Eyes on the Prize Movie Poster Image

Eyes on the Prize

Award-winning history of the American Civil Rights movement.
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 360 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The ultimate "prize" is freedom. Passive resistance and non-violence, even in the face of great cruelty, is an effective and powerful way to achieve change. It takes men and women of courage to make even the smallest inroads into a culture of deeply ingrained prejudice. Such bigotry may not completely disappear for generations, if ever. Themes include compassion, integrity, and perseverance.

Positive role models

Powerful role models and heroes emerged among both African-American people and white supporters in the South. Efforts to engage in a non-violent struggle illustrate courage, patience, and optimism in spite of numerous challenges and risks. On the negative side, many Southern government officials (all white) -- including governors, senators, and sheriffs -- are revealed as bigoted, steeped in the prejudices of the past, and even murderous in some instances.


Newsreel footage shows white Southern citizens demonstrating and exhibiting cruelty toward African-American children and adults. Numerous photographs depict the aftermath of lynchings, with dead men hanging from trees or scaffolding. Sequences include rioting, Ku Klux Klan gatherings, police brutality, and racially motivated beatings.

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Racial taunts -- including the "N" word and other forms of the slur, as well as "cracker" -- are heard throughout.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Eyes on the Prize is a powerful documentary that depicts real-life racial violence, cruelty, bigotry, and name-calling. The fact that these events are true history might be more disturbing to kids and teens than fictional fare. There are scenes and images of African Americans being victimized by their white neighbors, including riots, beatings, the results of lynchings, murder, and general injustice. In addition, Southern government officials deliver angry tirades against the African Americans in their communities, describing them as less than full human beings and using multiple racial slurs, including the "N" word. However, for mature kids and teens, this film is an even-handed, solid, and accurate record of this crucial time in the history of America.

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What's the story?

EYES ON THE PRIZE is a six-hour documentary that first aired on PBS in 1987 and won multiple Emmy Awards. The film uses personal testimony and newsreel and archival footage, as well as the overview of modern historians, to tell the story of the American Civil Rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s. Divided into one-hour segments, the film deals with the key events and crises that impacted and changed the racial landscape of the American South. From the murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till for "talking fresh to a white woman" to Rosa Parks' courageous refusal to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., and the bus boycott that followed; from the forced integrations of Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., and the University of Mississippi to the Martin Luther King, Jr.-led march on Washington; from the heroic efforts of African Americans and whites working together to register new voters to the bloody march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, each hour offers an in-depth look at this monumental time in U.S. history.

Is it any good?


This documentary series is wonderfully narrated by Julian Bond and peppered with feisty first-person accounts from the people who lived it. Watching early film of Martin Luther King, Jr. as a 26-year-old clergyman at the beginning of his historic odyssey and seeing the young, future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall just after his victory in Brown vs. the Board of Education are highlights in a film that consistently strives for excellence, integrity, and clarity. It's a fascinating, emotional journey marked by moments of sadness, disgust, pride, and ultimately joy. Eyes on the Prize brings a crucial part of America's recent past to life.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about bigotry in Eyes on the Prize and the United States today. How much further have we come since the days of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement of the mid-1900s? Are there groups in the U.S. today that are being persecuted and treated unjustly or are in danger of that?

  • Many documentaries are made with a specific point of view or political position. What resources do audiences have to find out what those points of view or positions are? How do we know when we can trust the information that's being presented?

  • How does Eyes on the Prize promote perseverance and courage? What about compassion and integrity? Why are those important character strengths?

Movie details

DVD/Streaming release date:April 6, 2010
Cast:Julian Bond
Director:Henry Hampton
Studios:Blackside, PBS Home Videos
Character strengths:Compassion, Courage, Integrity, Perseverance
Run time:360 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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Adult Written bymcm29 July 21, 2015

Must Watch

Until I saw this documentary, I did not understand the savagery of white racism in America. Seeing real film footage of the racist insanity literally made me weep. From the gut-wrenching story of Emmett Till to the Boston busing crisis, it broke my heart. Black people already know this history. If you are white, even if you are an adult, you had better get a copy from the library and and sit down to watch.
What other families should know
Great role models
Adult Written byLowe's man January 30, 2017

Sad, but essential viewing.

If you were born after the civil rights era of the 1960s, as I was, you will learn much. Even if you lived through this you'll see that the horrors were worse than you assumed. One will also see how seemingly unrelated issues, such as highway revolts, are sometimes rooted in civil rights, sometimes in a real sense, other times in a de facto sense. Whites will have their horizons opened up, while African Americans will learn new things in addition to what many already know, and will have an expanded sense of what many already know. Lastly, the age recommendation. I put the green light at 14 because some kids will be more upset by these than by fictional material because everything in this series is true. However, some will put the green light at 11 or 12. Indeed some junior high teachers probably will use this series in their classes. While I think that this series can wait a couple years, I understand why some think otherwise. I have no problem with those who think differently. Parents and teachers are ultimately the best judges of what their children or students can or cannot handle.