Greater

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Greater Movie Poster Image
Moving, faith-based tale of football star's unexpected rise.
  • PG
  • 2016
  • 130 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 2 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Promotes faith, teamwork, determination, generosity, and courage. Talent is something you have; skill is something you learn. Those who aren't "gifted" with talent have to work harder to attain goals. Faith-based messages throughout relate to dealing with both achievement and tragedy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Based on the true story of Brandon Burlsworth, the main character is portrayed as loving, hardworking, accepting of others, and devoted to his faith. He's an excellent example of glory earned rather than given. Family members are supportive, generous, and warm-hearted. An estranged, alcoholic father finds redemption. Ethnic diversity throughout.

Violence

Football action: practices, games (some hard-hitting).

Sex
Language

Occasional mild swearing includes "ass," "s--t," and "turd." An overweight teen is often bullied and teased: "fat boy," "fatty," "cheesecake."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One character is a chronic alcoholic who's very drunk in one sequence. Some smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Greater is an inspirational sports drama about real-life hero Brandon Burlsworth, who's possibly the most successful "walk-on" (un-recruited) football player in the history of the University of Arkansas. Because the movie is framed by a funeral and family members' grief after Burlsworth's accidental death, it's clear from the beginning that sadness will accompany the otherwise uplifting story. This story focuses on Burlsworth's ambition, work ethic, family relationships, and strong religious convictions; teamwork and courage are strong themes. The fact that he was considerably overweight in his early years results in some teasing, fat-shaming, and bullying; there's also some use of words including "ass" and "s--t." Football action is sometimes hard-hitting, but no serious injuries result. One character is an alcoholic and gets very drunk in a pivotal scene.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byKaren W. August 29, 2016

Must See!

Every family member should see this incredible film. It's uplifting, inspirational and a true story. Do yourself a favor and go see Greater!
Adult Written byAda W. August 30, 2016

One of the Best.

This is a great family movie. It shows true Christian character and strength that we all need to exhibit. I've never heard of is amazing young man and I a... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byKaylerw777 September 12, 2016

My All Time Favorite!

If you have any doubt in faith or any doubt in God, you should definitely watch this movie. This movie is great for children, young adults, and grown adults. If... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byCailyns_8 January 6, 2017
Very good movie but there is kind of a lot of drugs so be careful watching it with your kids.

What's the story?

As GREATER begins, preparations are underway for the memorial service of young Brandon Burlsworth (newcomer Chris Severio), beloved son, brother, teammate, and friend to what appears to be the entire town of Harrison, Ark. His much-older brother, Marty (Neal McDonough, in an affecting, solid performance) is struggling with his faith in the aftermath of the tragedy. As Marty attempts to understand why his extraordinary brother's life was cut short, he remembers the arc of Brandon's life from the age of 12 on. Raised by a poor but dedicated single mom and estranged from his alcoholic dad, Brandon is an awkward, overweight boy with dreams that seem out of his reach. But even as a boy, Brandon's faith in both himself and his religion never waver. Neither does his ability to commit to whatever task or goal is set before him. Over the next decade -- converting even the most skeptical coaches and teammates, as well as his brother -- Brandon transforms himself into an impressively good offensive guard on both his high school and college football teams. As a walk-on at the University of Arkansas, Brandon's efforts earn him both a place on the school's NCAA top-ranked team and a scholarship. He excels, earning the respect and devotion of others, many of whom become better people because of him. Then, after years of astonishing but well-deserved success (including receiving both bachelor's and master's degrees while a student at the university, a feat never before achieved at the college by a football player) -- and only weeks after being drafted by the NFL's Indianapolis Colts -- his life is accidentally and tragically ended.

Is it any good?

A fitting tribute to an outstanding young man, this drama tells Burlsworth's story in a clear-eyed, respectful way that both entertains and inspires. Though it's a low-budget film, Greater has been graced with some outstanding supporting performances and an able production. And, while successfully capturing the impact that Burlsworth's devotion to Christian principles had upon his life, the film's messages aren't heavy-handed.

The only scenes that feel forced are the encounters between Marty, with his bittersweet memories and flagging belief in God, and an anonymous character who, while well-played in multiple scenes by Nick Searcy, is there specifically to offer counter-arguments to faith. But ultimately this is a a satisfying film that's meant to be shared by families. While it will be especially relevant for those with strong religious convictions, it's accessible to all.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the characters in Greater demonstrate teamwork and courage. Why are those important character strengths?

  • How did Brandon deal with the bullies in his story? What did his tormentors learn from him? How did he integrate the concept of forgiveness into his behavior? Was it effective? Why or why not?  

  • Why do you think Greater is told in a "flashback" format? How does it help tell Marty's story? Do you think that knowing early on that Brandon died helped make the final events less sad/distressing? 

  • How did Marty's recollections aid in his own transformation and help him accept Brandon's death?

  • How is drinking portrayed in the film? Are there consequences? Why is that important?

Movie details

Character Strengths

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