Sounder (1972) Movie Poster Image

Sounder (1972)



A strong family triumphs over poverty and racism.
  • Review Date: October 19, 2005
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1972
  • Running Time: 105 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Depicts the poverty, desperation, and bigotry of the rural South during the Great Depression.


Implied rather than depicted. The dog Sounder is shot but recovers. Father Nathan Lee Morgan is hauled out of his family's arms and sent to a prison camp, but the resolution of this injustice is the foundation of the film.

Not applicable

A nasty insult and "shut up" are used casually once each; "bastards" once in righteous anger.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there's a bit of mild language. But it's all in the service of the movie, which doesn't pull punches in depicting the poverty, desperation, and bigotry of the rural South during the Great Depression.

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What's the story?

Set during the depression, SOUNDER follows the story of the Morgan family, black sharecroppers in rural Louisiana. Hunting late at night, David Lee (Kevin Hooks) and his father (Paul Winfield) fail to bring home some desperately needed meat. But a day later, David's mother, Rebecca (Cicely Tyson), shakes him and his younger sister and brother awake to the smell of frying ham. In short order, the sheriff and a landowner show up to arrest dad Nathan for smokehouse burglary. When Rebecca leaves to learn her husband's fate, David shoulders the tasks of an adult. After Nathan is sentenced to a year of hard labor, Rebecca and David find out he's been sent far away. Rebecca sends David off to contact him and, on the way, David meets a trailblazing teacher in an all-black school and determines to attend. When Nathan comes home lamed, he supports David's wish, but it takes the family -- and David himself -- some time to realize that this is the best course for all of them.

Is it any good?


Without sugar-coating the hard lives of black Louisiana sharecroppers, the Morgan family's enduring ties to each other set alight this film depicting the poverty, desperation, and bigotry of the rural South during the Great Depression. Beautifully enhanced by the country blues of Lightnin' Hopkins and the hollers and rough-hewn cakewalks of the inimitable Taj Mahal (who appears as Ike), Sounder stands out as an honest celebration of a strong family's triumph over poverty and racism. The transformation of svelte, elegant Cicely Tyson into the ragged, destitute Rebecca epitomizes the sharp contrast between the life most Americans lead and the back-breaking, desperate circumstances the Morgan family transcends.

Winfield and Tyson skillfully balance between the proud flash of individuality, and the drab obsequious shell society demands. In support, a range of actors with real -- if largely unknown -- faces adds to the film's authentic feel, including Kevin Hooks as a convincing David, whose attachment to his father is palpable. It takes an argument before Nathan can acknowledge that love and before David realizes that it is out of an equal love that his father urges him toward the faraway school. The other children onscreen are frequently wooden, a minor flaw in an otherwise excellent production. The hard, hot light of the rural South floods its scenes, revealing the depths of feeling which saw some families through such trials.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about whether movies usually depict life realistically. Do movies ever gloss over distasteful but real life experiences such as poverty, death, or loss? Why or why not? Does this movie do so? Do you think realism adds to or detracts from stories?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 24, 1972
DVD release date:April 30, 2002
Cast:Carmen Mathews, Cicely Tyson, James Best
Director:Marcus Raboy
Studio:United American Video
Topics:Book characters
Run time:105 minutes
MPAA rating:G

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 7 years old January 28, 2012


I loved it and so did my dad I think your family should watch this great movie about education.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Kid, 11 years old April 9, 2008

a must see

teachers if ur readin this make sure u show this to ur class b/c its a great movie


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