Hacksaw Ridge

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Hacksaw Ridge Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
True story of pacifist soldier has extreme war violence.
  • R
  • 2016
  • 138 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 35 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 105 reviews

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

Positive Messages

Have integrity, and stick to your convictions. Sometimes playing by the rules isn't the best way to do good. If you believe in yourself, it's OK if others don't understand you or even hate you. Courage is a clear theme.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Raised in a religious but violent home, young Doss nearly kills his brother with a brick. Later he renounces violence and refuses to even touch a weapon. He feels it's his duty to serve his country in battle as a medic, saving people. He valiantly sticks to his principles when the army tries to court martial him. Fellow soldiers who taunt and beat him later apologize after Doss puts himself in harm's way to save wounded soldiers.


Extremely graphic war violence. Men are killed and maimed, all realistically shown. Soldiers are hacked into pieces by explosions. Warring soldiers hold a live grenade between them and grab onto each other until the grenade explodes, killing them both. Bullets hit soldiers in the head, legs, torsos, and more; lots of blood. Soldiers bayonet each other, and men on both sides are lit on fire (while alive) by flame-throwing weapons. Some slit enemies' throats. Piles of human entrails are seen on the battlefield. A man's foot is impaled with a knife. Rats gnaw at dead bodies. About to be defeated, a Japanese commander eviscerates himself with a knife, after which his head is cut off. Two young brothers fight, punching each other; one hits the other in the head with a large brick. An alcoholic father beats his children and wife and threatens the latter with a gun. Their grown son intervenes and points the gun at his father. A woman slaps a man after he kisses her, demanding he ask her first. A needle is inserted into the arm of a man giving blood. Doss' hands are rubbed raw and bloody from lowering wounded soldiers down the ridge by pulley. During the second battle, Doss kicks a live grenade back at the Japanese.


Kissing, sometimes passionately. Doss and Dorothy prepare to go to bed on their wedding night; she's clothed, he shirtless. Soldiers are advised to "wear a hat" (a condom) if they plan to have sex. Non-sexual nudity includes a soldier doing pull-ups while naked and being forced to run an obstacle course naked by his sergeant (no graphic nudity).


"S--t," "bitch," "ass," "numb nuts," "t-tty," "hell," "damn," "crap," and "Jesus Christ" as an exclamation. American soldiers refer to the Japanese as "Japs" and "Nips."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Doss' father is an abusive alcoholic. Wounded soldiers get morphine for their pain. Adults smoke cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Hacksaw Ridge is based on the true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a pacifist who enlisted in World War II but refused to carry a weapon or kill, preferring to save wounded men as a medic. Director Mel Gibson doesn't shy away from showing extremely graphic war violence. Bullets pierce flesh in slow motion, explosions toss men in the air, bleeding leg and arm stumps are shown, throats are slashed, soldiers bayonet each other to death, and men are graphically gutted, disembodied, and beheaded, with entrails and ligaments left hanging. Doss is also beaten by his fellow soldiers during basic training due to his refusal to carry a weapon. And his superior officers jail and put him on trial. Doss kisses and marries a nurse; they're seen (him shirtless, her clothed) on their wedding night. Doss' father is an abusive alcoholic. Adults smoke cigarettes and use language including: "s--t," "ass," "t--ties," "bitch," and the racist terms "Japs" and "Nips." Ultimately, though the movie's message is one of courage, integrity, and sticking to your convictions.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byFinBEAR March 2, 2019

Amazing, inspiring movie

Yes it is brutally violent with graphic and disturbing images of blood and gore but the plot and lesson of the movie is nonviolent. The movie is about a medic... Continue reading
Adult Written bySoo L. November 4, 2016

A terrific movie and a very good story. A very realistic depiction of war. It may be frightening for younger and immature audiences.

I recommend showing your son or daughter if you think she/he is ready for it. But I will warn you, if your son/daughter has not experienced violence to a certa... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bycourtney.f November 6, 2016

If they're prepared for BRUTAL violence, older teens should see it

Hacksaw Ridge was a phenomenal movie in every respect, and offers great moral lessons, but you definitely need to be prepared for the violence: the film itself... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byLukeCon July 2, 2020

Well-paced true story of pacifist war hero has graphic violence

While the violence will be too graphic for younger kids, this film is an excellent experience for older teens. Its message of sticking to one's beliefs/con... Continue reading

What's the story?

HACKSAW RIDGE is based on the true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a conscientious objector who was awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing 75 wounded men while under fire during World War II. Doss was the son of a violent alcoholic father (Hugo Weaving) who beat his mother and encouraged violence between his sons. But the devout Doss renounces violence as he comes to believe that the 10 commandments speak directly to him. Because he loves his country, he enlists to serve in World War II, certain he can support the military as an unarmed medic on the battlefield. The Army doesn't agree and spends a great deal of energy trying to rid itself of a man who refuses to touch a weapon, never mind learn to shoot people with it. Eventually, though, a colonel allows Doss to become a medic without completing the weaponry portion of basic training. His company's first mission is to take a strategic, strongly defended Japanese ridge. Once on the battlefield and under relentless attack, Doss and the men he trained with are horrified and overwhelmed by the grisly and terrifying facts of war. But Doss darts from body to body, checking for life and treating the wounded. When his company retreats, Doss seeks prayerful guidance and then returns alone to the battlefield, unarmed, to begin an all-night campaign to save as many men as he can.

Is it any good?

Although this WWII action drama is a technical wonder, the soul of the movie feels at odds with itself. While director Mel Gibson fairly represents Doss' pacifist principles, he also simultaneously stages another movie, a stealth movie, that presents war as a glorious character builder, a nurturing ground for male friendship, and an expression of man's nobility and grit. Yes, Gibson dutifully records the severed limbs and the moaning, wounded, hideously disfigured soldiers. War is hell, the movie says over and over again.

But, the director also reminds us, it's not without moments of nobility and magnificence -- as evidence by the gorgeous slow-motion depictions of bombs landing on human targets, bursting into awe-inspiring flames, and killing and maiming who knows how many, just to prove his point (a point he previously made in Braveheart). So it's hard not to feel like Hacksaw Ridge works as hard to undermine Doss' position as it does to support it. Many of the soldiers and officers who at first abuse and look down on Doss for his refusal to carry a gun later apologize to him after recognizing his bravery and the depth of his convictions. All of that said, Garfield does a great job playing Doss with intelligence, charm, and a believable inner spiritual life.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Hacksaw Ridge's violence. How does it compare to what you might see in a superhero action movie or horror movie? Which has the most impact? Why do you think that is?

  • What does it mean to have a sense of duty? Why do you think Doss felt so strongly about going into battle, unarmed, to help the wounded soldiers?

  • How does Doss demonstrate integrity and courage? Why are those important character strengths?

  • Talk about how the movie depicts the historic events at its center. How accurate do you think it is? Why might filmmakers choose to alter the facts? What are the challenges of adapting a true story for the screen?

  • War movies tend to take one side's perspective over the other(s). Why is it important to be aware of that? How might this story be told differently from the Japanese army's point of view?

Movie details

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