Miles Ahead

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Miles Ahead Movie Poster Image
Cheadle shines in dark, labor-of-love biopic of Miles Davis.
  • R
  • 2016
  • 100 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Messages include the need to be faithful and good to your spouse (and the consequences of marital infidelity and domestic abuse) and the power of music. Also explores the way artists must overcome self doubt and greedy alliances to create their art. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Miles wants his music to be his own, not shackled to the label reps. He wants to be respected as a man and a musician, but he's also an abusive husband who demands that his wife stop dancing and just be devoted to him. Frances was a loving, supportive wife -- until she was abused. 


Gun violence, domestic violence, and hand-to-hand violence. Miles is shot. Police brutality in a scene in which Miles is unfairly targeted by a racist police officer.


Miles has a threesome; the half-naked women are visible in bed waiting for him to return. Miles and Frances kiss passionately and make love -- her bare breast is briefly visible. 


Frequent strong language includes "f--k," "f--king," "motherf--ker," "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters snort cocaine, inject heroin, and drink a lot. Miles is often drunk or drinking. Junior needs heroin, and Miles -- in the past -- has experimented with it. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Miles Ahead is a biographical drama about legendary jazz trumpeter/bandleader Miles Davis. Written, directed by, and starring Don Cheadle, the drama flashes back and forth between the final year of Davis' hiatus from the music industry and his career two decades earlier, when he was recording for Columbia Records with Gil Evans, performing with his quintet in New York City, and falling in love with Frances, a dancer. Expect a lot of strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "a--hole"), as well as substance use/abuse (heroin, cocaine, alcohol), partial nudity (bare breasts), a threesome, and some violence (a police attack, domestic abuse, and gun violence) -- all of which makes this movie best for mature teens who already know something about the jazz icon.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

MILES AHEAD is a biographical drama about legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. It stars Don Cheadle, who also co-wrote and directed. The movie begins with Davis' interview with journalist Dave Brill (Ewan McGregor), with Davis on the verge of reemerging from a five-year break from music -- what some call "the lost years." The interview triggers a flashback to the time when Davis was no more than a hermit, living in his Upper West Side brownstone with little more than drugs and drink to keep him going. Brill first got in touch with him then, pretending to be on assignment from Rolling Stone to find out why the King of Cool had stopped making music. During a strange, substance-fueled 24 hours together, Brill accompanies Davis as he takes a trip down memory lane, recalling his years recording with his quintet, wooing and marrying a beautiful dancer named Frances (Emayatzy Corinealdi), and -- in the present time -- squabbling with his impatient label reps.

Is it any good?

Like an improvisational jazz piece, Cheadle's portrayal of the ultimate icon of cool is daring and memorable, if not easily accessible to the casual fan. Miles Ahead is clearly a true passion project, with Cheadle impressively handling his multiple duties as writer-director-producer-star. He doesn't take a straightforward approach to the biopic. There are no shots of baby Miles in East St. Louis, or a well-known character actor playing his friend John Coltrane, or even a medley of his most famous pieces. Instead, Cheadle concentrates on the lost years in Davis' life, when he wasn't producing new material and spent his time getting drunk, high, or sad about his bad choices -- like mistreating the one love of his life, Frances.

The majority of moviegoers who aren't hardcore Davis fans may not glean many specifics about Davis' life other than that he was once attacked by an NYPD officer, he was wildly successful for his early collaborations (but then took a surprising five-year hiatus), he adored and then abused his wife, and that he boxed, drank, and did drugs. There's not a lot of character development, because Cheadle zooms in and out of mostly one day, with a lot of flashbacks. It's the kind of story that demands attention but can be frustrating unless you're all in, which is worth it just to see Cheadle's worthy performance.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the substance abuse and sex in Miles Ahead. Do artists' personal failures or addictions affect how you perceive their art?

  • What does the movie have to say about the history of racism related to African-American artists? How have (or haven't) things changed?

  • Discuss the violence in the movie. Is it necessary to the story?

  • Does the movie make you interested in Davis' music or in learning more about him? Do you think it's true to how things happened in real life? Why might filmmakers choose to change some details in a movie based on fact?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love true stories

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate