble path.
Is it any good?
The battle scenes -- thousands of extras on loan from Francisco Franco's army, definitely not CGI -- are rousing, and the costumes and pageantry are sumptuous. But EL CID's pace does seem to drag (the film was originally shown with an intermission) and the castle skullduggery is a little complex for young viewers.
Still, in terms of a faith-based, upstanding hero placed in impossible situations, Rodrigo is as strong a role model as they come (unless you question when he kills people over "honor"). In contrast, the Islamic-fundamentalist Ben Yussef looks just like the Taliban -- historians did their homework well with the costumes and detail.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the conflicts faced by Rodrigo and the wisdom and spirituality behind his choices. Why does he have to support a king unworthy of him? What makes him decide when to take a life or when to show mercy? El Cid is a hero figure in Spain with some of the oldest literature and legends written about him. What hero characters does he resemble in old English and American lore? Also, what other modern-day epic movies can you compare this to? How is it different?
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