'90s Western offers a few laughs and so-so adventure.
  • Review Date: July 30, 2009
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1994
  • Running Time: 127 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Most bad behavior is punished. The movie makes fun of the usual caricatures and heavy-handed treatment of Native Americans in other Westerns. Cleverness and smarts are shown to defeat brute strength, greed, and destructive behavior. Some con artists are treated as jovial and benign, conning only those who are looking for an edge and not always honest themselves.

Positive role models

The leading female character is portrayed as independent, capable, and smart, though often dishonest.  The heroes are con artists, bluffers, and rogues, though good men, honest, and loyal at heart.


Mostly light-hearted jeopardy and action including extended sequence on runaway stagecoach; barroom brawls; man prepped for hanging with snakes hissing at his feet; explosion during a bank robbery; fight on the edge of a cliff; casino shoot-out. Some deaths occur during gunplay, but there's no blood and none of the scenes focus on bodies or injuries.


A few passionate kisses culminating in a scene played for humor in which there's suggested off-camera sexual activity; we see a bare male chest along with bare female shoulders. Some sexual innuendo, including one reference to penis size that should go over the heads of most kids.


Infrequent, mild profanity, including "piss," "s--t," "bastards," "whorehouse," "asshole,""son of a bitch,""damn," "jackass," "hell."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Occasional background drinking in bar. Suggested drunkenness in one scene. Some cigar smoking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie's sole purpose is to be entertaining. It's filled with old-time Western action, but it's played for fun here. There are lots of fistfights, shootings, steely-eyed bad guys, coiled hissing snakes, and even a literal "cliffhanger" (one character hangs over a steep gorge for what seems like forever). Occasionally someone dies, but the object here is to keep real violence to a minimum and overstate the battles for humorous effect. There are sexual innuendos, some passionate kissing, a bare chest (male) and a bare shoulder (female), and some cigar smoking. The Native Americans wear war paint, howl, and shake their fists at the sky, but it's delivered to parody the stereotypes that show up in other Westerns.

Kids say

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What's the story?

Bret Maverick, a very popular television character from the 1950s and 1960s, is brought to life again by Mel Gibson in this comic adventure made decades later. Maverick is a consummate gambler, a world-class romantic hero, and a natural born master of the one-liner. He's on his way to a high-stakes poker tournament where he hopes to win the big money and cement his reputation as the best poker player on the continent. Still $3000 short of the entrance fee, he's hoping to collect some outstanding debts and enjoy the journey. Instead, he encounters two rivals for the poker title (including the elegant and unscrupulous Annabelle Bransford, played by Jodie Foster), a mysterious lawman (James Garner, who was the original TV Maverick), and various baddies (including Alfred Molina and James Coburn) who seem hell-bent on his not finishing the trip. After a series of hair-raising adventures and near-death experiences, Maverick arrives on the paddle-steamer where the tournament is to be held, only to be met by even more danger and duplicity.

Is it any good?


An amusing script by William Goldman, slick direction, and charming (if not to be taken seriously) performances by the principals provide some fun, thrills, and clever plot twists. The filmmakers pay homage to the Western genre by using a number of classic Western character actors to good advantage in some of the smaller roles. And the scenes with Graham Greene and his band of Native American warriors are the funniest and most thought-provoking. At over two hours, however, there aren't quite enough laughs, inspired adventures, or mind-bending story elements to put it in a class with the great caper films.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how this movie is a different type of Western. What are some of the things that show us that this isn't an actual portrayal of the Old West, but a humorous and fond look backwards?

  • What does the movie say about appearance versus reality? Which people pretend to be one thing but are really something else? Which people have surprising secrets?

  • What do you think the filmmakers are hoping you'll understand about movie stereotyping?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:May 20, 1994
DVD release date:June 1, 2004
Cast:James Garner, Jodie Foster, Mel Gibson
Director:Richard Donner
Studio:Warner Home Video
Topics:Misfits and underdogs
Run time:127 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:mild sensuality, language, and some western action

This review of Maverick was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written byDr3w November 9, 2011

Fun, but not harmless.

This is an awesome film with lots of good action and humor. It it a little too long and the last fifteen minutes or so could have been cut, but still a good film. The violence isn't the biggest issue here since it is bloodless and scarcely anyone gets killed in the film's entire length (those that do die in bloodless old western style). However, the language and sexual content in this film are just too strong for me to give this film a pass. There is a sexual interlude between Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster that (although no nudity is visible) is just plain inappropriate. There are also some fairly lewd innuendos. Cursing is not terribly frequent and never enters PG-13 territory, but it's still there and I had a hard time getting around it. There are much worse films out there, but there are much better films out there too. A good comparison for this film in terms of content would be a less violent Indiana Jones.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Parent of a 9 and 12 year old Written byLegosRUs September 26, 2010

Lots of laughs.

Fun movie, my husband and kids love it.


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