Golden Door

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Golden Door Movie Poster Image
Punishing but eye-opening immigrant tale.
  • PG-13
  • 2007
  • 120 minutes

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

Positive Messages

Salvatore is a protective father who remains respectful of others while trying to safely usher his family to the new world. Some passengers speculate that the mysterious Lucy is a prostitute. Passengers loot belongings left by those who died during the journey, and men size up women like cattle and lay claim to them in a dubious matchmaking process. A young boy is treated as though he's useless simply because he refuses to talk.


When the ship hits rough seas, third-class passengers are viciously thrown about in their crowded spaces; some are crushed to death, and the resulting aftermath is dismaying/upsetting. Occasionally, two brothers swat at and shove each other.


Salvatore and Lucy flirt, but only through looks. A young man sneaks into the women's area in steerage and surreptitiously smells a sleeping woman's underwear -- while she's still wearing it. A few scenes at Ellis Island show both men and women naked (everything is visible except for genitalia) in communal showers.


Nothing more colorful than "idiot" and "blockhead."


None, except perhaps a nostalgic pitch for that land of plenty, America.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some immigrants smoke cigarettes. Bottles of wine are brought on the ship as possessions.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that even though this subtitled period drama is rated PG-13, it's actually quite tame in terms of language and nudity (a communal shower scene at Ellis Island shows everything except genitalia, but it's not at all sexual), so there's little to worry about there if older tweens and young teens are interested. That said, the story is an unvarnished look at immigration, and some scenes can be disturbing (passengers get crushed during very rough seas). Also, some of the immigrants' experiences -- from why they married strangers to the strange questions they had to answer at Ellis Island -- may need explanations.

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What's the story?

GOLDEN DOOR, an Italian film with English subtitles, follows Salvatore Mancuso (Vincenzo Amato), a widowed Sicilian who dreams of joining his twin in America. With sons Angelo (Francesco Casisa) and Pietro (Filippo Pucillo), his superstitious mother (Aurora Quattrocchi), and two young women from his village, Salvatore boards a ship headed to the great unknown. Onboard, Salvatore meets Lucy (Charlotte Gainsbourg), an Englishwoman who needs a man to gain entry into America. But their quiet romance takes a back seat to the realities of immigration. Subjected to an endless list of indignities – horrid living quarters, turbulent seas, interrogations and tests by Ellis Island officials – the immigrants are brave, indeed. But the promise of the good life and better opportunities beckons, and most are willing to take a chance.

Is it any good?

Movies about the immigrant experience almost always ground the narrative in the new world, often with much success -- but wisely, director Emanuel Crialese doesn't trifle with any of that. For him, the old world -- and the journey from it -- holds much more drama. And he's right.

At first, Salvatore's flights of fancy (visions of money falling from trees like overripe fruit, for example) seem misplaced in a movie that's so straightforward about history. But these moments add levity to the merciless voyage itself. If only the movie could have offered even a glimpse of America. When the men climb a window to peer at the "bell towers" rising high with wooden boxes that transport people to their homes in the sky, can't viewers see what all the fuss is about, too? After all that pain and suffering and heartache, we want the payoff.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how movies and other media usually depict the immigrant experience. Why is the actual journey from the old world to the new so often glossed over? If immigrants had to sacrifice so much, why did they decide to leave their country to start over somewhere else? What did America represent for them? And how did these preconceived notions about the country form? What did you know about the immigrant experience before watching the movie? What did you learn during the film?

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