Paths of Glory

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Paths of Glory Movie Poster Image
Classic Kubrick film with complex, heavy, anti-war themes.
  • NR
  • 1957
  • 88 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

War is a futile, unending exercise in which people often die for no good reason. The structure of the military, from generals who are pressured by the press and the public to lowly privates with poor judgment who are put in impossible situations, creates an atmosphere that perpetuates useless loss of life. When we disregard the humanity that binds us and blindly follow orders, the results are tragic.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A wide range of people are shown, from the incompetent to the valorous. The hero, Colonel Dax, is a voice of reason who stands up for what's right and does everything he can to protect his troops. Bad-guy General Mireau, although himself placed in an impossible, unwinnable situation, wants his troops court-martialed for insubordination and cowardice when they are unable to carry out his orders through no fault of their own.


Battle scenes are shown with gunshots sounding, grenades blasting, and soldiers falling and lying in the field, all with little blood and no gore. Bloody bandages on the wounded are seen in passing several times, and a bloody, dead body is briefly shown, still smoking after an explosion. Several punches are shown, including a man punching a priest and a general striking a shell-shocked enlisted man. An execution is shown in which the firing squad's shots are heard and then the victims convulse and collapse, but no blood is seen.


A man makes a curving gesture indicating the female form in front of the woman herself, who's under duress, apparently being coerced into entertaining the troops.


"Go to hell" is used once.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Officers and enlisted men are frequently seen drinking, and it's clear early on that alcohol consumption causes problems, and even tragedy, on the front. A soldier is seen in passing with a cigarette, and an officer offers another a cigar, which is declined. A wounded man is shown receiving an injection.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Paths of Glory is a heavy, war-is-futile movie directed by Stanley Kubrick. For a war film with battle scenes, there's almost no blood or gore, although a bloody dead body is briefly seen once and wounded soldiers with bloody bandages are in the background several times. Although there's little of concern visually, the movie's heavy themes about the useless loss of life during war, and how the chain of command enables impossible situations that lead to even more loss of life, are told at a careful, considerate pace best appreciated by teens and up. The all-adult cast is frequently seen drinking alcohol, sometimes as a social norm and sometimes as an escape, and it's clear that it can lead to tragic consequences on the battlefield.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byusa4cc February 14, 2020

Good movie that calls to mind the dignity of the human person

Set in World War I, Paths of Glory speaks about the evils present in the leadership of the French army. The commander tells Colonel Dax to basically commit suic... Continue reading
Adult Written byNintendofan124 August 28, 2019

Good war for teens

My nephew loves it but I find it ok
Teen, 14 years old Written byNonsensical_Reviews December 25, 2020

Kubrick's drama has excellent portrayal of war, but some scenes might be too intense for kids.

Paths Of Glory is a 1957 war drama directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Kirk Douglas, George Macready, Ralph Meeker, Richard Anderson, and Adolphe Menjou.... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byLukeCon August 3, 2020

A thought-provoking anti-war story; best left to teens and up

Kubrick provides us with a tragic but thought-provoking exploration of the realities of war. The themes explored throughout the film are important to discuss, i... Continue reading

What's the story?

Colonel Dax's (Kirk Douglas) troops have been asked by their supreme commander (Adolphe Menjou) to do the impossible. When they are in fact unable to do it, their commanding general Mireau (George Macready), himself largely responsible for the fiasco, wants an entire company to face execution. Eventually three are chosen to face court-martial. Can Colonel Dax save the men from the firing squad?

Is it any good?

Kubrick presents a thoughtful, contemplative look at an impossible war-time situation that results in a tragic miscarriage of justice, in which the true horror of war is its endless futility. Some of the dialogue and blocking are overly formal and stilted, but the true power of the film is in the reaction shots. For some of the strongest moments, the speaker is actually off-screen so that the viewer slowly absorbs the impact of what's being said while watching the face of the listener. It's here that Kirk Douglas really shines, and the masterful scene of the company in the tavern, comprising mostly reaction shots, will tug at the heartstrings of even the most hardened.

The complex themes involving military chain of command and philosophical discussions about fear of dying, not to mention the downer ending highlighting the cruelly endless nature of war, make this a better choice for older teens who are ready for moral complexity. The slow pace and black-and-white photography may be off-putting, but kids who can hang in there will get an emotional payoff at the end -- and a lot of food for thought.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why movies about war are so popular. Can a movie that was made in 1957 about soldiers during World War I help us understand anything about war today?

  • When the soldiers are singing in the tavern, why do you think so many cry? What are they thinking about?

  • This movie was made in 1957, a dozen or so years after World War II. Why do you think Kubrick chose to make this movie?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

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Themes & Topics

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