Parents' Guide to

Patton

By Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Oscar-winning biographical war epic is complex, violent.

Movie PG 1970 172 minutes
Patton Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 14+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 14+

"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 young to have lived during that time, and only considers aspects of the film itself, rather than the make-up of the audience, in this section. Here's another perspective: It's important for parents to know and explain to their children that the 1960s and early 1970s were a complex time, during which Depression/WWII-era parents were frequently at odds with their baby boomer kids. Yet, "Patton" appealed to many people of both generations -- even to anti-war kids, who grew up watching a lot of TV shows and movies that were set during WWII. So we students appreciated that "Patton" was probably the greatest movie of its genre ever made, while catching every anti-war nuance built into the picture....The movie first played to audiences in 1970, which was only 25 years after the end of World War II. Veterans of the war, and their families who had lived through it at home, were very much alive at the time. I myself was in the 10th grade, and saw it with my family. My parents were in their 40s then; my father was a WWII veteran, and my mother had attended college during the war. The war was the linchpin of their lives; yet, by 1970, they (like many of their generation) had come to reject the rationale for the Vietnam War. So "Patton" was a hit for viewers like them: brilliantly produced and acted, it supported their pride in having survived that era and won the war, while portraying military leaders as being, sometimes, deeply flawed and politically motivated....Interestingly, "Patton" was shown with the movie "MASH," a fascinating double bill, which my parents also liked. My father, especially, laughed loud and long at how "MASH" satirized military life. It was a double feature that played well to both age groups, and made for lively and amiable conversation afterwards. BTW, my uncle served in Patton's army during the Battle of the Bulge. He agreed that Patton was "a real SOB," and was "a nut," (to use a term they said then); but no one could deny that Patton's leadership had been important at that time in the war....For an excellent WWII-era counterpoint to "Patton" that was made the year after the war ended, I recommend "The Best Years of Our Lives." Another Academy Award winner, it may seem overly sentimental now, but is an important document of how Americans saw themselves picking up the pieces and moving on when the war ended. It may be hard for some to watch because it was produced in black and white, but I strongly recommend it (no violence to speak of, emotionally intense, some sexual innuendo but nothing overt, but as a serious movie probably boring to kids under 13 or 14).
age 13+

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 many things make this film an all-time classic, and they are all OK to share with teens across the age spectrum. 13-14-year-olds will enjoy a classic war story in early 1970s fashion with lots of fireworks, minimal blood, and no gore. Yes, the language can be a bit salty, but let's face it, there's nothing in there that a 2010s public-school teen has not heard in quantity already. (Forget the smoking too--no teenager's going to get compelled to take it up just by watching a 50-year-old puff on a stogie.) Older teens will get to appreciate the depth and complexity of Patton's character. Like Westerns before them, war films without a pacifist message have fallen foul of the PC police, but there's plenty of seed material here for family conversations about the power of leadership by example (Patton's takeover of a demoralized army after the defeat at Kasserine Pass), the relationship of a leader with his/her subordinates (the famous slapping incident, Patton's relationship with Bradley--Karl Malden in a strong supporting performance), or the limits of a leader's drive to achieve an objective (the horse scene during the drive through Sicily, the forced march to reposition three divisions in the Ardennes). And of course, there's the pleasure of sharing the famous opening line that can be repurposed for so many later uses: "I want to make it very clear that no b-----d ever won a war dying for his country..."

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (2 ):
Kids say (2 ):

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.

Movie Details

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