The African Queen Movie Poster Image

The African Queen

Hepburn and Bogart shine in this odd couple adventure.
Parents recommend
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Classic
  • Release Year: 1952
  • Running Time: 105 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Love-story message of a greatest possible "opposites attract" variety, with staid, spinsterish Rose falling in love with ill-mannered, hard-drinking Charlie, and the two learning to appreciate and respect each other. Secondary theme about striving against near-impossible odds to fight tyrannical enemies.

Positive role models

Both Charlie and Rose are flawed but heroic characters. Charlie drinks too much and is generally uncouth; Rose is a little snobbish, but by the end they've proven their worth and thoroughly won each other over. Rose and her brother are brittle Methodist missionaries, fish-out-of-water puritans in the primitive African jungles. The script stops short of depicting them and their Bible lessons as intrusive and ineffective, but slovenly Charlie seems better adapted to the environment and culture. Black tribal Africans are mostly passive background characters, though at least not made comical.


A hail of gunfire. German soldiers bully people (one dies offscreen) and burn a grass-hut village. A threatened execution by hanging. Icky scene of Charlie plagued by blood-sucking leeches. Talk of torpedoes and bomb-building.


Very mild suggestion that Charlie and Rose sleep together. Rose seems to be naked when bathing in the river (but actually she's covered with a slip).

Not applicable

A novel of the same name by C.S. Forester exists but has been completely overshadowed by the movie adaptation.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Charlie smokes cigars and drinks gin, finally to the point of drunkenness. Rose disapproves of alcohol, sending his stash into the river.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this WWI romantic comedy-adventure has a troubling threat of death-by-execution for the main characters. There is light violence in the form of gunfire and dangerous river rapids. Squeamish moments involve blood-sucking leeches and, to a lesser extent, a painful mosquito swarm. As with most old-school movies set in Africa, black natives are unimportant compared to the white-European folk -- but at least they aren't treated with contempt or mockery.

What's the story?

Rose Sayer (Katharine Hepburn) and her brother Samuel are English missionaries in 1914 German East Africa. Their rare contact with the outside world is through Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart), who delivers their mail on his steam-powered boat, the African Queen. When Samuel is killed in a German attack, Charlie takes Rose with him. At first, they are stiffly polite to each other. Then, Rose decides that they must use their explosives to blow up the powerful German gunboat, the Louisa. Charlie thinks she's crazy and they clash. He steers into the rapids to show her how dangerous the river is, but she's thrilled by the experience. Charmed by her enthusiasm and praise, Charlie still insists that they can't possibly attack the Louisa, and yet she persists. Will the pair try to destroy the German boat, and if so, will they survive the dangerous mission? And will their attraction and admiration for one another continue to grow?

Is it any good?


THE AFRICAN QUEEN is one of the finest and most satisfying of the "odd couple takes a trip together" genre. Rose and Charlie are opposites, and yet they are perfectly suited to each other. Ultimately, Rose is not comfortable "rising above" nature, and indeed grows to love it, as she gives up some of the strictures of civilization and appreciates the beauty and "stimulation" of the natural world. Charlie learns to appreciate some of the beauties of civilization; to take the challenge and the responsibility of participating in the fight against the Germans, to have a relationship of trust and tenderness.

Humphrey Bogart won a well-deserved Oscar for this performance. Katharine Hepburn, who was also nominated, said that her performance was based on director John Huston's suggestion that she play Rose as Eleanor Roosevelt. Compare this performance to her appearance in Pat and Mike a year later, in which she played a world-class athlete. The movie is based on a novel of the same name by C.S. Forester, but the romance was added by screenwriters James Agee and John Huston.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the reason that German troops were in Africa in the 1900s.

  • Families can also talk about what makes a compelling love story. Is the "opposites attract" premise just more fun? Do you prefer stories of first love or is it more compelling with more mature characters?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:February 20, 1952
DVD/Streaming release date:March 23, 2010
Cast:Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Peter Bull
Director:John Huston
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Run time:105 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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Parent Written bySinfoniarc August 5, 2010

One Of Bogie's Best But Better For Older Kids

Arguably one of John Huston's finest films ever made and until The Last King of Scotland was released (several years ago), it was the last movie filmed in Uganda. Despite not being rated by the MPAA, I suggest that children under 10 not watch this movie but not because I find anything in it potentially offensive, but rather because the movie is very dated and very much a product of it's time. Younger children will have no idea what it's about, what's going on in world history at the time, who the Germans are (and why they're the bad guys), etc. Charlie Alnut may be a good-old-boy, but he is a drunk and chain smoker (Bogie always smoked in his films and frankly never made it look so cool). Katherine Hepburn's character (Rosie), being a missionary in Uganda (1917, I believe), tries to change Charlie's behavior throughout the course of the movie and arguably succeeds. If you're a Christian, you'll like her strict morals and how while she's determined to destroy the Germans' boat ("The Louisa"), she still has strong moral principles that can be applied to everyday life. Ex. Drunkenness is bad, prayer is powerful, being a missionary is dangerous but very rewarding, etc. I first saw this movie when I was probably 10 and didn't really get it until I was probably high school age, but that's only because I didn't have the historical background to fully understand the movie. At any rate, it's one of the great films to come out of the 1950s. I'm sorry it took Fox and Paramount so long to come to an agreement in order to get it out on Blu-Ray and DVD. The latest restored version is breath-taking and looks and sounds better than what I imagine it did in 1951.
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great role models
Parent of a 13 year old Written byTsion January 25, 2009

An Engaging, Well-Acted, But Overlong Film...

THE AFRICAN QUEEN really has nothing that bad in it, as much as I recall. I saw it for the first time about three weeks ago and was interested in what COMMONSENSE had to say. I don't know where the 14+ rating came from; there's no language, sex, or violence (only some tense scenes). I liked the film and Katherine Hepburn was excellent, but the pacing was bad and it ran about 20 minutes too long.
Adult Written byRhience March 23, 2010
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great role models