G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Movie review by
James Rocchi, Common Sense Media
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra Movie Poster Image
Too violent for kids, too childish for grown-ups.
  • PG-13
  • 2009
  • 107 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 37 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 73 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Although the movie theoretically promotes the concept of international cooperation to defeat threats, any true positive takeaway is neutralized by the movie's total divorce from reality and nonstop violent mayhem.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Duke and the other G.I. Joes are depicted as hard-fighting-yet-sensitive warriors who are focused on their mission and protecting one another. Their Cobra enemies are painted as wholly villainous (no complex bad guys here!).


Constant extreme -- though generally bloodless -- action violence. A man has a white-hot metal mask affixed to his face. Characters are shot, decapitated, and stabbed and slashed with swords and throwing stars. Characters fight both hand-to-hand and with firearms, and there are intense martial arts sequences. People fall from great heights. Planes, ships, and other vehicles fire on each other with a plethora of weapons and missiles. Lots of general mayhem and destruction. In flashback, children engage in brutal violence involving frying pans, flames, martial arts weapons, and more. A child murders a teacher -- it's off-screen, but the body is seen. Surgical imagery.


Some kissing, cleavage, and discussion of "touching."


Some strong language, including "s--t," "bastards," "piss," "a--holes," "damn," "hell," "bitch," "crap," "goddamn," "oh my God," and more.


The film is based on a cartoon series that itself was based on a toy line (and the movie was actually co-produced by Hasbro, which makes those toys), so you could argue that the whole thing is an exercise in product placement. Other brands visible or mentioned include Hummer, Mercedes-Benz, Double Bubble, and Cisco.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A super-soldier serum lets people "feel no pain" and has implied adddictive and narcotic effects.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this relentless action adventure inspired by the '80s cartoon/toy line is filled with extreme (albeit minimally bloody/gory) violence. Kids will want to see it because they're the ones who play with the toys, but there's no end to the parade of characters who are slashed, stabbed, shot, or dispatched in various other ways. (Unlike in the similarly inspired Transformers movies, most of the victims here are people, not machines). There's also a lot of potentially scary medical imagery -- needles, scalpels, painful-looking procedures, and more -- and some intermittent strong language (including "s--t"). Hasbro, the company that makes G.I. Joe toys, co-produced the movie -- meaning that the story doesn't contain product placement so much as the product placement contains a story.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byEllieKarena December 29, 2019

Sexist and misogynistic.

It’s not about the violence or how badly written it is. For me, the reason I wouldn’t let me son watch this when he’s older or growing up is for how it portrays... Continue reading
Adult Written bywjbyman October 22, 2009

special effects with a bunch of bad guys vs good guys

Just another action flick that is pure hollywood special effects. I would buy the DVD as a time killer, but there are really no positive messages here. Language... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old May 18, 2021

Too Childish for Teens & Adults

I watched the 2 minutes of this film & after they put on a mask to burn the guy’s face it started having a childish tone that I also started to find it... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bycatfishbam11 April 7, 2020


This movie is ok. Most of the movie is senseless violence, shooting, sword fighting, and hand to hand combat. There is no meaningful content, just fighting. So... Continue reading

What's the story?

Set in a hypothetical near-future, G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA pits a multinational, best-of-the-best fighting force ("the Joes") against a high-tech, highly motivated terrorist group intent on shattering civilization with nanotechnology-based armaments that can devour metal nearly instantly. As Duke (Channing Tatum) -- the Joes' newest recruit -- gets closer and closer to the evil plotters, he realizes that one of them, the amoral Baroness (Sienna Miller), is actually his long-lost ex-fiancee.

Is it any good?

Too cartoony and childish for grown-up action fans and too violent and grisly for kids, G.I. Joe is an action film whose glossy shine is matched only by its glib cynicism. Combining the globe-trotting style of modern techno thrillers and the cartoony, bloodless, high-tech look of modern effects blockbusters with an unhealthy dose of '80s nostalgia for the original cartoon, G.I. Joe feels like it's trying -- incredibly hard -- to be all things to all people. And so it fails to be anything to anyone. Tatum tries to invest his between-fights dialogue with emotional meaning and sincerity, but it's like trying to stuff vitamins into cotton candy -- futile and messy.

Director Stephen Sommers proved that he could craft decent PG-13 action with the Mummy films; he also proved, with Van Helsing, that he can let his love of effects triumph over the storytelling required to make a real film. Many (infact, almost all) of G.I. Joe's effects-heavy action sequences have the plastic, weightless, meaningless computer-generated emptiness of a video game. And while the costumed, code-named, stylized characters are faithful to the original cartoon, they aren't especially engaging or real beyond their fidelity to the source material.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's violence. Despite dozens of on-screen deaths, the movie earned a PG-13 rating -- do you think that's accurate? Do bloodless deaths have less impact than gorier ones?

  • It's also worth talking about the consumerism side of things. What do kids make of the fact that this is a movie based on a line of toys? Is the movie's goal to sell more toys? If not, what is it?

  • Why do you think the movie takes a fantasy-oriented approach to both violence and terrorism? Does it make those issues any less scary?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love action

Themes & Topics

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