Oscar-winning biographical war epic is complex, violent.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Patton is an epic war movie, and a biopic about General George S. Patton Jr. It was a big hit in its day and won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It includes widescreen battlefield violence, with shooting and explosions; dead bodies and blood are shown in the aftermath. Patton has a potty mouth, though he tends to stay away from very strong language: "s--t" is heard only once. Far more common is "bastard," "goddamn," and "son of a bitch." There's also some brief innuendo, though no sexual situations. Patton smokes a cigar and occasionally drinks at military functions. The movie is a very complex mix of celebrating military strategy and excellence, but also commenting upon the evils of war, though it's apparent that Patton himself comes out looking like a hero either way. It will be a good discussion starter for mature teens.
"Is it any good?" response
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A great, complex war epic and character study totally OK for ages 13 and up
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What's the Story?
The story begins in 1943 in North Africa, where 3-star General George S. Patton Jr. (George C. Scott) assumes command of the flagging American army and achieves a victory against the Germans. From there, he journeys to Sicily for another attack, going against orders to beat British Field Marshal Montgomery (Michael Bates) to another victory. Unfortunately, during this time he happens upon a young soldier (Tim Considine) suffering from battle fatigue. Patton calls him a coward and slaps him, and the incident becomes news all over the world, resulting in Patton's banishment. At the last minute, his old pal, General Omar Bradley (Karl Malden), summons him back to help with one more battle.
Is It Any Good?
It's hard to imagine PATTON making a huge impact in 1970, in the middle of the Vietnam War and toward the end of the peace and love era. But watching the movie, it's easy to see Patton is not presented as an authority figure, but as an outcast, a rebel that constantly butts heads with colleagues and commanders. Moreover, George C. Scott's intuitive, powerhouse performance paints a complex picture of a steadfast soldier that believed firmly in reincarnation, colorful language, and the glories of war.
Director Franklin J. Schaffner shoots the movie in wide-open shots, with lots of exteriors, and it all seems huge and mythical. Yet he fails to adequately balance the movie's two themes: the glory of war and the fallacy of war. They wrestle for a while, but then Scott's persona takes over, and he makes a Patton a hero. Scott also bulldozes over all other characters; not even Karl Malden has much to do here. Francis Ford Coppola was a co-writer, and he won a pre-Godfather Oscar for his work.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the movie's war violence. How harsh or disturbing is it? Is it thrilling? How does it compare with movies today?
Is Patton a hero? How is he left at the end of the movie?
When Patton makes his public apology after slapping the soldier, is it believable? Does he seem repentant, or just defeated?
Is there anything more you would like to know about Patton after seeing this movie?
- In theaters: April 2, 1970
- On DVD or streaming: June 3, 2008
- Cast: George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Michael Bates
- Director: Franklin J Schaffner
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: History
- Run time: 172 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- Award: Academy Award
- Last updated: January 2, 2023
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For kids who love biopics and Oscar movies
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