Gone with the Wind

Still one of Hollywood's best sweeping epics.
  • Review Date: May 19, 2003
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Classic
  • Release Year: 1939
  • Running Time: 238 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie suggests that the genteel, slave-holding, plantation-owning way of life that is "gone with the wind" is worth romanticizing. Yes, Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar for her portrayal, but the African Americans in the movie are all slaves and act stereotypically and as if they actually enjoyed their servitude. Scarlett can be manipulative and at times acts in a way many would find wrong (marrying for convenience, kissing a married man).

Positive role models

Scarlett is fierce, determined, and ambitious, but she's also vain, selfish, manipulative, and unkind. The real role model in the film is Melanie, who is the epitome of selflessness and grace, even after it's clear Scarlett is in love with her husband.


The movie revolves around the Civil War, and there is a great deal of overt and implied violence, although sans the gratuitous depictions common in contemporary movies. Wounded soliders are screaming, needing amputations, and dying in tent hospitals. Union officers cruelly light fire to Atlanta. Scarlett shoots a bloodied Union deserter and then drags his body away. Scarlett falls down the stairs and loses a pregnancy. A child dies after a horseback-riding accident. Rhett handles Scarlett roughly and makes a comment about wanting to tear her apart. Men try to steal Scarlett's carriage, causing her to almost falls off a bridge.


Scarlett uses her sexual attractiveness ALL of the time to get her way, and flirts with many men, even married ones like Ashley. She often dresses in what was considered provacatively at the time (cleavage-bearing dresses with a supertight corset). There are a few kisses, and one scene that implies a husband has forced himself on his wife; it will go over kids' heads, but a drunk Rhett roughly carries Scarlett to her bedroom, and the next morning she is extremely happy and relaxed. Bell is a "lady of the night," in other words, one of the original "hookers with a heart of gold."


Probably the most famous "damn" in all of movie history.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults drink often, although usually at parties (wine, champagne, and brandy). Scarlett and her father drink whiskey. Rhett gets drunk on occasion, and in one scene three men pretend they're drunk to avoid confrontation. Rhett and other Southern gentleman smoke cigars throughout the movie.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this epic drama, which is widely considered one of the top movies of all time, would never be rated G by today's standards. The film centers around the Civil War-torn South and includes several scenes of war-related violence, such as wounded soldiers dying, and Scarlett O'Hara shooting a Union deserter. The sexuality isn't as overt as in contemporary movies, but it's still pervasive, as Scarlett is clearly a bold, sexually attractive woman who manipulates men with her looks. Additionally, there are several kisses (a few very passionate ones), a scene that implies a husband has forced his wife to go to bed with him, and even the inclusion of a minor character who is a good-hearted "lady of the night." The alcohol and cigar use is also frequent, although mostly because there are so many parties in the movie. Parents should be aware that the depiction of African Americans is problematic and stereotypical -- the slaves seem to actually enjoy their lot and are either superficial and ignorant or fussy and smothering. It may concern some parents that the Confederate South is portrayed as having been a place of gentility and charm.

What's the story?

GONE WITH THE WIND is an epic melodrama that chronicles the Civil War from the point of view of a Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh), a glamourous, unstoppable Southern belle. Just before the outbreak of war, the pampered and beautiful Scarlett, whose family plantation is called Tara, attends a ball where she discovers her object of affection Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) is engaged to his cousin Melanie (Olivia de Havilland). In a fit of jealousy, Scarlett accepts a proposal from Melanie's brother but not before she meets the dashing Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), who can't keep his eyes off of her. Widowed shortly after the War begins, a \"mourning\" Scarlett once again meets Rhett at a dance but goes on to marry a businessman she doesn't love in order to keep Tara. As the war takes a heavy toll, Scarlett and Melanie must deal with the near-destruction of everything and everyone around them, including Tara. Scarlett eventually marries Rhett, who fears she continues to harbor not-so-secret feelings for Ashley, and they have a daughter together. Tragedies continue to befall the Butlers, and their marriage is tested again and again.

Is it any good?


Victor Fleming could have retired after 1939 and he'd still be lauded for having directed (or at least finished directing) two of the most important movies of the 20th century -- Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, both of which turned 70 in 2009. Both films are considered among the best of the best, ranking in the top 10 in Greatest of All Time lists, and both films are a pleasure to see multiple times, preferably at various points in a person's life, to truly appreciate. A tween taking in all four (!) hours of Leigh and Gable might focus on the costumes and war and tune out the sexism and slavery of the time period depicted, while an older teen might hone in on the swoon-inducing romance (even current movie gods like Clooney and Pitt have nothing on Gable), whereas a parent might be less sympathetic to Scarlett and favor Melanie's quiet strength instead. There's a reason the Hollywood adaptation of a Southern saga won 9 Academy Awards and is still commemorated seen decades later -- it's got it all: drama, violence, intrigue, romance (even sex, although it takes grown-up eyes to spot it), historical importance, a timeless score, and an amazing cast.

If you can forgive the stereotypical depiction of slaves, and the general romanticizing of the antebellum South, the two main reasons to keep watching Gone With the Wind are Leigh and Gable. Actors who want a master class in chemistry should be forced to study how their scenes together. Leigh, an Englishwoman, is effortless in her portrayal of a gorgeous, manipulative Atlanta socialite, and Gable, with the briefest of smoldering looks, could level an entire theater-full of women. The supporting cast is also remarkable, as is the cinematography and the costume design (the unforgettable  green-velvet dress made from curtains). It's difficult to imagine families sitting down for a four-hour film -- especially one without hobbits, Transformers, or wizards -- but Gone With the Wind is worth the long evening in, especially the 2009 four-disc, Blu-Ray collectors' edition, which includes nearly 20 hours worth of extras, celebrating everything from Hollywood's golden year 1939 to a first-person interview with de Havilland about working on the film opposite film legends. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the Civil War is portrayed via the character of Scarlett O'Hara. How does the war affect her way of life? Does living through war change her personality, or does she remain the same throughout?

  • Scarlett is married several times for different reasons. Was marriage her only option at the time? What is different about her marriages to Charles, Frank, and then Rhett? Which of her marriages means the most to her and why?

  • Melanie is Scarlett's opposite in most ways. How do their personalities, values, and behavior differ? Why does Melanie forgive Scarlett over and over again?

  • How are African Americans depicted in the movie? Would the portrayal of Civil War-era slavery be different if this 1939 movie were remade today?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 15, 1939
DVD release date:November 17, 2009
Cast:Clark Gable, Hattie McDaniel, Vivien Leigh
Director:Victor Fleming
Studio:Warner Bros.
Run time:238 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of Gone with the Wind was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

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.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 13 years old Written byBestPicture1996 August 19, 2009
age 12+

Couldn't find a better old movie except "Rebecca"

I literally looked for things I didn't like about "Wind," but I COULD NOT FIND ANYTHING WRONG. All the characters are brilliantly portrayed, and you start to feel their pain after a while. Everything's over-the-top drama, but that's what makes it unique, and it's plot and length (nearly 4 hrs.) make it totally unrepeatable.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Teen, 17 years old Written bycopperzinc May 29, 2009
age 8+
What other families should know
Too much violence
Parent of a 11 year old Written byjwrakosy June 16, 2010
age 13+
Excellent movie! I saw it when I was 10, 39 years ago, but didn't get some parts like the 'ladies of the night'. I think is not appropiate for kids under 13 for that reason. On other matters, such as Rhett going to the bar and drinking, it is something that parents could talk to their kids. In addition, I remember the Scarlet's maid being happy, so I couldn't understand why the North was interfering with the South. Again, I was only 10 and grew up in SouthAmerica so didn't know about the USA history. It was a long movie, 4 hours, but that didn't bother me; however, being a girl I expected a happy ending.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass