Flight Movie Poster Image


Excellent but mature drama about alcoholic airline pilot.
Popular with kids
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Running Time: 138 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The story shows the difficult struggle of dealing with alcoholism -- the main character battles it and reaches a level of sobriety, learning to accept others' help and return their love. His actions and decisions also emphasize the importance of telling the truth (rather than lying to protect yourself) and accepting the consequences.

Positive role models

It's difficult to call Whip a true role model, as his struggle falls on the negative side so many times. Throughout most of the movie, he pushes others away, behaves badly, and very often slips back into drinking again. But he earns viewers' sympathy, and when the crucial moment comes, he chooses what's right over his own selfishness.


The first part of the movie includes a harrowing, realistic plane crash sequence in which many people are injured (on-screen) and some killed (offscreen). A stewardess risks her life to save a boy. Characters are seen in the hospital. A secondary character overdoses on heroin and nearly dies; she also goes to the hospital. The main character has many drunken binges that sometimes result in shouting or falling and hurting himself (some blood is shown). There's also some arguing and confrontation.


The movie opens with the main character in a hotel bed with a naked woman. She walks, naked, around the room, for long moments before the scene ends. The main character also appears to be naked but is mostly covered by the sheets. Later, the main character flirts with and kisses another woman.


Language includes many uses of "f--k" and "s--t," plus "d--k," "ass," "damn," "hell," "crap," "goddamn," etc.


Many brand names of beer and hard liquor are shown, including Heineken, Bushmills, Grey Goose, Corona, Stolichnaya, Jim Beam, and more. Some of the brands have requested that they be removed from the film.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The main character is an alcoholic but denies it throughout most of the film. He has many drinking binges, downing everything from beer to vodka, which usually results in shouting, passing out, and/or hurting himself. A secondary character is a drug addict; she's shown in an early scene shooting heroin and overdosing. After this incident, she stays clean throughout the rest of the movie. In one crucial scene, the main character's friend makes him a special "wake up" cocktail consisting of cocaine and tobacco. Whip also smokes frequently.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Flight is an excellent, albeit mature, drama about an alcoholic airline pilot and the investigation surrounding a plane crash he was involved in. The crash sequence itself is realistic and harrowing, with injuries and wounds. Drinking and drugs are also big issues, as the main character is an alcoholic who frequently binges (sometimes resulting in arguing and/or injuries, some with blood), and a secondary character is a drug addict. There's also a nude scene early in the movie, when the main character wakes up in a hotel room with a girlfriend, and language is strong, with uses of "f--k" and "s--t." Director Robert Zemeckis also made the ultra-popular Forrest Gump, but Flight is more intense in some ways and less age appropriate for younger teens.

What's the story?

Faced with a malfunctioning plane, commercial airline pilot Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) pulls off a spectacular crash landing that saves nearly all the lives on board. Unfortunately, during the subsequent investigation, it becomes apparent that he was drunk while flying. Worse, he abuses alcohol regularly. In the hospital, Whip meets recovering drug addict Nicole (Kelly Reilly) and decides to help her out. In the days leading up to a hearing that could cost Whip his job, he tries to stop drinking, but with all the pressure, he finds the urge too strong. Even with all the people in his life trying to help, it all comes down to Whip, who must decide for himself which path to take.

Is it any good?


After too many years of gimmick- and special effects-based movies, with FLIGHT, director Robert Zemeckis once again finds the perfect balance between characters and spectacle. (He achieved this in his best films, Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit.) This is also easily the most mature movie of his career. A slightly less talented director would have focused on the heavy issue of alcoholism, but Zemeckis instead uses the suspense of the impending hearing, as well as rich characters and performances (John Goodman is a particular standout). The balance makes for a far more effective and appealing film.

Likewise, special effects are restricted to the first act only and used to support the characters and themes, rather than the other way around. Moreover, Flight bravely includes many unconventional moments, ranging from powerful, passionate speeches by minor characters to amazing moments with no dialogue at all. Flight is purely a Hollywood film, but it's Hollywood at its very best.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how Flight depicts drinking. Why does Whip drink so much? What are the results of his drinking? What consequences does he face? Do they seem realistic?

  • Why doesn't Whip accept any help from anyone? How can you help a loved one who might be an alcoholic/addict?

  • How did the violent plane crash sequence affect you? Was it too over-the-top, or did it seem to fit the story? How does a scene like that compare to something in a big-budget action movie? Which has more impact? Why?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 2, 2012
DVD/Streaming release date:February 5, 2013
Cast:Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly
Director:Robert Zemeckis
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Run time:138 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:drug and alcohol abuse, language, sexuality/nudity and an intense action sequence

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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 6 year old Written by2Eboys November 4, 2012

Great movie for adults, NOT FOR KIDS OR TEENS!

Nearly excellent movie for ADULTS. Zemeckis made a timely, plausible movie presenting multi-layered ethical dilemmas. In the opening sequence you are introduced to Whip, the main character, as he is waking up from a night of binge drinking, drugs and sex.There is full frontal female nudity for 10 seconds or more and strong curse words from the get-go. We had two kids sitting near us in the movie theater. One was probably 8-10 and the other was 10-12. The mom of the older child was trying to cover his eyes for the first two minutes of the movie and the younger child was in his parent's lap after the extremely intense plane crash scene, which almost had me in tears. I heard the boy say to the mom, "What would happen to us if we were on that plane?" The crash is too intense for kids and even teens. The ethical issues are way above children's heads and too thick for teens to understand without several discussions before and after the movie. I do not recommend this for families unless your children are grown and about to head off to college, where they will face decisions about drinking and its consequences on their own.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Educator and Parent Written byTeenBoyzDad November 3, 2012

Not for kids, but excellent.

The opening scene depicts full nudity of a gorgeous young lady, several times. If you can get your son to wear a blindfold for the first 5 minutes, the rest is OK for 15 and up. The movie provides good conversation fodder about alcoholism and drug addiction.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written byNoprudehere November 22, 2012

"Flight" crashed for our group

The previews for this movie are deceptive, to say the least. We went in expecting an exciting adventure/courtroom drama centered around a heroic pilot a la "Sully" Sullenberger of Hudson River fame. Were we ever wrong. The movie opens with a good five minutes of a totally nude woman prancing around a bedroom, bending over and exposing her rear end to the Denzel Washington character, and audibly urinating. It includes scenes of "morning after" drinking and coke snorting. (I couldn't stop wondering how Denzel Washington's wife feels about her husband appearing in scenes like this.) The action then switches to a female addict who is being pressured to appear in a porn film; explicit sexual activity is visible in the background. I don't know if the movie improved after this point because we left. The movie should have been rated NC-17, IMO. It was absolutely unnecessary to include the gratuitous nudity and sexual content in order to get across the point that the Washington character is morally challenged and substance dependent. Upon returning home I read several reviews of the movie - I should have done this first, but on second thought, none of them would have adequately prepared me for what I saw. I discovered that the main theme of the movie is addiction. I sure wish the trailers and TV ads had made this clear before I wasted part of an afternoon. At least the theater was gracious in returning our money - apparently we were not the first group who had walked out.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking