Gods and Generals Movie Poster Image

Gods and Generals

Meticulous Civil War story runs a little long.
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2003
  • Running Time: 216 minutes

What parents need to know


Intense battle violence, bloody surgical scenes





Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Smoking, social drinking

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie has sustained battle violence and bloody scenes of caring for wounded soldiers. Many characters die.

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What's the story?

GODS AND GENERALS is a careful, meticulous, lovingly crafted three and a half hour chronicle of the Civil War. This is a movie where the Confederate general Stonewall Jackson (still so revered in Virginia that the place he died is not called a memorial, but a shrine) calls the black man he is about to hire as a cook "Mr. Lewis," and where Mr. Lewis is so well educated, despite being from a part of the country where educating black people is illegal, that he quotes Napoleon. Later on, General Jackson explains to Mr. Lewis that the South would like to free all the slaves. It just wants to do that without being forced to by the federal government, so that the South can build an enduring friendship with the people who were kidnapped and sold into bondage. Meanwhile, on the other side, a Northern officer who will become the most decorated soldier in the Union army, tells his brother that the war was not fought about slavery, but now that it is underway, it is so terrible that it has to be justified by making some great, sweeping, change for justice.

Is it any good?


Sometimes, what is best for history is not best for drama -- and here, the filmmaker's relentless even-handedness removes whatever drama the story might have had. He makes every one of the characters endlessly honorable, devoted to God, home, and family, good to the slaves, and able to spout poetry, the classics, or the Bible in the midst of the direst circumstances. Its PG-13 television-ready (it will be expanded to six hours for a miniseries) level of violence may make it suitable for junior high history class field trips, but does not truly convey the tragic carnage of the war. All the soldiers have nice uniforms and enough to eat. Officers at the front get visits from their devoted wives at places that 150 years later will be made into quaint bed and breakfast inns. And everyone is on the right side.

And -- everyone encompasses a lot of people. Hard core Civil War buffs may be able to follow the endless series of characters and their advances and retreats, all identified with brief subtitles, but anyone else will have a hard time.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the way that more than 160 years later, people in the United States still disagree about the causes and effects of the Civil War (which some still call the War Between the States). What did the soldiers on both sides have in common? What were their differences? Given what is going on in the world right now, what did we learn?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:April 21, 2003
DVD/Streaming release date:July 15, 2003
Cast:Jeff Daniels, Robert Duvall, Stephen Lang
Director:Ronald F. Maxwell
Studio:Warner Bros.
Run time:216 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:sustained battle sequences

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Kid, 12 years old August 2, 2012


I read the book Gods and Generals,and when my mom told me there was a movie,I was so excited!I had huge expectations for this movie,and they were met!I had no complaints,except for the casting.Rubert Duvall was AMAZING as Lee,but I kind of wish Martin Sheen had portrayed him again.And Stephen Lang as Stonewall Jackson?I liked him much better as Pickett!But other than that,I loved this movie!The characters occasionally smoke,and of course,as this being a Civil War movie,there are some epic battle scenes!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Parent of a 12 year old Written byTsion April 9, 2008
Teen, 13 years old Written byDman April 9, 2008