News of the World

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
News of the World Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Stirring, lyrical Western has peril, some harsh violence.
  • PG-13
  • 2020
  • 118 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 8 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Kindness wins here, with main character taking on a responsibility he's not quite prepared for, simply because no one else can do it. Kindness, patience, knowledge also win small battles throughout, although violence sometimes must be used. Promotes teamwork, perseverance, the power of communication to bridge distances and bring people together. In a potent sequence, an authoritarian character tries to push "fake news" stories on his people, getting them to believe falsehoods that will keep him in power; it's an alarming parallel to modern times and will be interesting to discuss. Racism is judged negatively.

Positive Role Models

Captain Kidd is among Hanks' kindest characters. He's doing a service, helping others by reading the news, he doesn't shy away from duty that's going to be difficult. He shows bravery as well as patience, perseverance. He'd rather use his brain than his fists or guns, although this isn't always possible. He and Johanna (who is also courageous -- and clever) demonstrate teamwork; they work hard to learn to communicate with each other.


Frequent peril, including a child in serious danger. Hanged man. Guns and shooting. Minor characters are shot and killed. Field full of dead buffalo. Punching. Villains (who seem to have a salacious interest in a young girl) chase heroes. Young girl tied to post as disciplinary tactic. Minor bloody wounds. Dried blood spatters. Horse-drawn coach accident: It tumbles down a hill, and an injured horse must be shot. Headlines about death are read aloud ("meningitis claimed 97 souls," etc.). Mention of character dying of cholera. Dialogue about selling a young girl into prostitution. Rage and anger expressed. Girl is sad to be separated from her community/family.


Kidd and Gannett exchange meaningful glances, and the camera then cuts to a scene in which she's in bed, covered by a sheet -- it's implied that they had sex.


Uses of "goddamn," "damn," "hell," "piss," and "scum," plus "thank God."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Background drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that News of the World is a striking Western set in 1870 about a man named Captain Kidd (Tom Hanks), who travels the United States reading the news. He's tasked with transporting a young White girl, Johanna (Helena Zengel), who was taken by the Kiowa people some years before, back to her biological family members -- even though she doesn't want to go. Expect frequent peril and some scenes of upsetting violence, including guns and shooting, deaths, someone being hanged, a field full of dead buffalo, punching, minor bloody wounds, an injured horse being put down, a scary wagon crash, and more. Some of the headlines/news that Kidd reads are potentially upsetting, someone makes a racist comment (it's portrayed as negative), and it's implied that some unsavory men want to buy Johanna. A nongraphic scene suggests that two characters had sex. Sporadic language includes "goddamn," "damn," "hell," etc., plus "thank God," and there's background drinking. Directed by Paul Greengrass, the movie is stirring and lyrical, and, despite some grim sequences, quite enjoyable.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMichael Afton January 20, 2021

Read This Review!!!

Look, this movie is your typical western, with shootouts, little sexual content. Some of the movie might be intense, where multiple people are killed with pisto... Continue reading
Adult Written byArnab12 January 2, 2021
Teen, 15 years old Written byahorselover24 December 30, 2020

Good movie!

News of the World is a good movie with positive messages thorough out. It does have some cussing in it but not horrible. As far as drinking and smoking goes som... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byShadyfan November 15, 2021

Lots left out in the csm review

This movie is amazing! I loved it and watched it twice in one day. But I'm quirky and use closed captions and I noticed 1 f-word that csm forgot to mention... Continue reading

What's the story?

In NEWS OF THE WORLD, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) -- a Civil War veteran -- travels the U.S. countryside in 1870, reading the latest newspapers to customers who can afford to pay him a dime apiece. On the road, Kidd finds a hanged body and a wrecked wagon, and then spots a young girl hiding in the bushes. He finds her paperwork and discovers that she had been taken years earlier by the Kiowa people, who then raised her as one of their own (and whom she regards as her family). Kidd tries to arrange to have soldiers take her to her biological aunt and uncle, but the job winds up falling to him. With the girl, Johanna (Helena Zengel), speaking no English and Kidd unsure of how to take care of a child, their adventures begin. They face everything from a murderous band of unsavory men to a sandstorm and a dangerous authoritarian who pushes "fake news."

Is it any good?

Director Paul Greengrass slows down his usual frenetic handheld camerawork for this stirring, lyrical Western, which captures a deeply divided nation, as well as the humanity that keeps it going. At its essence, News of the World is an old-fashioned Western drama, including a deeply humanistic performance by one of our great current movie stars. Hanks' work here stems from pain as well as kindness. And Zengel is amazing as Johanna, wild and cunning; she suggests both Mattie Ross from True Grit and Grogu from The Mandalorian. These two characters are the movie's center, and, as they travel along the road, others move in and out of the periphery.

The most striking and terrifying person they encounter is Farley (Thomas Francis Murphy), a would-be authoritarian leader who offers grim parallels to modern times. He asks Kidd to read from his self-published newspaper, which has stories about made-up versions of his exploits. (Kidd reads the real news instead and gets into trouble for it.) Greengrass, who also directed Hanks in the powerful Captain Phillips, lets the story of News of the World unfold as it should, with Kidd and Johanna forming a bond, but expertly views it through a grittier lens. This old West isn't romanticized. The landscape is sometimes harsh and sometimes helpful, but it always feels honest.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about News of the World's violence. How did it make you feel? How does the movie suggest menace without showing tons of fighting or blood? What's more upsetting to you: peril abd danger, or bloodshed?

  • Why is it important for people to know the (real) news? What's dangerous about "fake news" being spread?

  • Do you consider Kidd a role model? How does he demonstrate courage, perseverance, and teamwork?

  • Johanna considers the Kiowa people her family. Do you think it was right for her to be forced to leave them? What does "family" mean to you?

  • Why do you think people like Westerns? What can we learn from them?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history and Westerns

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