Last Flag Flying

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Last Flag Flying Movie Poster Image
Very funny, deeply moving, mature story of loss and regret.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 124 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Brings up plenty to talk about, including both the honor of serving your country and also the terrible price that it might cost. Shows a variety of ways of feeling grief and loss. And it shows certain amounts of tolerance and empathy in its friendships.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Even though this is a smart movie with interesting themes, the characters themselves are highly flawed. On the bright side, they're veterans, and they do have their honorable side. Plus, the reverend character frequently shows kindness and faith.


Descriptions of violent events, including explosions, shooting, and killing. A man's wounded ear is eaten away by a Middle Eastern virus. Images of military coffins. Characters argue in a friendly way.


Fairly frequent sex-related talk, including references to "whorehouses" and sleeping with prostitutes. Brief sexual imagery.


Frequent strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," "c--k," "p---y," "ass," "piss," "son of a bitch," "jack off," "hard on," and "damn," plus "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation), etc. Brief cultural stereotyping ("killing gooks"). Middle finger gesture.


Mention of Coke (i.e., Coca-Cola).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A main character drinks frequently; he's possibly an alcoholic. He owns a bar and wakes up in the morning with a drink. A second character also drinks regularly. Cigarette smoking. Cigar smoking. References to morphine. References to drugs.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Last Flag Flying is a dramedy about a Vietnam War veteran who enlists the aid of two other veterans to help claim the body of his son, who was killed in the Iraq War. With director Richard Linklater at the helm, the movie is filled with fascinating talk and wonderfully human (if very flawed) characters, and it's a very funny, profoundly moving achievement. Language is quite strong, with many uses of all types of words, led by "f--k," "s--t," and "c--k." There's also plenty of strong sex-related talk, including discussion of prostitutes. Characters drink frequently, and one character may be an alcoholic, although it's never confirmed. Some smoking is shown, and drugs are mentioned. Violence is described in some scenes, including talk of being killed in war. This is a complicated movie with complicated themes, but it does deal with empathy and tolerance. Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, and Laurence Fishburne co-star.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byPres February 9, 2020

Adult content with no redeeming qualities

I had high hopes for this film but it was such a disappointment. The dialogue about the whorehouse was extremely graphic and was so unnecessary. Definitely for... Continue reading
Adult Written byPats25 January 6, 2020

Not much redeeming about this movie

Just about the only thing I found redeeming about this movie was Larry's (S Carrell) love for his son, the descriptions about what kind of son Larry, Jr. w... Continue reading

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What's the story?

In LAST FLAG FLYING, former Navy Corps medic Larry "Doc" Shepherd (Steve Carell) arrives in a bar. It's 2003, and the bar is owned by his old friend, ex-Marine Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston). After a night of drinking, Doc takes Sal to see another old friend and ex-Marine, Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne), who's now a reverend. The three men once served together in Vietnam, and now Doc has a favor to ask. He wants his friends to come with him to claim the body of his dead son, who was killed in the Iraq War. But after learning more about his son's death, Doc decides not to bury him in Arlington Cemetery and asks his friends to help take him home to New Hampshire. Along the way, the three men share memories, laughs, tears, and regrets.

Is it any good?

One of the best filmmakers of our time, Richard Linklater has done it again: This extremely funny, deeply affecting dramedy about loss and regret is handled with genuine simplicity and sincerity. Ever unpredictable but always concerning himself with profoundly human stories, Linklater (Bernie, Boyhood, Everybody Wants Some!!) found his inspiration in Darryl Ponicsan's novel Last Flag Flying, a sequel to the novel The Last Detail, which also inspired a much-loved 1973 movie by Hal Ashby. Last Flag Flying is similar in character and structure, and both are equally great.

With deceptive ease, Linklater builds each scene filled with talk, and yet the movie never seems too talky. (Think of the captivating conversations in Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight.) Its humble design takes advantage of wintertime (and Christmas) but takes place in trains, cars, waiting rooms, bars, and other ordinary locations. Only a giant airplane hangar filled with military coffins stands out. This atmosphere helps draw the characters together, and, thanks to three great performances (for once it's possible to forget all about Walter White while watching Cranston), they effortlessly make us laugh and cry. Best of all, we don't want to see them go.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Last Flag Flying's themes and messages. What is it trying to say? Does it succeed?

  • Do you consider these characters role models? Why or why not? How does the movie convey the importance of empathy?

  • How does the movie depict drinking and substance use? What about sex?

  • If you've read either of Darryl Ponicsan's books about these characters -- or seen the movie The Last Detail -- how do they compare to this film?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

Character Strengths

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