Only the Brave

Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
Only the Brave Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Language, firefighting peril in true story of heroism.
  • PG-13
  • 2017
  • 133 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 11 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 5 reviews

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Many character strengths and virtues are promoted, including courage, teamwork, perseverance, and hard work. A character with addiction issues gets a noteworthy second chance; it turns out that others in the film with such issues have similarly turned their lives around. A key factor sparking that turnaround for one character is a deep familial instinct. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The firefighters are smart, disciplined, hardworking, and courageous -- but not without flaws (which makes them more human/relatable). The primary positive role models are the mentor and trainee, who both have to overcome personal demons, including addiction, to become not just productive, but heroic. 


Two brief tussles. A snake bite. Most of the physical peril comes in the form of danger from intense, fast-moving fires. But the filmmakers chose not to show the worst outcomes (i.e., deaths) on-screen. 


Brief partial male nudity (bottoms), in a nonsexual context. Romantic, non-graphic bathtub scene. Non-explicit sex talk.


Language is fairly frequent and includes uses of "f--k," "s--t," "ass," "a--holes," "d--k," "p---y," "t-ts," "goddamn," "hell," and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Inhalation of what looks like crack (glass pipe). Fair amount of bar drinking/partying. Drug use is definitely frowned upon.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Only the Brave is an intense but uneven drama about the real-life Granite Mountain Hotshots, a team of elite firefighters from Arizona who faced a deadly wildfire in June 2013, demonstrating courage, perseverance, and teamwork in the process. The main concern for younger viewers is the peril of the fast-moving fires, but though there are deaths, they're not shown on-screen. There's also a snake bite and a couple of fights. Characters swear fairly frequently (including a couple uses of "f--k," "s--t," "ass," and more) and talk roughly but non-graphically about sex; they also rip into each other for fun. Drug use is a plot element -- characters work hard to overcome addiction, and drug use is clearly frowned upon -- and what looks like crack is smoked in one scene. There's also some drinking, a brief moment of nonsexual male partial nudity (bare bottoms), and a romantic (but not graphic) bathtub scene. Josh Brolin and Miles Teller co-star.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAnthony V March 24, 2018

An honourable tribute worth the 2 hours

This movie is very intense and younger and not mature enough children may not be able to handle it or grasp the themes. Look this is a heart shattering movie wh... Continue reading
Adult Written byEthan R March 29, 2021

A Must Watch Movie

This movie is about wildfire firefighters. There are great messages including sacrifice and the value of family. The negative content includes some sexual refer... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bySourpatchKid24 October 21, 2017

Only The Brave - Review from a 17 Y/O


Only The Brave is the harrowing tale of 20 Firefighters who bonded together over the course of a couple years, and then their bitter end... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bybrettjc04 October 2, 2020

Beautiful film showing the true bravery and determination of these firefighters

Only The Brave is an amazing film depicting the lives of the 20 Granite Mountain Hotshots. These firefighters were an elite group of hotshots based in Prescott,... Continue reading

What's the story?

ONLY THE BRAVE tells the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite wildlands firefighting team. Hard-driving supervisor Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) pushes for his local crew to become the first of their origin to be certified as "hot shots," with the help of Division Chief Duane Steinbrink (Jeff Bridges). Marsh and his right-hand man, Captain Jesse Steed (James Badge Dale), lead a team that includes Chris "Mac" MacKenzie (Taylor Kitsch) and Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller), a new recruit with a shady past, to fight dangerous fires around the United States. The team's camaraderie and expertise grow, but there are tensions at home as McDonough struggles to overcome his demons and become a good dad, while Marsh and his wife, Amanda (Jennifer Connelly), work through their complex relationship. Eventually, the team comes upon a massive, fast-moving blaze that it may not be able to handle.  

Is it any good?

There's a lot to like here: the dialogue, the relationships, the technical expertise; but there's also a lot to not like here: the dialogue, the relationships, the technical expertise. Only the Brave is at its strongest in the easy camaraderie of the elite firefighters, with their goofing around and male bonding. But the film clearly treats its real-life subjects with kid gloves. McDonough has a pretty easy time of it, going from unbelievably stupid crackhead to dedicated family man and reliable wildlands firefighter with surprisingly little on-screen struggle. Luckily, Teller is a skilled actor who more or less sells it. More punches are obviously pulled with team supervisor Marsh (played by the at-home-in-his-own-skin Brolin), whom, we're told, has made enemies with his attitude. On-screen, his greatest sin is that (predictably) he cares too damn much. The relationships built within the crew, particularly between McDonough and initial nemesis Chris "Mac" MacKenzie (a likeable Kitsch), provide some human ballast. But the domestic drama either doesn't fly -- as with Marsh and his wife -- or does, as with McDonough's fumblings toward fatherhood. The dialogue is similarly uneven, reeling from the guys' amusing banter to heavy-handed clichés that can tip toward the laughable: "It's not easy ... sharing your man with the fire" And "I went in with my eyes wide open," bravely asserts one long-suffering wife. "That doesn't mean you can see everything coming," comes another's wise response.

The storytelling also leans toward heavy-handed and clichéd: A lingering look at a character getting into a truck means ... well, you can guess. A character talks about retiring, so the next time out ... well, you can guess. Brave's worst cinematic sin, though, is its failure to convey the logistics of the action. While it can be fascinating to watch the characters' technical expertise, their physical feats, and their strategy and skill, the film doesn't bother to fill in knowledge gaps for regular viewers. We're simply intended to accept that every strategic call one of the characters makes is right, even though other experts vehemently disagree. This is crucial in the film's climax, when it's difficult to understand why certain decisions are made. That lack of clarity may open cans of worms the filmmakers don't intend, as viewers may wonder why certain horrible events had to occur. Only the Brave serves as a fond tribute to real-life heroes, but as a work of art, it's uneven.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Only the Brave's scenes of firefighting. Were they frightening? Impressive? Were you able to follow the action? How do the scenes in this movie compare with other forms of movie violence? Is one type scarier than another?

  • Beneath the story of dedication and heroism is a story of redemption for several characters. How do their addiction issues play into the story? Do they deserve second chances? What did they do with those chances? Do you consider them role models?

  • How do the characters demonstrate perseverance, courage, and teamwork? Why are those important character strengths?

  • Were you surprised to see firefighters starting fires? Were you able to follow their strategies? What were you interested to learn about the firefighters?

Movie details

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