Brilliant biopic engages, educates, and inspires.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Review Date: July 19, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1982
  • Running Time: 190 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

India, a country of millions, managed to overthrow foreign rule through an unprecedented policy governed by nonviolent protest of unfair laws and domination.

Positive role models

By teaching nonviolent disobedience, Mohandas Gandhi led a continent to self-rule. When the frustrated Indian citizenry lapsed into violence, Gandhi fasted until near death to persuade his fellow Indians that violence merely begat more violence. If they attained their freedom by violence, he told them, he wanted no part of it.


The film chronicles a period of conflict in South African and Indian history, between whites and darker-skinned people, British and Indians, and Hindus and Muslims. Gandhi is thrown off a train in South Africa because his skin is dark. He and other protesters are beaten by white authorities in South Africa and later by British soldiers and affiliated police in India. British soldiers are shown carrying out a graphic massacre, gunning down 1,500 unarmed, peacefully gathered Indian protesters, including women and children. A large, angry mob of Indians attacks government police officers, setting their station on fire and killing some when they come running out of the burning building. Hindus and Muslims beat each other in riots.

Not applicable

A white man calls Gandhi a "Kaffir," which is an Afrikaans ethnic slur; although once a neutral description of a black person, by the 20th century it was commonly used in South Africa as a denigrating and offensive racial term.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults drink alcohol in seeming moderation. Cigarette smoking is depicted.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Gandhi begins with Gandhi's assassination and shows brutal beatings and a violent depiction of a shooting massacre. That said, this movie provides a brilliant way to learn about history and about the spiritual principles of nonviolence, tolerance, and self-sacrifice. It's advisable to break the movie over two nights (there is an intermission).

What's the story?

Director Richard Attenborough's extensive biopic of Gandhi (Ben Kingsley) begins as the influential Indian spiritual and political leader takes a stand against the Pass Laws in South Africa and implements his methods of nonviolent protest for the first time. The film spans Gandhi's adult life, showing how his spiritual principles of equality, tolerance, and nonviolence inspired India to push for independence from British rule. The movie pulls no punches in showing the violence that came out of the partition of India into India and Pakistan.

Is it any good?


Weighing in at more than three hours, this amazing biopic is a must-see for families with an interest in history or civil rights. Ben Kingsley is brilliant as Gandhi, and the cast includes such luminaries as Sir John Gielgud, Candice Bergen, Martin Sheen, Roshan Seth, Trevor Howard, and Edward Fox. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what motivated Gandhi and why people followed him. How was he a different kind of leader?

  • What parallels to the American civil rights movement do you see?

  • What can modern leaders learn from Gandhi?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 8, 1982
DVD release date:August 27, 2001
Cast:Ben Kingsley, Candice Bergen, Edward Fox
Director:Richard Attenborough
Studio:Columbia Tristar
Run time:190 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:some violence

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008

Inspirational and Excellent!

Gandhi is the inspirational tale of one man's fight for a free India. It shows you that you don't have to fight violent wars to get what you want. Gandhi was a clever and sweet man, and got what he wanted for India through the power of words, not fists. This movie is a great way to learn about Indian culture, Gandhi's life, and just history in general. You should also take into consideration that the movie won nine Oscars, so it is definately as good as people make it out to be. Parents should know that this movie has very strong violence. Kids that are sensitive to gory things should cover their eyes during the massacre (I did). All in all, this is a must see film for everyone and anyone!
Teen, 13 years old Written byMonocle Man December 1, 2011

Excellent film

I think it is amazing that people call this a boring movie. I suppose some other teens can't handle a film without 24/7 violence. If your child has an attention span over 5 seconds, then give this movie a chance.
Teen, 15 years old Written bybadderanarchy August 3, 2009
this movie is boring
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Great messages
Great role models


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