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Parents' Guide to


By Lynnette Nicholas, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Fact-based historical drama has courage, violence.

Movie PG-13 2020 99 minutes
Emperor Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

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

Community Reviews

age 17+

Based on 1 parent review

age 17+

Good with some reservations.

I always try to gain as much insight as possible before renting or watching a movie with my family. I will say my standards are different from others and that’s ok. It’s my own conviction in raising a family . I read through the generic review and thought I would go ahead and buy this movie not just rent it. It seemed safe enough for a war movie. I will say I was a bit thrown off guard when I saw the lingering scenes of the women showing Shield kindness and shelter. Her dress is very revealing and unnecessary. The scenes lasted several minutes and even shows her sticking around as he gets cleaned up. Very unexpected and made my teenage boys and husband uncomfortable. We ended up fast forwarding it. I know cleavage is normal in today’s society but I try to teach my children to honor women and what that means. The movie was well made for the most part and emotionally pulled you in to what Shield and other slaves went through .

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (1 ):
Kids say: Not yet rated

This intense drama offers a candid depiction of what many enslaved people endured on Southern plantations. Directed by Mark Amin (in his feature debut) and written by Amin and Pat Charles (Black Lightning, Iron Fist), Emperor highlights both the plight of captive people and the contributions of abolitionists like Brown and social activists like Douglass. Some scenes may feel harsh and raw, but that's necessary when it comes to accurately portraying the narratives and testimonies of enslaved people -- such as seeing someone whose tongue has been cut off and someone who's been branded.

Okeniyi is convincing as Emperor, and, as another enslaved person, Delores, Kat Graham is excellent; her commitment to the role is impressive. Other standouts include Mykelti Williamson as Truesdale, Ben Robson as Luke McCabe, Kevin Wayne as the overseer, and Bruce Dern as Levi Coffin. Overall, the cast is solid, and the sets/locations, cinematography, lighting, and costume design are cohesive and well executed. The movie conveys many important messages without being overly melodramatic or redundant. And it has notable attention to detail. Moments like Emperor being bitten (presumably by a snake) while wading in swamp water, the portrayal of two escaped men hiding in murky water beneath a floating log, and a little boy's back full of scars as a result of a beating really help the film make a lasting impression. Its scenes can be graphic, but they're honest, and that adds to the film's impact.

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