Gone with the Wind

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Gone with the Wind Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Undeniably an epic, but lots of problematic representations.
  • G
  • 1939
  • 238 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 20 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 54 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Movie erroneously suggests that the genteel, slavery-centric, plantation-owning way of life that is "gone with the wind" is worth romanticizing. On the plus side, many characters demonstrate perseverance. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Scarlett is fierce, determined, ambitious, but also frequently vain, selfish, manipulative, unkind. The real role model in the film is Melanie, who is the epitome of selflessness and grace. Portrayal of the movie's Black characters is reductive and racist. Hattie McDaniel may have won an Oscar for her role as Mammy, but she and the movie's other Black characters act stereotypically and as if they actually enjoy their enslavement.

Violence

Movie revolves around Civil War, and there's overt and implied violence. Wounded soldiers are shown screaming, needing amputations, dying in tent hospitals. Union officers set Atlanta on fire, which leads to perilous journey for main characters. Scarlett shoots a bloodied Union deserter and then drags his body away. Scarlett falls down the stairs, loses a pregnancy. A child dies after a horseback-riding accident. Rhett handles Scarlett roughly, makes a comment about wanting to tear her apart. While drunk, he roughly carries her to her bedroom, implying that he's forcing her to sleep with him. Men try to steal Scarlett's carriage, causing her to almost fall off a bridge.

Sex

Scarlett frequently uses her sexual attractiveness to get her way. She flirts with many men, even married ones. She often dresses in what was considered a risque manner at the time (i.e., in cleavage-baring dresses with a very tight corset). There are a few kisses. Belle is a "lady of the night" -- in other words, one of the original "hookers with a heart of gold."

Language

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

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink often, 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 gentlemen smoke cigars throughout the movie.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the epic drama Gone with the Wind is based on Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel. It centers around the Civil War-torn South and includes several scenes of war-related violence, including wounded soldiers dying and main character Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) shooting a Union deserter. The sexuality isn't as overt as in contemporary movies, but it's still pervasive. Scarlett purposely uses her sexual appeal to manipulate men. There's plenty of flirting, several kisses (some very passionate), and a minor character who's a good-hearted "lady of the night." One scene implies that a husband forces his wife to go to bed with him. Alcohol and cigar use are also frequent, especially during the movie's many parties, and there's a bit of strong language (particularly one very famous "damn"). It may concern some parents that the Confederate South is portrayed as having been a place of gentility and charm, and the movie's depiction of Black characters is problematic and stereotypical. The enslaved people seem to actually enjoy their lot and are portrayed as either superficial and ignorant or fussy and smothering.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byschizoidnightmares June 15, 2020

Epic portrait of narcissism

While Scarlet faces some rough times ahead in her life in the upcoming Civil War, she is by far privileged... Blessed with inherited wealth, fair skin, good loo... Continue reading
Adult Written byxxxrodrigoxxx July 2, 2019

A product of its time, but required viewing for any student of film and/or American history

So much about this film is iconic that it is likely that young people these days will come across a spoof or reference to Gone With the Wind before the real dea... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written by34soccergirl December 6, 2013

Beautiful Mess

Well, this movie by far is my favorite classic. A rough, four hour film, but I never got bored. Scarlet is a true Southern belle, surrounded by men who love her... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byEvanPenguin August 27, 2020

Boring as hell

At the time this movie was probably a marvel, and I suppose it still is today, but the movie is absolutely overly long and boring, with overtures and intermissi... Continue reading

What's the story?

GONE WITH THE WIND is an epic melodrama that chronicles the Civil War from the point of view of Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh), a glamorous, headstrong Southern belle. Just before the war begins, the pampered and beautiful Scarlett -- whose family plantation is called Tara -- attends a ball. There, she discovers that her object of affection, Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard), has become 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, even though 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?

It's harder and harder to look past this film's stereotypical depiction of enslaved people and its romanticizing of the antebellum South, but Leigh and Gable's performances are undeniably excellent. Actors who want a master class in chemistry should be forced to study their scenes together. Leigh, an Englishwoman, is effortless in her portrayal of a manipulative Atlanta socialite, and Gable causes swooning with the briefest of smoldering looks. The supporting cast is also remarkable, as are the cinematography and the costume design (the unforgettable green velvet dress made from curtains!).

Director Victor Fleming could have retired after 1939, and he'd still be lauded for having directed (or at least finished directing) two of the 20th century's landmark movies: Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz. Both films regularly rank in all-time greatest lists, and both films will likely make a different impact at various points in a viewer's life. A tween taking in all four (!) hours of Leigh and Gable in Gone with the Wind might focus on the costumes and war and tune out the problematic depictions of the time period, while an older teen might hone in on the swoon-inducing romance, and an adult might be less sympathetic to Scarlett and favor Melanie's quiet strength instead. There's a reason Hollywood's adaptation of this Southern saga won nine Academy Awards (including the first Oscar ever given to a Black actor, Hattie McDaniel) and is still remembered decades later. It's got it all: drama, conflict, intrigue, romance, historical significance, a timeless score, and an amazing cast. Just be sure to put it all in context and identify the teachable moments for today's kids.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the Civil War is portrayed in Gone with the Wind 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?

  • How are Black characters depicted in the movie? Why are their representations problematic? How do you think the portrayal of slavery would be different if this movie were remade today?

  • How do the characters in Gone with the Wind demonstrate perseverance? Can flawed and/or unsympathetic characters model character strengths?

  • Scarlett is married several times for different reasons. Was marriage her only option at the time? What's 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? Do you consider either or both a role model? A positive female representation?

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