A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Self-respect and learning to celebrate one's heritage and background.
Positive Role Models
Through horrific and ultimately tragic circumstances, Beth finds a way to stand up for herself and her family against her alcoholic and abusive husband. Mr. Bennett teaches Maori youth to embrace their heritage and culture.
Movie centered on Maori living in Auckland, New Zealand.
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Violence & Scariness
Spousal abuse is graphically shown. Jake punches Beth in the head repeatedly, beats her until her face is swollen and left eye shut. Jake gets into bar fights, smashing heads with fists and beer bottles. Teen girl is raped in her bed by a friend of her father's. Suicide by hanging. Fighting with fists and kicks. A young man endures a gang initiation in which he's punched and kicked by gang members.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Brief nudity -- breasts, female buttocks. Two women joke that their men expect them to "keep [their] mouth shut and [their] legs open."
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Strong language throughout. "F--k" often used. Also: "bulls--t," "pr--k," "piss," "bastard," "hell," "wankers." Homosexual slurs used in a scene.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Binge drinking throughout. Jake binge-drinks in a bar and has his friends over to continue the party, leading to domestic abuse and rape. Weed smoking. Cigarette smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Once Were Warriors is a 1994 drama about a Maori family in New Zealand and the problems they face. The movie shows graphic spousal abuse, the rape of a 13-year-old girl by a friend of her alcoholic and abusive father, and suicide. Besides the depictions of the father beating the mother, the father gets into violent altercations at the local bar, including punches, kicks, head butts, and beer bottle stabbing. A young man is punched and kicked during a gang initiation. Binge drinking. A teen smokes weed. Cigarette smoking. Strong language throughout, including "f--k." Homosexual slurs are used in a scene. Brief nudity -- breasts, female buttocks. In terms of positives, some of the characters learn to embrace and celebrate their culture and heritage. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This is a searing portrait of a Maori family devastated by abuse and alcoholism. Once Were Warriors is about finding an identity and fully embracing one's background and culture and the pain that happens when that identity is denied or ignored. Decades after its release, this is a movie that has earned the right to be called a classic. It's unflinching in its depictions of abuse, poverty, and despair, but there's also some small sense of hope that shines through the pain.
While very much a product of a 1990s realism that presented unsentimental portraits of the urban poor, particularly of minority or indigenous populations, the story, direction, style, and acting transcend that time. It's an unforgettable movie, at times difficult to watch, because the performances -- from Rena Owen and Temuera Morrison in particular -- are so overwhelming in their emotional intensity. But despite all that seems lost, Once Were Warriors reveals that it's possible for individuals and people who feel lost to find themselves again.
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.