Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Flight Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Excellent but mature drama about alcoholic airline pilot.
  • R
  • 2012
  • 138 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 13 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 16 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

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 & Representations

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymartineque May 3, 2021

Full frontal gratuitous female nudity from the first second!

Unfortunately it made very uncomfortable viewing with family. Opening scene is a totally naked woman in a hotel room for several minutes and we were all wonderi... Continue reading
Adult Written byPres April 17, 2020

Zero stars! Porn content!

Wtf! Gratuitous female nudity! Completely unnecessary! This is an NC-17 movie. Denzel Washington is a woman have sex and she parades around naked- front , back... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old March 19, 2021
Teen, 15 years old Written byaskrishna July 29, 2019

It was alright.

Really, the only lesson to take is don’t drink a lot. There’s not a lot of violence and horror, other than the plane accident, but at the beginning there is a f... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

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