Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Midway Movie Poster Image
Battle epic tries hard but is too long, hard to follow.
  • PG-13
  • 2019
  • 138 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 22 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 26 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Courage and teamwork are evident in the way people pull together on both sides for a common goal. Parents may want to discuss with kids whether "glory" is really attained on the battlefield -- and if military might and conflicts can ever be positive things. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Both American and Japanese sides of conflict are depicted sympathetically, which is relatively rare for American war movies. Most characters have too little screen time to come through as role models, but Admiral Nagumo emerges as an honorable man who unfortunately made decisions that compromised his side's goals. Movie seems to view his suicide, going down with his ship, as positive/honorable. Female characters are given very short shrift -- they're worried wives, period. 


Frequent war violence and near constant menace/danger. Many long battle scenes include aircraft engaging in battle and getting shot down, ships exploding, bombs falling. People die, sometimes in brutal ways: A character is tied to an anchor and thrown overboard, others are in planes that dive into the ocean or are set on fire. Camera doesn't linger on bloody or gory wounds, but there are many dead bodies, including some burned black. Military firepower is depicted at length, with many shots of planes, aircraft carriers, machine guns, etc.


Reference to a sailor "chasing tail." Kisses between married couples.


Language includes one use of "f--k," plus "s--t," "ass" "a--hole," "goddamn," "son of a bitch." Also British swearing like "bugger" and "bloody." Japanese people are frequently referred to as "Japs." Serviceman leading exercise session calls his charges (all male) "ladies," implying they're weak. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Many characters drink and toast with alcohol; at one point, characters drunkenly lurch down a sidewalk. Characters smoke cigarettes, pipes, cigars in many scenes. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Midway is director Roland Emmerich's action-heavy drama about one of World War II's biggest battles. As you might expect from a war movie, there's pervasive conflict and violence, with many scenes of explosions, bombs, and sudden, violent deaths. The camera doesn't linger on bloody wounds, but you'll see many dead bodies, including some that are burned black. Characters also look swollen and bruised, and some are held captive; one is killed by being tied to an anchor and dumped off a ship. Expect lots of military guns, ships, and planes. Sexual content is limited to a few kisses between married couples and one reference to a soldier "chasing tail." Frequent swearing includes "ass," "s--t," "son of a bitch," and more. Japanese people are consistently called "Japs" in a sneering tone, and at one point male soldiers are referred to as "ladies" as an insult. Characters smoke pipes, cigars, and, most often, cigarettes. Scenes take place at bars, with characters making toasts and sometimes getting drunk and lurching around. Both American and Japanese men are depicted sympathetically (women are barely present here), but there aren't many obvious role models, because most characters have very little screen time. A Japanese soldier's decision to go down with his ship seems to be viewed as honorable. Courage and teamwork are evident in the way soldiers on both sides unite for common goals. Woody Harrelson, Dennis Quaid, Nick Jonas, Luke EvansPatrick Wilson, and more co-star.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byYtubepuppy November 14, 2019

CGI fest

Not on a par with the 1976 movie of the same name.

I'm a Navy vet and there was a LOT more smoking and drinking than this movie shows. If you're w... Continue reading
Adult Written bymrhistor December 3, 2019

Midway 2019

I would recommend this version of Midway over the star-studded 1976 version. Graphics and special effects are superior to 1976 (to be expected with digital tech... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bylilmes November 23, 2019

One of my favorite movies I’ve watched.

This is a nonstop action movie that has a great tell on what war is like and how hard it is. It is a great movie but harsh at some times so you have to be someo... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byoofmeister000 November 10, 2019

Great Movie!!

i saw it with my friends (we're 15), and the only other people in the theatre were all over 60! I can't beleive it! i would watch the movie again for... Continue reading

What's the story?

MIDWAY is a star-studded dive into a pivotal conflict at the height of World War II. After the United States is surprised by Japan's raid on Pearl Harbor, intelligence officer Lieutenant-Commander Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson) warns his superiors -- Admiral Chester Nimitz (Woody Harrelson) and Vice Admiral William "Bull" Halsey (Dennis Quaid) -- that more attacks are on the way. The United States responds with the ill-advised Doolittle's Raid under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle (Aaron Eckhart), and the subsequent tensions result in the climactic Battle of Midway. There, reckless flyboy Lieutenant Richard "Dick" Best (Ed Skrein) distinguishes himself by taking out two Japanese aircraft carriers, shifting the upper hand in the Pacific theater to the Allied powers.

Is it any good?

Overly long and overstuffed with both characters and battle scenes, this film (based on the same-named 1976 movie) clearly has its heart in the right place, but it's not much fun to watch. The obvious aim is to honor the soldiers, both American and Japanese, who fought in the pivotal WWII battle. But the effect is numbing, with too many lookalike faces and confusing, endless shots of planes wheeling in the sky. How come movie makers haven't figured out that battles are a drag to watch if you can't figure out who's fighting and what's happening, no matter how well they're made? If Midway had leaned into that chaos and made the battle scenes visceral -- like the bravura opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan -- it may have earned more than the reflexive wince viewers feel at watching yet another human being die a horribly violent death.

Concentrating more closely on one or just a few characters would also have given the action more emotion. We're introduced to nine main characters on the American side at once, at least four of whom look incredibly similar (Aaron Eckhart and Alexander Ludwig: separated at birth?) and all wearing the same clothes -- OK, it's a uniform, but it doesn't help. On the other hand, the portrayal of the Japanese military officials is one of this movie's bright spots: Though Midway's overall vibe is fiercely pro-American, Axis decisions are depicted sympathetically, and their stories are given dignity. Jun Kunimura is a solemn-faced and magnetic Admiral Nagumo; the resolution of his storyline is one of the few emotional moments that really connects, amidst otherwise eye-rollingly trite scenes of soldiers hugging wives and children. Wait, who's hugging who? And why? We don't know, so it's hard to care, for these scenes, and for this so-so movie.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the events that led to World War II and about some of the real-life characters who are depicted in Midway. Was the movie fair to them, or did it seem biased in any way? Which characters were depicted sympathetically, and which (if any) got short shrift?

  • What other war movies and documentaries have you seen? Do they seem true to life? How about the coverage you see in the news relating to conflicts around the world? Is it balanced? How would you be able to tell?

  • How do the characters in Midway demonstrate courage and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths

  • How does the violence in this movie compare to what you've seen in more fantasy-based action movies? Does it have a different impact?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love epics

Themes & Topics

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