Parents' Guide to

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

By Nell Minow, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 8+

Classic pits Jimmy Stewart against government corruption.

Movie NR 1939 129 minutes
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 10+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 11+

Love letter to Democracy, perfect for kids.

My kids may be a little jaundiced after all the shenanigans from our leaders of late (I write this after they saw rioters storm the capitol, assisted by the police, to try to 'take back' the election), so this was like a tonic for them all. James Stewart is wonderful, as always, and kids seem to really respond to his innocent wonder and love of the country. His 'mentor father figure' wasn't too scary, just corrupt and cynical - although he did come out with a gun (spoiler alert) and threaten to kill himself when he couldn't take his participation in 'the swamp' anymore. It's a love letter to democracy, and you can also explain the house (senate and congress) and how laws get passed. Jean Arthur doesn't have too much to do, other than 'support her man', but she does it very well and isn't wimpy or swoony. There is a lot of smoking, but that was the time in history. (side note; our kids were shocked - shocked! - to find that doctors used to say smoking was good for people, a kind of corruption that relates to the movie in a sad way) The long and the short of it- we loved this movie.
age 9+

Absolutely amazing film that still delivers even though it is 70 years old.

This is one of the movies in my top 10 list. It is a fantastic example of what HollyWood can produce. This movie excels at story telling, strong character development, and near perfect acting. This movie is incredibly educational for teaching kids/adults on the iner-workings of the United States Senate. There is one moment of suspense when one Smith's fellow Senator tries to kill himself so that he can avoid taking the rap for framing Smith. Over all, this is a perfect film for educators to show to their students who are learning about the U.S. Government. 5 out of 5

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (2 ):
Kids say (14 ):

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.

Movie Details

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