John Lewis: Good Trouble

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
John Lewis: Good Trouble Movie Poster Image
Inspiring, timely biography of Congress' legendary activist.
  • PG
  • 2020
  • 96 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

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

Positive Messages

Encourages viewers to stand up for what they believe in, to defy immoral rules/laws, to fight for racial equality and justice. Makes it clear that U.S. laws were unjust, which is why Lewis and fellow activists were arrested dozens of times. Stresses importance of combating current laws that make it easier for people's voting rights to be restricted. Themes include courage, empathy, perseverance, self-control.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Film is primarily about John Lewis -- who's portrayed as brave, persevering -- but also features archival footage of Martin Luther King Jr., James Lawson, Bernard Lafayette, Diane Nash, Hosea Williams, Julian Bond, other famous civil rights leaders. The representation is focused primarily on Black activists and politicians, but many politicians of various backgrounds have something to say about Lewis' impact on their lives.

Violence

Archival footage of how police and National Guard beat up peaceful protesters, using bully sticks and dogs/hoses to target them. The activists "practice" dealing with abuse (verbal and physical, by friends pretending to be White supremacists) before going out to protest.

Sex

Brief discussion of Lewis' late wife, Lillian -- how they met and fell in love (and how she died).

Language

Occasional use of the "N" word in archival footage. "Negro" is used several times.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Archival footage of adults smoking cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that John Lewis: Good Trouble is an inspiring documentary about the life and political career of activist and U.S. representative John Lewis. The film has lots of archival footage of Lewis as a young civil rights leader in the 1960s, including several moments of peaceful protesters facing brutal beatings and hoses at the hands of uniformed officers and armed White civilians. The footage also shows people saying the "N" word in a matter-of-fact way, reflecting its pervasive use at the time. "Negro" is used several times, and adults are shown smoking cigarettes. Director Dawn Porter interviews many politicians of all backgrounds, as well as Lewis' family and friends. Families who watch the film will be able to discuss the historical and political impact of Lewis' life and career, as well as the movie's relevance to the movement for racial equality that continues to this day.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 9 and 12-year-old Written byAdinamama July 22, 2020

Beautiful tribute to an American hero

This documentary is very well done, historical and educational. Halfway through my 10 and 12 year olds became bored, as there is a lot of politics covered that... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old July 22, 2020

The most inspiring!!!!!

I really think this movie is very inspiring to me, because it tells a lot about history and how Congressman John Lewis fought for civil rights. I think children... Continue reading

What's the story?

JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE is part chronicle, part tribute to Congress member John Robert Lewis, the legendary civil rights leader-turned-politician. Director Dawn Porter's film follows Lewis' life via both archival footage and contemporary interviews. It ranges from Lewis' early years in Troy, Alabama, to his time as a college student in Nashville, where he helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and emerged as one of the "Big 6" leaders of the civil rights movement. In addition to focusing on Lewis' personal story, the film also follows the trajectory of his public service career and includes several interviews with politicians who've been inspired by him, including the late Elijah Cummings, former president Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Cory Booker, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib.

Is it any good?

Porter's poignant, powerful documentary is both a tribute to a living legend and a call to action arguing that the work of fighting racial injustice isn't done. Those who've read March, watched Selma, taken a civil rights history course, or visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture may know a bit (or a lot) about the sharecroppers' son from Troy, Alabama, who preached to chickens, helped found SNCC, orchestrated sit-ins, was an inaugural Freedom Rider, marched alongside Dr. King, and outlived every other speaker from the March on Washington. For those in that position, some of what's in Porter's documentary may not be new -- but it's still important to remember, reflect upon, and take to heart as the United States' struggles around social justice continue.

Lewis' ascendancy from a young activist who was arrested dozens of times to one of the country's preeminent Black politicians is inspiring and impressive. His story brings to life the quote he has hanging in his office: "Hands that once picked cotton can now pick presidents." It may be hard for some to believe, but Jim Crow laws, segregation, and overt voter suppression (poll taxes, tests, intimidation) weren't that long ago. Lewis has made it his life's mission to remind everyone that even though the United States may have abolished some of its most egregious anti-Black laws, there is still plenty of injustice and inequality to fight. Frankly, John Lewis: Good Trouble is timelier than ever, and it's an educational testament to Lewis' place in American history.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence depicted in John Lewis: Good Trouble. Is it necessary to the story? Why or why not? How does realistic violence compare to stylized or fantasy violence?

  • What makes Lewis a role model? How does he demonstrate courage, empathy, and perseverance? Why are those important character strengths? When did he and fellow civil rights activists have to use self-control?

  • Despite being peaceful protesters, how were Lewis and others treated? Why is that relevant today? How are today's activists for social justice treated?

  • What do you consider John Lewis' legacy to be? Why is he such an important national figure?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history and activism

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