Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Intense battle scenes and a strong story of friendship.
  • PG-13
  • 2003
  • 138 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 18 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 16 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Loyalty, friendship, and honor are all strong themes. The H.M.S. Surprise is referred to as a "she," and occasional sexist comments are made about handling her.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The captain cares about his crew, but puts ship and duty first, even if it is at the peril of a crew member. Captain Aubrey and the Dr. Maturin are old friends.


Contains lots of battle scenes with cannon and pistol fire and sword fights; crew members (including children) are injured, shot, drowned, and killed (bloody wounds visible). Scenes of surgeries and amputations are graphic; vomiting and fainting is occasionally visible. A crewman is whipped for insubordination; an insecure officer is bullied and commits suicide


The crew occasionally talks about women waiting for them at home; native women flirt with sailors at ports.


Characters say "hell" and "Goddamn" occasionally.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The drinking of wine is frequently visible, even among young teen officers. Crew members are offered extra rations of grog; some are drunk when performing duties. Cigar and pipe smoking is visible.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World features prolonged and intense battle violence and graphic scenes of surgery; bloody wounds of both adults and children are visible, too. Crew members are shown being shot, whipped, and committing suicide, too. Drinking is frequent (even among young officers) and adults smoke cigars and pipes. Occasional words like "hell" and "Goddamn" are audible, as are a few sexist remarks. All of this is offered in context, and is balanced with strong messages about loyalty, friendship, and duty to one's country.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bySavvypenguin April 4, 2012

Literature Condensed

This movie encompasses events in almost ten different novels about the late 17th- early 18th century era of naval combat and life. There is a good deal of viole... Continue reading
Adult Written byzeekattacklee July 30, 2015

Master and commander Review..

I would say that this film was worth the watch. on the other hand, It got pretty gross during the operating scenes. But, only one of the scenes was barely show... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byrooster887 February 27, 2021

i loved it

A stow and hard fighting with some bad words
Kid, 12 years old April 21, 2020
I think it is a very inspirational story and has good messages of teamwork and courage.It has just enough action and I would recommend it for people of ages 12... Continue reading

What's the story?

In MASTER AND COMMANDER, Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) is captain the H.M.S. Surprise, a tall ship in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars. His orders are to "sink, burn, or take as a prize" a French ship called the Acheron. When the Acheron attacks, many of Aubrey's crew are injured or killed and his ship is badly damaged. Aubrey must chart a new course on many levels. The Acheron is more powerful and he must lead his crew into battle against a daunting enemy, knowing that many will be wounded or killed. Aubrey is a good captain. He treats the men with dignity, kindness, and respect. But he understands that they need him to be a leader, not a friend, and that sometimes requires discipline and distance. Aubrey's nickname is "Lucky Jack." He knows that when he is in command of a group of boys and men a long way from home, it helps if they believe that he is lucky as well as wise. But that means he has to stay lucky.

Is it any good?

Co-screenwriter/director Peter Weir has delivered a respectful but exciting film based on two of Patrick O'Brien's hugely popular books. He's clearly aiming for a thoughtful and intelligent action film for grown-ups, and comes pretty close. The action scenes are exceptionally well-staged and detailed, putting the audience in the middle of the battles. The action is balanced with a strong, classically structured story of the friendship between Aubrey and the ship's doctor, Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany).

Aubrey is a man of action who gives and follows orders while Maturin is a man of science who believes that battles are tragic distractions from the pursuit of knowledge to make the world a better place. Their two perspectives provide balance as they struggle with their duties. All of the performances are exceptionally strong and Crowe is splendid as Aubrey. Weir has succeeded in making a film that is true to O'Brien's books, utterly respectful of the history but all about the story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Dr. Maturin says that "the deaths in actual battle are the easiest to bear." Would Aubrey agree?

  • Talk about life at sea. What do you think it was like to live for weeks on end on a ship far away from home? How did people at sea find fresh water? Food other than fish? How did they get mail?

Movie details

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