A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this Oscar-winning war drama -- one of the most highly regarded Vietnam War movies -- is highly violent, powerful, and devastating. The violence is intense, with almost constant guns, blood, and dead bodies; soldiers also shoot and rape (mostly implied) Vietnamese characters, and burn a village. Language is likewise very strong, with almost constant use of "f--k," as well as heavy uses of words like "s--t" and "c--ksucker."
a powerful, gripping, and ultra-violent Vietnam tale has constant swearing, drugs, sex talk, and atrocities
What's the story?
In 1967, wet-behind-the-ears solider Chris (Charlie Sheen) arrives in Vietnam, assigned to ground combat. He narrates his experiences in letters to his grandmother. In unrelated incidents, he faces many horrific situations, including exhaustion, fear, ennui, and the presence of constant death. He meets several other soldiers, including outcasts and misfits from every walk of life. Most notably, he meets two sergeants, the grizzled Barnes (Tom Berenger), who believes in the war and in victory and will stop at nothing to get it, and the more kindly Elias (Willem Dafoe), who sees things a little less simply. Eventually these two inspire fighting within the ranks. Will Chris survive both the inner and outer conflicts?
Is it any good?
No war movie is truly an anti-war movie, but PLATOON comes close, and it's still as powerful as it was decades ago. Writer/director Oliver Stone based his movie on his own experiences and attempted to make a more realistic Vietnam movie, simpler and more grounded than things like Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter (and more ambitious than the Rambo movies) -- and he succeeds, truly making this war look like hell.
But at the same time he can't resist some of his more bombastic, operatic touches, such as the famous slow-motion death scene that was featured on the poster and in all the clips; and it's clear that Elias and Barnes represent something deeper and more timeless than mere sergeants in a specific war; they are the battle between good and evil, angels and devils. What's more, some of the climactic combat footage, lit by falling flares, is sublimely beautiful, and not as horrific as it wants to be.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's extreme violence. How did it make you feel? How did the movie achieve this effect? How is this movie's violence different from other war movies?
What kind of statement is this movie making about war? Do you think this movie's message could translate to more modern wars?
What role do women play in this movie? Do you see any space where female characters could have played a larger role? Why do you think they are not there?
For kids who love action
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.