Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Surge Movie Poster Image
Inspiring docu urges women to run for office; some language.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 93 minutes

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

Positive Messages

Be the change you want to see in the world. Running for office can make a positive impact, even if you don't win. For Congress to accurately represent the United States, it needs to look like the United States.

Positive Role Models

Three women -- one White, one Latinx, and one Black -- are motivated to run for Congress, even though they face an uphill battle. They demonstrate empathy in wanting to help others, plus perseverance, courage, and teamwork with the core group helping with the campaign. Mostly female production team.


News clips of a sexting scandal shows a blurred naked photo.


Strong language includes "bitch," "hell," "f--king," and "p---y hat." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Beer is seen on tables at campaign events.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Surge is a documentary about the historic rise in the number of women running for office in 2018 in response to the presidential election of Donald Trump. The film shows the human side of what it's like to run for office, and its intent is to show why we need more women in politics and that we need to vote for them (and, for those who are also women, maybe run, too!). Surge centers on three candidates -- Jana Lynne Sanchez of Texas, Liz Watson of Indiana, and Lauren Underwood of Illinois -- who all decided to run after participating in the 2017 Women's March. The term "p---y hat" is used to describe the pink hats women wore during that event; other strong language is infrequent, but there's one use of "f--king" as an adjective. A sexting scandal involving a male candidate makes the news, and while a nude selfie of him is shown in that context, it's completely blurred. The candidates demonstrate courage, perseverance, empathy, and teamwork, and the film's message is clearly to be the change you want to see in the world.

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What's the story?

SURGE follows three women running for U.S. Congress during the 2018 midterm elections: Jana Lynne Sanchez of Texas, Liz Watson of Indiana, and Lauren Underwood of Illinois. All Democrats running in traditionally Republican areas, the women work to flip their red districts to blue.

Is it any good?

This documentary succeeds in capturing a significant moment in women's history while also hopefully inspiring more women to get involved with politics, from voting on up. Through the eyes of the three featured candidates, viewers relive the moments that led up to the first Women's March in January 2017, connecting the protest against newly elected President Trump to the "pink wave" that subsequently dominated election ballots. In the 2018 midterms, more women were elected than ever before in the House, Senate, and gubernatorial races. And the diversification went beyond gender, extending to religion, sexuality, age, and ethnicity. While Republican women candidates also won, Surge chooses to focus on three female Democrats who faced an extra hurdle: flipping their respective districts from historically dark red to blue. 

Sanchez, Watson, and Underwood face uphill battles to beat incumbent White men in Republican strongholds. One district is seemingly so cemented as conservative that the Democratic National Committee won't financially support their own party's candidate. The incumbents aren't shown doing much to combat their competitors, although it's suggested that one uses some racist dog-whistling. Ultimately, Surge gives viewers the opportunity to experience what it's like to run for office, and while all the hard work that goes into a campaign is reflected, it still feels less daunting after watching. In projecting a spirit of "you can do it," it may lead some viewers to feel that the movie's real message is "you should do it."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the women featured in Surge demonstrate courage, perseverance, empathy, and teamwork. How do those character strengths help them accomplish their goals?

  • Discuss the difference between what Congress has historically looked like and what America currently looks like. Why do you think this is? What can be done to make Congress more authentically representative?

  • Why do you think the filmmakers felt this topic needed to be explored? What does it mean to you that the filmmakers are mostly female? 

  • What are different ways to create change? Are you inspired after watching this film? Will you take any action as a result?

Movie details

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