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Roots (2016)

Movie review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
Roots (2016) Movie Poster Image
Reimagined slave epic is violent but stirs worthy questions.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 383 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Love, survival, and family are major themes that rise above the series' otherwise sobering realities. The series also stresses the importance of honoring the past as a means to moving forward.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The series offers a mix of positive and negative role models, but the central characters as a whole exemplify courage, integrity, and perseverance. Their shared story of survival is inspiring.


Violent imagery includes crude amputations, decapitations, hangings, beatings, whippings, and the branding of human beings like cattle; several key scenes are graphic in nature, with spurting blood, vomit, and open wounds.


Kissing, implied sex, and simulated rape, though no sensitive parts are shown; discussion of "breeding" human beings like animals.


Audible language includes "damn," "bastard," and the "N" word.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking; some characters drink to the point of drunkenness.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Roots (2016) is a remake of the critically acclaimed 1977 miniseries of the same name that won nine Emmys, a Golden Globe, and a Peabody Award. (Both miniseries are based on Alex Haley's 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family.) The visuals are graphically violent and painfully realistic and range from whippings, hangings, amputations, and human branding to battle scenes involving shootings, stabbings, explosions, and executions. Sexual violence, including rape, is strongly suggested, but no sensitive parts are shown, and audible language includes the "N" word. Some characters drink socially to the point of drunkenness. As brutal as the content is, this update is an excellent conversation starter for families to use to discuss slavery.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byTkrocke June 8, 2016

Roots Mini-Series

I thought this was a quality remake of the series I watched so long ago. This led to discussing many racial issues with my children and Them asking many questio... Continue reading
Parent of a 11 and 13 year old Written bywismama July 4, 2016

Extremely violent, graphic mini-series is way too much for kids.

I saw the original "Roots" mini-series long ago and thought this new version would be an entertaining and educational choice for my mature kids, ages... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byBlackSheep15 June 11, 2016


"Roots" is a phenomenal miniseries, and though my rating says for people age 14 and above, I truly wish everyone could see it! I have not seen the ori... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old June 3, 2016

Graphic historical drama is very violent and disturbing but brilliant and thought-provoking.

My rating:TV-MA for bloody disturbing violence including graphic images, language, and sexual content.

What's the story?

Based on Alex Haley's best-selling book of the save name, ROOTS (2016) is a remake of the landmark TV miniseries that gripped the nation when it first aired in 1977 and made U.S. television history with record ratings. It follows the story of enslaved African boy Kunta Kinte (Malachi Kirby) and his eventual descendants, tracing their long journey to eventual freedom after decades of bondage and unspeakable suffering. The ensemble cast includes Oscar winners Forest Whitaker and Anna Paquin, Tony winner Anika Noni Rose, and Golden Globe winner Jonathan Rhys Meyers. LeVar Burton, who played Kunta Kinte in the original miniseries, serves as an executive producer.

Is it any good?

If you still haven't seen the groundbreaking TV miniseries that inspired this four-part History Channel reboot, add it to your watch list yesterday. That said, we can tell you that this deeply moving remake is equally excellent. The story is just as powerful, the acting is equally affecting, and the message it imparts is still important -- in some ways, even more so -- nearly 40 years later.

A word of caution: Though it's rated TV-14, the level of violence here is truly graphic, and even adults will have trouble getting through some of the series' toughest moments. But Roots' realistic depictions of what enslaved Africans endured over several generations is essential to understanding the black experience, and older teens who watch will gain critical insight into America's complicated racial history.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the ways in which Roots (2016) depicts violent acts against enslaved Africans and whether it shows too much -- or not enough. What were the realities of life for black people in America's slave era, and how does that compare to the lives of Roots' main characters?

  • How does Roots (2016) compare to the groundbreaking 1977 miniseries of the same name, and how do both series compare to the book that inspired it? What are the pros and cons of remaking a television classic?

  • Should Roots (2016) be required viewing for older kids and teens, or is the on-screen violence too graphic to offset the educational value? What lessons do kids stand to learn if their parents let them watch? How does Roots relate to modern-day discussions about race in America?

  • How do the characters in Roots demonstrate courage, integrity, and perseverance? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

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