Silverado

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
Silverado Movie Poster Image
Classic '80s Western has violence, language.
  • PG-13
  • 1985
  • 133 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

You can only be pushed around if you let it happen.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Men rob a group of its savings. Others burn someone's house and shoot the inhabitants. A bad guy takes the job of sheriff but his chief role is to make sure the richest, baddest guy in town gets everything he wants. Paden, Emmett, Mal, and Jake all risk their lives for strangers.

Violence

Shootings, kidnapping, arson, and lots of threats. Men are shot off their horses. A man is trampled in a stampede. A man is tied up, laid on the ground so someone on horseback can ride over him. A man is scheduled to be hanged but is broken out of jail first. We hear that a dog caused a man to fall off his horse and the man shot, but didn't kill, the dog.

 

Sex

Two barmaids are clearly prostitutes. A man claims he got into a shoot-out just because he kissed a girl. A man spent the day with a prostitute, but no sex or nudity is shown.

 

Language

"S--t," "damn," "ass," and the "N" word.

 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink alcohol and smoke tobacco.

 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Silverado, a 1985 Western, features a lot of shooting, but not much emphasis on blood. Life in the Old West is portrayed using a combination of the genre's clichés and far more modern thinking, and these sometimes clash jarringly. Guys threaten and shoot each other over small provocations, but the law covering such attacks seems loosely applied, which means that corruption is open and public. Many scenes take place in saloons, where adults drink, smoke, and gamble. Some women are dressed in revealing outfits, clearly indicating they are prostitutes, although their roles aren't spelled out. Language includes "s--t" and the "N" word.

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What's the story?

SILVERADO is the town that brothers Emmett (Scott Glenn) and Jake (Kevin Costner) are riding to get to in this modern Western written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan. Emmett is fresh out of jail for a self-defense shooting. When he finds Jake, he has to break him out of jail, where he's awaiting hanging, for the same offense. They're heading for California and want to say good-bye to their sister and her family before making the move. Along the way, Emmett rescues Paden (Kevin Kline), a gambler who was mugged in the desert by some horse thieves who took his mount, gun, clothes, and favorite hat. In Silverado they run into old foes. The McKendricks are the rich town bullies who run black people off their property, among other nasty practices, and Cobb (Brian Dennehy) is a former swindler Paden used to run with. Now he's the sheriff, bought and paid for by McKendrick. Mal (Danny Glover) walks into a saloon one day. He's riding from Chicago to see his family in Silverado. The bartender calls him the "N" word and banishes him. Emmett and Jake witness the mistreatment and later they, Mal, and Paden all team up for a rescue-revenge operation against the McKendricks that combats murder, shootings, stabbings, kidnappings, arson, land theft, and other transgressions of the Old West. 

Is it any good?

This film is a mix of classic Western and modern sensibility. Silverado has the awkwardness and art of a modern Western, with lots of smart-alecky remarks straight from the 1980s, and a cinematic sweep that echoes the images of John Ford and David Lean, even though such indulgences make the film a good half-hour longer than necessary. Director Kasdan also wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark, an equally smart-alecky movie set in the early 20th century, and he mimics the rousing, obvious orchestral cues of impending adventure and danger from that epic in this movie.

The movie is shaggy around the edges, with lots of great actors in unnecessary parts (Lynn Whitfield and Jeff Goldblum), but the cast is mostly attractive and fun to watch. Glenn as Emmett is the stereotypical old-school cowboy. He says little, can shoot straight, resorts to violence when necessary, and knows right from wrong, even when it's the law that's wrong. Costner plays Jake as an idiot party dude, often laughing inappropriately in the face of danger. In such perilous times, when everyone was packing and men drew their sidearms at the slightest offense, his demeanor doesn't seem believable. Still, teens who enjoy Westerns should like this one.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Westerns. What's the appeal? Why have they remained popular?

  • How does Silverado make it clear that life in the Old West was harsh?

  • How does this compare to other Westerns you've seen?

Movie details

For kids who love adventure

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