Hero

Movie review by
Liz Perle, Common Sense Media
Hero Movie Poster Image
Gorgeous martial arts movie for older kids.
  • PG-13
  • 2004
  • 99 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 8 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

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 & Representations

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
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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

What 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.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byjmo97 June 22, 2016

Complex, interesting ideas and themes take a while to process and think through

Though the acting feels a bit sub-par, the story is very intriguing, and mature teens may have interesting discussions with parents about the "Heroes"... Continue reading
Adult Written bywhovian85 April 9, 2008

See below

An overrated, artistic, overblown, turd. It's just Oscar bait.
Kid, 11 years old March 18, 2019
Teen, 14 years old Written byTianXia July 13, 2016

Beautiful

To start off, this is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. Gorgeous landscapes and amazing cinematography by the master Christopher Doyle. It also... Continue reading

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?

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."

Talk to your kids 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

Themes & Topics

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