Inherit the Wind Movie Poster Image

Inherit the Wind

Knock-out courtroom drama has deft comic touches.
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1960
  • Running Time: 126 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movies raises issues of creatonism vs. evolution.


A threating scene in which a jailed teacher is burned in effigy might disturb sensitive kids.

Not applicable

Mild cursing.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that kids will hear some mild swearing. A scene in which a jailed teacher is burned in effigy by a menacing crowd might disturb sensitive kids. The movies raises issues of creatonism vs. evolution.

What's the story?

In this classic, science teacher Bert Cates (Dick York) is jailed for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution in the fundamentalist community of Hillsboro, Tennessee. The town is caught in the national spotlight when two legal heavyweights take on the case: former Presidential candidate Matthew Harrison Brady (Frederic March) for the prosecution, and ACLU founder Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy) for the defense. Brady and Drummond, known in real life as William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow, mesmerize crowds as they wrestle with the still timely issue of the separation of church and state.

Is it any good?


INHERIT THE WIND is everything that a legal drama ought to be, but deft comic touches and a clear storyline make this sophisticated film accessible to kids. The lawyers are the heroes in this exciting retelling of the watershed trial, bolstered by impressive performances by Tracy and March. Each character eventually questions his beliefs. Brady's narrow interpretation of the Christian Bible is stretched to include modern science; the atheistic Drummond ends up reconsidering his doubts about God. But don't worry about heavy-duty moralizing, this courtroom story is surprisingly light, with a wry sense of humor. As curiosity seekers flood Hillsboro during the trial, residents imagine all sorts of ways of cashing in, each more preposterous than the next.

Because Inherit the Wind is about what teachers are allowed to teach, the film speaks to younger viewers more directly than an adult might suspect. Unlike most courtroom dramas, this movie refuses to reduce complicated issues into simplistic ones. It also shows that it is worthwhile to fight for your beliefs. As Drummond explains, the only pathetic person is the one who is too cynical to believe in anything, a worthy message to offer to kids and adults alike.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the advantages and limitations of using movies to dramatize historical events. Can movies tell the story of events in ways that other media, such as books or radio, can't? How much of an event can you show in a couple of hours and how do you decide what to leave out? Do you think that the real lawyers arguing this case were swayed slightly towards the others' positions by the end of the trial, as is portrayed here? Or is this simply a device for tying up the story in a neat bow?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 21, 1960
DVD/Streaming release date:December 11, 2001
Cast:Fredric March, Harry Morgan, Spencer Tracy
Director:Stanley Kramer
Run time:126 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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Teen, 13 years old Written byMovieGuy23 June 9, 2011

Inherit the wind: A masterpiece

Inherit the wind is a fascinating debate film. The movie stars Spencer Tracy, Frederic Marsh, and Gene Kelly, who are all excellent. The movie focuses on the battle between religion and evolution, a perfect debate film that fairly judges both sides of the argument. Note to Parents: Kids may not be ready for a debate between religion and evolution, they must be willing to handle both sides of the argument. Yet if they are mature enough, a great film.
Adult Written byotakucode April 9, 2008

Fantastic movie for older kids and teens

While you might have trouble getting a youngster to sit through this dialog-heavy movie, it carries important messages about the dangers of letting emotional pleas to continue the status quo drive the show. If they believe it, the movie should let them know that even when a lot of loud and powerful people around you are dead wrong, you have a chance to be heard when the truth is on your side.
Kid, 12 years old January 1, 2013

My Personal Favorite Movie

Inherit the Wind is my favorite movie of all time. It has pitch-perfect acting, extremely likable characters (my personal favorite being Gene Kelly's E.K. Hornbeck, which snagged him a Best Actor nomination), and a story like no other. A schoolteacher is arrested and prosecuted for teaching evolution, and it's up to the most agile legal mind in the nation, Henry Drummond, to prove he committed no crime. The only problem? The entire town is against him, and the judge seems equally biased. Not to mention the opposition: a public speaker and highly religious politician set in his ways. It's progress versus tradition, and it all comes together in a climax showcasing some of the finest acting of all time. Inherit the Wind: I can't say enough good things about it.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking