We had to watch this movie in history class.
This movie is absolutely amazing. I'm pretty sure this is the only movie that has ever made me cry, and I've seen Titanic and all the other famous tear-jerkers. It really brings the Civil War to life in a way you will never get from a textbook. Although it took a little bit of getting used to seeing our beloved Ferris Bueller as a Civil War colonel, Matthew Broderick played the part fantastically.
It is violent, which is why it is rated R, but honestly it could have been a lot worse. There are a lot of other movies out there that are a lot more violent. Most of the violence is implied. For example, you would hear a shot and a soldier in battle would scream and fall to the ground. It wouldn't show all the blood and gore and details. However, there are a few instances where you do see blood splattered as a result of a blow to the head. But like I said before, it doesn't focus on it in detail.
Also, the N-word is used a lot during the course of the movie. But, like my history teacher reminded us, this is an historical film and is meant to reflect the time period as best as possible. The word was commonly used back then, especially in the circumstances surrounding this film. Just make sure your child knows that the word is not socially acceptable in today's age.
Bottom line, know your kid. Out of the 100 kids ages 15-16 that saw this in my school, no one had a problem with it, and everyone loved it. I was sobbing like a baby at the end of it (I won't spoil the ending). If you can handle the violence, it is probably one of the most eye-opening films I have ever seen. You can study the Civil War in textbooks as much as you want, but you won't get the true meaning of it unless you see this movie. It will bring you to tears to see what these men went through.