Starship Troopers

Gory, scary, violent sci-fi is too intense for kids.
  • Review Date: July 14, 2010
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Release Year: 1997
  • Running Time: 130 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Surface themes about valor, bravery, military duty, fighting to victory against relentless enemy. But...a subversive undercurrent hints at a harsh society in which a powerful military establishment has taken over, with soldiers and Nazi-like elite officials granted superior rights and privileges to go with the responsibilities. The "good guys" are not necessarily good guys.

Positive role models

Heroic, fearless types abound, and males and females are equally take-charge and tough. Disabled veterans (missing limbs, especially) are commanding figures. There is a diverse ethnic mix of characters.


Extreme splattery gore in the monster battles, with humans sliced to pieces by insect claws and mandibles, crushed by machinery, melted by creature acid, and, by the finale, getting their brains sucked out. "Arachnids" are dissected and shot to pieces too. Human-on-human violence includes bones broken in brutal cadet-training lessons and fistfights. A character is shot in the head. The hero is literally whipped bloody in a disciplinary action. Real insects (giant cockroaches) are smashed, in a satire of human revenge-lust.


Toplessness, as Johnny and a fellow soldier have sex before a fight. Mobile Infantry, male and female, shower together with no qualms about it.


The s-word, "bastard."


An onscreen plug for the telecommunications giant ATT.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Troops drink beer in a victory celebration.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this combat-themed sci-fi flick uses hideously violent human-alien warfare, with people gorily impaled, scissored apart, slashed, whipped, crushed, and shot (there are "friendly fire" and mercy-killing casualties). One topless sex scene and a topless coed shower scene. Swearing is amusingly PG-level mild, given the ferocious mayhem. The heroine has a vomiting fit and beer is guzzled. The surface glorification of military life and culture here is satire; Earth's "good guy" Federation resembles a fascist state with Nazi-inspired regalia and public executions. 

What's the story?

Robert Heinlein's densely philosophical 1959 novel Starship Troopers, based on the author's own thoughts serving in WWII, blitzed the big screen in this epic science-fiction action. A future Earth's space-colonizing triggers fights with "arachnids," vicious, giant alien bugs whose warfare techniques include bio-generated energy blasts and asteroids hurled by manipulation of gravity. School football hero Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) defies his wealthy family to follow girlfriend Carmen (Denise Richards) into the Federal Service, a bug-fighting space military. But ambitious star-pilot Carmen breaks up with Johnny in a humiliating video email, and a fellow cadet gets killed in a training accident on Johnny's watch. Johnny's decision to quit the "Mobile Infantry" changes when arachnids directly attack Earth, flattening his city (and family) with an asteroid. Johnny, Carmen, and others join a dangerous Mobile Infantry assault on the bugs' home planet.

Is it any good?


By the time STARSHIP TROOPERS premiered so many popcorn space-alien action-blasts had blazed across screens it seemed this was just another, with a literary basis and expectedly sensational f/x that raised the bar on crafts, creatures, and explosions. Certainly older teens (whose parents aren't irked by the major gore and minor sex) can just enjoy the thrill-ride. The pace never slackens, and the actors grit their teeth in the fine fashion of stirring old John Wayne wartime propaganda flicks (the Duke never had so much CGI to work with). It's certainly not for everyone, but it has become something of a cult classic, and older teens may be interested.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about sci-fi movies. What is the appeal? Is all the violence and gore here necessary?

  • Can the war in the film be related to any true-life military conflicts in the headlines? Does the film make younger viewers feel any differently about
    the armed forces?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 7, 1997
DVD release date:August 11, 2008
Cast:Casper Van Dien, Clancy Brown, Denise Richards, Jake Busey, Michael Ironside, Neil Patrick Harris
Director:Paul Verhoeven
Studio:Columbia Tristar
Genre:Science Fiction
Run time:130 minutes
MPAA rating:R

This review of Starship Troopers was written by

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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, 12 years old March 23, 2013
age 15+

A Movie I'll See When I'm Older

I'm a huge fan of sci-fi, but I'll see this when I'm older
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Kid, 12 years old October 24, 2013
age 12+

think about it

there were two topless scenes. there is lots of crude humor. and lots of blood and gore. there is beer. a lot of bad language. since its a war movie there is lots violence. I thinks its 13 up if your kid can handle it. but it is a good movie.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 12 years old July 30, 2011
age 15+

Terrible movie don't bother watching it's a waste of time

This was one of the worst movies i've every seen at one point the blood is orange. The violence people get riped apart limb from limb shoot aliens but only slime comes out (it's green) The sexual content two characters have sex befor a battle sence (i didn't see anything because im 12) but there is a shower scene where breasts are shown no male nudity is seen. They swear almost always.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing


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