Hidden Figures

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Hidden Figures Movie Poster Image
 Parents recommendPopular with kids
Inspiring true story of African-American women at NASA.
  • PG
  • 2016
  • 126 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 53 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 72 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

With determination and intelligence, you can overcome almost any obstacle. The women aren't afraid of being the "first" or the "only" (black) women in a room or on a team. Themes include communication, integrity, perseverance, and teamwork.

Positive Role Models

Katherine, Mary, and Dorothy are wonderful role models. They all studied and worked hard and persevered in fields that few women -- much less women of color -- excelled in at the time. They're disciplined, intelligent women who think outside the box to brainstorm ideas and make themselves indispensable. They also shine as examples of pioneering working women who had families to take care of, too. And they don't let the obvious and overt racism they have to face stop them.


A couple of kisses, some slow dancing, and an acknowledgement that men of all races can be handsome or "fine."


"Damn," "hell," "bastard," "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation), and "Negro" are used. "Colored" is used to identify which restrooms, libraries, and even which coffee pot the African-American women can use.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adult women drink in one scene and joke about getting a little tipsy.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Hidden Figures is based on the inspiring true story of three brilliant African-American women who worked at NASA in the 1950s and '60s as "human computers" -- making calculations and contributions that helped launch the manned spaceflight program. Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), and Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) were engineers and computers at NASA at a time when both women and African Americans were still widely discriminated against, particularly in segregationist Virginia. where NASA's Langley Research Center is based. There's a little bit of romance (a few kisses, flirty comments, and slow dancing) and a bit of salty language (mostly along the lines of "damn," "hell," and "Jesus Christ" as an exclamation). The film also offers a realistic look at the racial tensions of the Civil Rights era (segregated bathrooms, libraries, schools, facilities), and audiences will learn a lot about these pioneering women and what they had to overcome to make their mark at NASA. They're excellent role models, and their story is full of positive messages and themes, including integrity, perseverance, teamwork, and communication.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 9 and 11-year-old Written byheather13 January 7, 2017

Wonderfully inspiring

I suspect the review for ages 10 and up is due to much of the scientific information going over the heads of younger kids. I completely agree, but think that th... Continue reading
Parent Written byAndrea R. January 22, 2017


First, this is a fabulous movie! I love history and love the fact that it is so empowering to ALL women! The actors/actresses are amazing and do a great job tel... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byGearWax February 9, 2017

There's no reason not to see it

The plot made sense, everything was good, the whole message of the movie is great, this was literally the only movie I'd seen, EVER, where people clapped i... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byOh Ophelia February 5, 2021

so empowering

this is a beautiful movie to show to young kids who don’t completely understand sexism and rascism. dorothy, mary, and katherine are all amazing role models. th... Continue reading

What's the story?

Based on the nonfiction book by Margot Lee Shetterly, HIDDEN FIGURES is the true story of three African-American women who worked for NASA in the 1950s and '60s. They served as "human computers," doing complex mathematics and engineering tasks to help launch the manned spaceflight program -- particularly, sending astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell) into orbit. Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) are all brilliant women who've landed jobs as computers at NASA's Langley Research Center (in the segregated West Area Computers division). When Al Harrison (Kevin Costner), director of the Space Task Group, needs someone who can do theoretical math to help NASA with calculations that would outperform the Russians in the Space Race, Katherine is assigned to his team. Meanwhile, Dorothy struggles to be named supervisor of her group, and Mary goes to court so she can go to graduate school for engineering.

Is it any good?

Henson, Spencer, and Monáe's stellar performances propel this feel-good biographical drama that teaches audiences about a little-known aspect of NASA's history. Many Civil Rights-era stories are understandably upsetting, showing the unflinchingly ugly institutional racism that African Americans had to endure. But Hidden Figures remains a crowd-pleaser because the main characters, while faced with insidious day-to-day discrimination (segregated bathrooms, offices, libraries, schools), don't endure the kind of horrific violence depicted in Selma. The three stars are all fantastic, with Henson clearly enjoying playing genius, widowed mother Katherine. Spencer is, as usual, spot on as the focused Dorothy, who's determined to make sure her group doesn't lose their jobs once the "real" computers arrive. And Monae impresses with another memorable supporting turn (she also shines in Moonlight). The movie's minor antagonists include Kirsten Dunst as Mrs. Michael, the head of all the human computers, who acts condescendingly toward Dorothy and her team, and Jim Parsons as task force supervisor Paul Stafford, who's unhappy that his boss wants all his figures checked by a black woman.

The friendship between the three leads is the heart of the story, but the action favors Katherine, who's working directly with the team that launches Glenn into orbit. Her extraordinary abilities as a mathematician earn her Al Harrison's trust, top-secret clearance, and a chance to be there when key decisions are made. Audiences may wonder what was fictionalized for the adaptation and whether Glenn was really as open-minded, gracious, and flirtatious as he's portrayed in the movie. Regardless of which details might be the result of a little creative license, the pre-credits tribute picturing the real Johnson, Vaughan, and Jackson make it clear that Hidden Figures is a story that needed to be told -- and it's told in a triumphant manner.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the true story behind Hidden Figures. How accurate do you think the movie is? Why might filmmakers sometimes choose to alter the facts in movies based on real life? How could you find out more about the women and people of color who worked for NASA in its early years?

  • Who are the role models in this story? How do they demonstrate perseverance, teamwork, communication, and integrity? Why are those important character strengths?

  • How do the lessons from the Civil Rights movement apply today? How far have we come? How are people still discriminated against?

Movie details

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