Hero

 
Gorgeous martial arts movie for older kids.
  • Review Date: November 28, 2004
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2004
  • Running Time: 99 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Morally complex idea of being a "hero" -- not just a superhero defeating powerful enemies but one with a secret agenda who is willing to change his mission and die for a superior cause (and possibly be misperceived as a traitor). Sub-themes about the deceptive nature of "truth"; destructiveness of jealousy and revenge; need to put aside regional differences to unify as one vast, more powerful union -- even if it means submitting to conquest by a tyrant.

Positive role models

Except for a flashback scene involving jealousy and a love triangle -- which turns out to be a lie -- characters are elevated examples of spiritual discipline, grace, focus, and purity (in Chinese folklore as well as kung-fu film, this is what makes them fly and do their superhuman stuff). They not only fight for their causes but sometimes refuse to fight for the same reasons, even when it means death. Female characters are equally as strong as males.

Violence

Characters (including innocent civilians) killed in showers of arrows. Principle characters die in swordfights and stabbings, with only some bloodshed (some combatants are simply slapped and tapped with the flat sides of the weapons instead -- this tends to be an insult). One double suicide by sword.

Sex

One bare bottom; a mistress has her robe torn open (non-explicitly) and there is consentual sex -- seen only as writhing shapes under sheets. Talk of a one-night stand and what is more or less adultery.

Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The main character is invited to "drink" with the King.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this mature movie is a meditation on the nature of heroism, the purpose of violence, and what it takes to live in peace. So if you go expecting Jackie Chan, your kids will be mystified. Kids younger than 12 are going to find the circular nature of the narrative very confusing since the story is told four different times in four different versions. Also, unlike Crouching Tiger, there's a lot of talking in the movie, which means a lot of subtitles. Unless you want someone tugging on your arm saying "What did he say?" we suggest teens and up age wise. There's one naked tush in the beginning, and a woman has her clothes ripped off in a lovemaking scene but otherwise, the only concern is the swordplay and the occasional blood.

What's the story?

Set in a time before the unification of China, HERO follows the story of a nameless warrior (martial arts star Jet Li) who plans to assassinate the ruthless ruler of the kingdom of Qin. He tells the king he has killed the king's three most feared enemies -- Sky, Snow, and Broken Sword -- but the king doesn't believe his story. Three further flashback stories ensue in scenes accented with reds, whites, blues, and greens.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Hero is a very sophisticated movie. It's not Jackie Chan or even Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon but a serious meditation on the nature of heroism. This may be one of the most beautiful movies ever shot.

There is some blood, a good deal of suspense and, in what is guaranteed to confuse younger kids, "nameless" tells four different versions of the story to the king. As one 10-year-old said, "It doesn't have a clear plot, but it does have a clear moral."

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why the movie told the same story four different ways and why the nameless hero does what he does in the end.

  • Also, this movie is an excellent springboard to talk about what it took to make the modern nation states we have today.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 27, 2004
DVD release date:November 30, 2004
Cast:Jet Li, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi
Director:Zhang Yimou
Studio:Miramax
Genre:Action/Adventure
Topics:Sports and martial arts
Run time:99 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:stylized martial arts violence and a scene of sensuality

This review of Hero 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.

Quality

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, 16 years old Written byCSM Screen Name... April 9, 2008
age 0+
 

Really Good

Not only was there some cool martial arts stuff, the story was great too
Teen, 15 years old Written byViolinPlaya650 April 9, 2008
Teen, 17 years old Written byGod_of_shadows April 9, 2008
age 0+
 

An extraordinarily beautiful martial arts epic with a great score

"Hero" is much, much better than Crouching Tiger in every possible way. Watch it and you'll see what I mean.

Poll

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

Digital Compass