A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Viewers will learn about how the U.S. Senate operates, what a filibuster is, and even see old printing presses in action. Parts of the Declaration of Independence are read during the filibuster and the main character frequents the Lincoln Memorial.
Loaded with reminders of the importance of honesty, believing in yourself, standing up for what's right, knowing the difference between compromise and corruption, and that liberty and the freedom of speech are precious. It's also worth noting that African Americans are seen as porters and paper boys in this classic movie, but a black man is also seen standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, hat off and deeply moved by where he is.
Positive Role Models
Jefferson Smith stays true to who he is -- an idealistic and honest man, and quite a patriot. When he's faced with corruption he calls a man a liar to his face, gets almost everyone against him, and is saved by his strong character and force of will.
Violence & Scariness
A light shatters after a gun is fired and there's a struggle -- gun not shown. Jeff punches a bunch of crooked reporters. Mentions of past death and violence. In a montage, young boys distributing papers are hit by goons, a car with boys in it and a wagon carrying papers are hit by trucks on purpose, and marchers are hosed down by police.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Flirting, declarations of love, and a drunken "let's get married."
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Just dated and innocent exclamations like, "Great saints!" "You're all wet," and "Stop having kittens."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Lots of smoking -- cigarettes, pipes, cigars, and chewing tobacco -- by members of Congress and the press. Saunders gets drunk and almost gets married in the same night. More drinking in bars and in Senator Paine's home.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this classic gem from 1939 includes lots of smoking (cigarettes, pipes, cigars) consistent with the era and some drunkenness. Even though much of the movie takes place in Senate chambers, there are still a few violent moments including a gun shot, paper boys punched and nearly run down by goons, and the main character punching crooked reporters. Punching aside, the titular Mr. Smith is an otherwise great role model, holding onto his strong convictions even when it seems like everyone is against him. Kids will not only get to see the Lincoln Memorial but learn a bit about how the Senate operates and see a filibuster in action. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
It is hard to imagine a time when Jimmy Stewart was not a major star, but this is the movie that made him one; he was a perfect choice for the shy young idealist. Capra selected cowboy actor Harry Carey to play the vice president, who presides over the senate during Smith's filibuster. His look of weather-beaten integrity perfectly suits the part, and contrasts well with Rains' suave urbanity.
Frank Capra was to movies what Norman Rockwell was to illustration; he gave us a vision of our national identity that never ignored the challenges we face, although it was idealistic about our ability to meet them. This movie, made on the brink of World War II, was criticized for its portrayal of dishonesty and cynicism in Washington. But ultimately, it was recognized for the very patriotic and loyal statement that it is.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.