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Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens Movie Poster Image
Epic Star Wars sequel delivers great performances, action.
  • PG-13
  • 2015
  • 136 minutes
 Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 94 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 206 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

As ever, the main tension is between good and evil, light and dark; characters must decide whether to choose the path they were taught or the "other" side. Just because you were bred/raised to be a particular way doesn't mean you have to accept that. The importance of friendship, courage, teamwork, loyalty, and doing the right thing is demonstrated again and again, whether with old partners or new friends.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Rey is strong, capable, and courageous. Finn's sense of morality keeps him from being a stormtrooper; he's frightened of being captured and considered a traitor, but he summons his courage to help save Rey and do the right thing. Brave and skilled, Poe doesn't judge Finn by his uniform but by his actions. Han and Leia forgive each other for old hurts and clearly love each other. Han and Chewie remain the best of friends and staunch allies of those in the right. Kylo Ren is deeply conflicted. The First Order leadership are clearly bad guys -- and, like the Empire before them, they're virtually all white, though there are a few women in their ranks now (including helmeted Captain Phasma). The "good guys" are notably diverse, and there's a female X-Wing pilot now.

Violence

Lots of sci-fci action violence on both the largest possible scale (planets obliterated) and much smaller (one-on-one lightsaber duels and firefights/shoot-outs), but hardly any blood/gore (with the exception of bloody fingerprints on a white stormtrooper helmet). There's a weapon that can destroy entire systems, and there are explosive battle sequences in which people die and ships burst into flames. Kylo Ren tortures people, both physically and with the Force. Quick glimpses of dead soldiers and civilians lying around. Laser guns of all shapes and sizes (handheld, ship mounted, etc.); bombs. Chases, crashes, and frequent peril. Large, monstrous creatures rampage through a ship; other creatures look scary/threatening, and the leader of the First Order is creepy. A man orders an entire village of civilians/witnesses slaughtered and cuts down an unarmed man. A young man has debilitating anger issues. Spoiler alert: Supporting characters are injured, one is presumed dead, and there's one very upsetting death.

Sex

An adult couple hugs tenderly. A young woman and a young man bond under intense circumstances that lead to romantic chemistry, but there's nothing more than a kiss on the forehead.

Language

Infrequent use of words including "dammit," "hell,"  "little freaks," "murderers," "liars," "thieves," "scum."

Consumerism

On camera, nothing; but off camera, the Star Wars franchise is a merchandiser's dream, with branded/themed apparel, games, accessories, housewares, action figures, LEGO sets, toys, and just about anything else you can imagine.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A scene in an interstellar pub shows creatures of all kinds drinking (presumably alcohol) and talking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens is the hugely anticipated seventh installment in the big-screen Star Wars franchise, featuring new main characters as well as beloved favorites like Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), and Chewbacca. Directed by J.J. Abrams, the sequel takes place approximately 30 years after the events of The Return of the Jedi, and although there's tons of sci-fi action -- space battles, crashes, explosions, lightsaber duels, and more -- there's less violence overall than viewers saw in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Villains do order the mass murder of countless civilians, prisoners are coerced physically and with the Force, and duels lead to injuries and death, but none of it is bloody or gory. With little language ("dammit" and "hell" are as strong as it gets) or sex, this is the kind of epic adventure that will undoubtedly appeal to Star Wars fans of all ages. But while younger kids may be familiar with the franchise and its many spin-offs (like the animated Clone Wars), they might not be ready for some of The Force Awakens' more violent or emotional scenes. (Spoiler alert: One death will hit very hard.)

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 3, 7, 9, and 9 year old Written byFowlerFan December 17, 2015

I wish a few scenes were skipped

I'm pretty sure people know when they visit, but definite spoiler alert on this review. On the whole, it was a good movie, but definitely more like #2 and... Continue reading
Parent of a 1, 4, and 6 year old Written byselder76 December 18, 2015

Standard Sci-Fi Levels Of Worry

We waited and waited for a rating on this film and when PG-13 came back, we were pretty surprised but figured we'd check it out with our six year old anywa... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old December 26, 2015

Satisfying sequel okay for most kids

I am 12 years old and a HUGE star wars fan and I loved this movie. Definitely lives up to the previous saga. Now for the age rating: This movie is okay for most... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byIlovemoviesreviews December 18, 2015

Awesome movie

Awesome movie! Has some mild swearing like d**n. But has good messages and roles models. But parents need to know that there is dark intense scenes and some mil... Continue reading

What's the story?

STAR WARS: EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS takes place in a familiar galaxy far far away, about 30 years after The Return of the Jedi. Luke Skywalker, the last surviving Jedi, has gone into hiding, allowing the Empire's remaining sympathizers to grow into a considerable military force called the First Order, led by the masked Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson, in a scenery-chewing performance). The First Order captures the resistance's most daring pilot, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), in hopes of securing a secret map to Skywalker's whereabouts -- but rogue stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) helps Poe escape. Finn ends up teaming with a skilled young scavenger, Rey (Daisy Ridley), who -- unbeknownst to her -- is protecting Poe's droid, BB-8. Finn and Rey don't know much other than that they're in constant danger and that they need to get BB-8 back into the hands of the Resistance. Enter a familiar smuggling duo, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), who agree to lead their young counterparts to the resistance leader, General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher).

Is it any good?

Star Wars fans can rest easy; director J.J. Abrams (Star Trek) clearly knows how to stay faithful to sci-fi classics. He focuses not just on fantastic action sequences, but on the heart of these stories: the characters, both new and old. Finn and Rey are, like Luke once was, appealingly naive -- but also a lot more proactive. They're both alone, Finn because he was brought up as a stormtrooper with only one skill (to kill), and Rey because she was torn away from her family as a young child and lives a lonely existence of scavenging for parts. Like Leia and Han, they banter and argue, but they're also refreshingly earnest and encouraging with each other. Boyega and Ridley have an immediate chemistry that's sweet, with just a hint of possible romance.

Finn and Rey (as well as swashbuckling fighter pilot Poe) may be the franchise's new main characters, but The Force Awakens ultimately belongs to Ford, reprising his role as Han Solo. Still smirking after all these years, Han is reunited with his original love, the Millennium Falcon. He and Chewie see in Finn and Rey the urgency they remember from their days with Luke and Leia. Despite considerable emotional baggage between Han and Leia, the couple's reunion will melt fans' hearts. Ford is utterly brilliant as what's arguably his most definitive character; he's the bridge between the new characters and the old. He's the one whose vulnerability and humor make you remember how much you missed these characters in George Lucas' misguided style-over-substance prequels. Featuring John Williams' forever enduring score and the universal themes of the original movies, the Force is back in Episode VII -- and stronger than ever.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens' violence. Do scenes of explosions and space battles affect you differently than those of close-up, one-on-one duels and killings? Why do you think that is? What makes more of an impact -- violence or loss?

  • Who are the movie's heroes? What makes them heroes? Are Finn and Rey positive role models? How are they different than Han, Leia, Luke, Anakin, etc. from the earlier films? What motivates them? How do they demonstrate courage? Teamwork?

  • Talk about the themes from the previous movies that repeat themselves here. Why are issues of mentorship, loneliness, good vs. evil, fatherhood, and son on so important to this series? How do they play out on-screen?

  • How does Kylo Ren deal with his anger? What are some other options for managing frustration and disappointment? How do the two sides of the Force represent feelings we all wrestle with?

  • Have you noticed all the Star Wars merchandise in stores? Does seeing the characters on products make you want to buy them?

Movie details

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