Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Movie Poster Image
Nelson Mandela deserves a great movie. This isn't it.
  • PG-13
  • 2013
  • 139 minutes

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Kids say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages
The movie's main theme is that people everywhere, no matter what color, deserve to be equal, ("one man, one vote"), with no compromises. Also that sacrificing oneself for the greater good is a generous and brave act. An epilogue asserts that people are not born hating each other; they must be taught. They can also be taught to love.
Positive Role Models & Representations
Even though Nelson Mandela deserved a stronger movie than this one, he's still a great role model, and a hero that families everywhere should know about. He began fighting against apartheid -- an official system of segregation -- in South Africa during the 1940s. At one point, he resorted to violence and was subsequently sentenced to life in prison. After serving 27 years, he was released and was elected as South Africa's president. He fought his entire life for freedom and equality. His wife during his imprisonment -- Winnie Mandela -- is also a strong figure.
There are several newsreel-like scenes of riots in the streets, with the military shooting at civilians, and rioters throwing Molotov cocktails. Children are shown wounded and bleeding. Men are set on fire. Winnie Mandela is forcibly taken from her home and mistreated in prison, slapped and pushed around. The cops beat a black man to death, and some blood is shown. Nelson Mandela is shown boxing with an opponent. He fights with his first wife, telling her to "shut your stupid mouth." There are explosions as freedom fighters try to fight the establishment. There are several arguments and tense scenes of prison life.
Mandela kisses and sleeps with three women. No nudity of any kind is ever shown. With his first wife, he kisses and touches her leg; she insists that they must "wait until they are married." While married to her, he meets a pretty woman on the street and they have sex in a dark alley. After being divorced, he meets Winnie, and is shown kissing and having sex with her.
"F--king" is used once, but it's shouted during a noisy scene, and in a heavy accent, so it's hard to make out. "S--t" is heard once, much more clearly. "Piss" and "bitch" are also used.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Minor characters are shown smoking cigarettes in the background. In one scene Mandela and a friend go to a bar and the friend gets drunk and then is abused by police.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is a biopic about the South African leader Nelson Mandela, and includes some disturbing violence. We see riots in the streets, with military shooting citizens, people being set on fire, and wounded, bleeding children. Winnie Mandela is handled roughly, abducted, thrown into prison, slapped around and generally mistreated. Nelson kisses and has sex with three women, two of whom he marries, though no nudity of any kind is shown. There's some rare language including a brief use of "f--k" and one use of "s--t." Long Walk to Freedom is not a very well-made movie, but teens may be inspired by it to look further into Mandela's remarkable life. I

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Teen, 13 years old Written by•42• April 17, 2016

Great film

Once again, common sense media have screwed up. Not only have they rated it a 15 (!!!!!!) but they also say that it is a bad movie. They are wrong on both accou... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bynibill1234 March 28, 2014


It is ok not the greatest.

What's the story?

The story begins with Nelson Mandela (Idris Elba) in his twenties, practicing law in Johannesburg, South Africa. He meets and marries his first wife, and eventually divorces her. He becomes directly involved in the fight against apartheid, becomes a leader, and eventually turns to violence. Meanwhile, he meets and marries Winnie (Naomie Harris), who would eventually become a national figure herself. But in 1962, Mandela's organization, the African National Congress, is declared a terrorist group, and he is arrested. Given a life sentence, he serves 27 years before being released in 1992. Still fighting for freedom, he runs for president and wins in 1994, wherein he begins using his influence to end apartheid.

Is it any good?

Nelson Mandela deserves a great movie about his life, and though actor Idris Elba does an admirable job capturing the man's spirit throughout many years, this particular movie is rather poor. It hits only highlights, going over important events like a checklist, without ever digging very deep. These moments come across as if they were merely fated to be, rather than occurring dramatically or naturally.
As a result, the character comes across as an untouchable, unrealistic superhero rather than a person, and all the other people in his life appear as ciphers. The movie barely even identifies them, much less introduces them. Director Justin Chadwick, who also made the dreadful The Other Boleyn Girl, never seems invested in the material. Not a scene passes that doesn't seem to borrow ideas from dozens of other movies. It's all quite passionless, although actress Naomie Harris, as Winnie Mandela, eventually gets in a few powerful moments during the second half.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's violence. How disturbing is it? Does it get its point across? Would the movie have the same impact without the violence?
  • Were you familiar with Nelson Mandela before seeing this movie? What did you learn? Were you inspired to learn more?
  • Can you imagine being separated from your loved ones for so long? How did this separation affect Mandela's relationships? What would you do?

Movie details

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