Patton

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Patton Movie Poster Image
Oscar-winning biographical war epic is complex, violent.
  • PG
  • 1970
  • 172 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

This movie has a very complex nature. It celebrates military strategy, but at the same time questions warmongering and military thought. It could be argued that the former comes out more strongly than the latter, and that violence itself is celebrated.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Patton is shown as a great strategist and a great leader, but he's also inflexible and intolerant of others who do not regard war as highly as he does. He continually claims to love war and fighting, and wishes for more. He's both punished and rewarded for this behavior. In the end, he comes out looking something like a hero, despite his behavior.

Violence

There are several battles, marked with dropping bombs and explosions, and shooting of guns (mostly shown from a distance). In the aftermath, there are many dead bodies, some covered in blood. In one disturbing sequence, Patton shoots and kills a couple of donkeys that are blocking a road. (Their deaths are off-screen.) In a famous sequence, he slaps a soldier for being a "coward."

Sex

Some minor, infrequent sexual banter, such as references to "fornication," "whorehouses" and "pimps."

Language

Patton has a potty mouth, and swears in just about every scene, though he tends to stay away from the strongest language. "S--t" is heard perhaps once. More common is "bastard," "son of a bitch," "goddamn," "crap," "ass," "butt," "damn," and "hell."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Patton smokes cigars, and can be seen sipping wine and drinking vodka at occasional fancy dinners.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byg-g-g August 11, 2013

A great, complex war epic and character study totally OK for ages 13 and up

An opening speech for the ages. The role of a lifetime for George C. Scott, who turned down the Oscar it earned him. Jerry Goldsmith's haunting score. So m... Continue reading
Adult Written byB H May 28, 2018

"Is it any good?" response

The "Is it any good?" section ponders why the film was a hit despite its premiere during the Vietnam War era. The writer of this section must be too y... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byFilmFanJ June 9, 2012

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?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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