Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Sahara Movie Poster Image
Exciting action can't mask thin story, iffy representations.
  • PG-13
  • 2005
  • 120 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 20 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 13 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Perseverance, ingenuity, and teamwork yield results. But there are problematic portrayals of non-male, non-White characters. A man says to a woman that he hopes she "doesn't throw like a girl."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Heroic characters demonstrate courage and perseverance, but despite the fact that it includes some positive Black characters and a female doctor, the movie has an unpleasantly retro approach to women and minorities, approaching racism in its casual attitude toward killing Africans.


Frequent peril (chases, falls, stunts) and action violence (big/fiery explosions, destruction). A woman is held down and choked by male attackers and later taken captive. Opening scene includes Civil War battle violence. Weapons, including many guns; people are shot at, and some are killed (sometimes execution style). People die of a mysterious illness; bodies and graves are shown. Skeletons.


Flirting, a bit of cleavage, kiss.


"Crap," "hell," "screwin'," "piece of --" (phrase unfinished), "damn," "ass," "dear God," "Christ."


Branded liquor bottles shown.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Smoking (cigar), social/casual drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sahara (based on the book by Clive Cussler) has lots of action violence, including chases, explosions, peril, weapons (mostly guns), deaths, and a mysterious illness that kills many victims. There's also some swearing ("hell," "damn," etc.), flirting, a kiss, drinking, and smoking. Despite the fact that it includes some positive Black characters and a female doctor, the movie has an unpleasantly retro approach to women and minorities, approaching racism in its casual attitude toward killing Africans. Matthew McConaughey, Steve Zahn, and Penelope Cruz co-star.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byWeston C. August 13, 2020

It swears

I watched this when I was younger when I really didn’t pay attention to swear words because I don’t sweat myself while other people do. Now that I have children... Continue reading
Adult Written byKen R. June 8, 2020

Sahara – Not Even A Grain Of Good Sense!

Another McConaughey fiasco, all bluster, no brain and a huge loss of money. Hard to believe that people starve while multiple millions are wasted on junk like t... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bysolosing June 29, 2009

Perfect for 14 up but im not so sure about 10-12. def. not 10 or younger

I thinkk that this should be seen when kids understand that shooting and blowing people up is not a good thing. this movie has a lot of guns in it but is a very... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old August 8, 2020

Disappointing action film

Not much to say but it was bad and violent when you see people with the sickness it was gruesome and there’s a scene at the end where the female character is in... Continue reading

What's the story?

Based on one of Clive Cussler's popular novels, SAHARA follows the adventures of former Navy SEAL Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) and his wisecracking best pal, Al (Steve Zahn). They work for steely-eyed former Admiral Sandecker (William H. Macy), seeking sunken treasure, rescuing beautiful doctors, and expediting regime change. The beautiful doctor is Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz) of the World Health Organization. She's a neurologist seeking the source of a mysterious disease that's killing people in Mali. No one takes her seriously except for her dedicated colleague (Glynn Turman) and a mysterious man who's stalking her. Pitt is also on the hunt for a Confederate Civil War ship that he thinks made it all the way to Africa as the Confederacy was falling and is now buried in tje desert. In the middle of all this is corrupt French industrialist Yves (Lambert Wilson).

Is it any good?

Sahara feels more like a 1940s serial than a book written in 1991 -- or a movie made in 2005. The characters are too thin, the violence too careless, the suspension of disbelief required too strenuous, the treatment of non-Whites too stereotyped. Which is a shame, because it all get in the way of some terrifically exciting stunts and spirited action.

This movie would be good popcorn fun except that as you try to put your brain to sleep to sit back and enjoy the action, the careless carnage ruins it. Dirk and Al have no hesitation in blowing away battalions of uniformed troops without any real justification. The African villain says that "No one cares about (killing) Africans," but no one making the movie seems to have got the memo about how that's a bad thing. One saintly Black doctor character certainly doesn't make up for portraying other Africans as evil, ineffective, or, worst of all, expendable.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in Sahara. How does it compare to what you've seen in other action movies?

  • Did you notice any positive representations in the film? Any negative portrayals and/or stereotypes?

  • If you've read the book the movie was based on, what changes did you notice? How does it compare to other book adaptations you've seen?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love action

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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