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Parents' Guide to


By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 12+

Tubman biopic includes realistic violence, racist slurs.

Movie PG-13 2019 125 minutes
Harriet Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 12+

Based on 20 parent reviews

age 12+

Historical biography done well

I was excited to watch this film and remained excited throughout. The acting is superb and the decision to engage fully on the historical time period through clothes, cinematography, and vocal delivery offers an immersive experience. However, the overdone sentimental musical cues grew a bit tiresome and very predictable. But the subject matter and the power of Harriet Tubman's existence and incredible US American accomplishments were well presented so that I wanted to rush out and buy a book on the Underground Railroad and learn more about Tubman.
age 12+

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (20 ):
Kids say (49 ):

Erivo's intense, nuanced performance is an achievement, but the filmmakers' insistence on sanctifying Tubman makes an already powerful film unnecessarily melodramatic. Really, every role that the Tony Award winner takes on should include singing, because Erivo's voice is a thing of fierce and startling beauty. As it did in the fields where enslaved workers toiled and along the Underground Railroad, music plays an important role in the film. Kudos to director Kasi Lemmons for the sequences of Harriet's coded spirituals and the early moment in which actor-singer Jennifer Nettles (who plays Brodess' widow) sings along to the opening church service. If only Odom Jr. and Janelle Monáe (who's brilliant in a small but pivotal role as Harriet's Philadelphia friend/boarding-house landlord) could have sung on-screen, too.

The cast is wonderful and the movie's story is important, but Harriet suffers in its exploration of Tubman's condition. Lemmons and co-writer Gregory Allen Howard portray her traumatic brain injury as leading to actual divine prescience. The film credits that supposed skill with her ability not only to turn the right way and avoid capture (she never lost anyone she guided to freedom) but also to see the future -- like the time and place of a White man's death while fighting for the Confederacy. Tubman did believe that her visions were inspired by God, but Harriet's focus on her spells as supernatural turns the film into a case for her sainthood and near invincibility rather than concentrating on the ongoing bravery and clarity of purpose she required to continue returning down South. The film is definitely worth seeing, but a little less about the visions and more about the woman would have made it even more powerful.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: November 1, 2019
  • On DVD or streaming: January 28, 2020
  • Cast: Cynthia Erivo , Janelle Monáe , Leslie Odom Jr.
  • Director: Kasi Lemmons
  • Inclusion Information: Female directors, Black directors, Female actors, Bisexual actors, Black actors, Non-Binary actors, Pansexual actors, Queer actors
  • Studio: Focus Features
  • Genre: Drama
  • Topics: Great Girl Role Models , History
  • Character Strengths: Courage , Integrity
  • Run time: 125 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG-13
  • MPAA explanation: thematic content throughout, violent material and language including racial epithets
  • Last updated: December 7, 2022

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