The Andromeda Strain

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
The Andromeda Strain Movie Poster Image
'70s book-based sci-fi classic has violence, peril.
  • G
  • 1971
  • 131 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

For every action there may be an unintended consequence. The government may be hiding dangerous problems from us.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Four scientists work diligently to help save the world.


At site where pandemic has struck, many dead bodies but no gore. A wound shows a man's blood has turned to a red sandy powder. A rhesus monkey is drugged to appear to die on-screen from exposure to the alien pathogen. (Monkey reportedly recovered in real life.) Two rats appear to die. They're all exposed to germ in scientists' efforts to find a cure.


For a brief moment, an image of a dead, bare-chested young woman lying in bed.


"Damn," "ass," and "hell."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

People smoke cigarettes and drink.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Andromeda Strain is a 1971 sci-fi feature based on novelist Michael Crichton's bestseller about an infectious agent from outer space. The pathogen stumps scientists trying to decode and disarm the lethal organism before it wipes out humanity. The cause of the deaths goes undiscovered far into the movie, and waiting for answers may either bore or unnerve kids. Kids interested in science may find the detailed look at scientific procedures, even invented ones, a draw. Language includes "ass," "hell," and "damn," and adults smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol socially. At the site where a pandemic has struck, there are many dead bodies, but no gore. A wound shows that a man's blood has turned to a red sandy powder. A rhesus monkey is drugged to appear to die on-screen from exposure to the alien pathogen. (The monkey reportedly recovered in real life.) Two rats also appear to die. For a brief moment, there's an image of a dead, bare-chested young woman lying in bed.

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What's the story?

THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN offers pandemic panic in the form of space aliens two microns long, talented at infesting humans and animals, instantly turning victims' blood into a fine red powder. When a military satellite alights in a tiny isolated New Mexico town, soldiers retrieve it in hazmat suits, only to find all but two of the town's residents dead, stopped in their tracks. While maintaining secrecy, the government immediately gathers up a team of scientists, played by David Wayne, James Olson, Kate Reid, and Arthur Hill, to examine the man and baby who survived as well as the satellite, hoping to find and disarm the deadly alien microbe.

Is it any good?

This movie is a sci-fi bonanza -- a two-for-one package delivering both pandemic fear and outer space alien attack, a perfect combo to fuel worries about real and imagined threats of today. Kids already jittery about the 24/7 newsfeed on the current health crisis may not need this to rattle their nerves further, but some may find solace in tracking the scientists as they address their challenge with reason and step-by-step scientific method. The Andromeda Strain's emphasis on the detail-heavy research procedures can be calming, sending the message that smart people are in charge, trying to save humanity, and we can feel good about that.

But for most of the two-hours-plus action, the procedures can feel like a real slog. Swifter editing might have made the journey more palatable for an audience waiting to learn if humankind will survive. Things do heat up again in the last 10 minutes, so some may feel the slog was worth it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about classic movies. Is The Andromeda Strain one still relevant, or is it too dated? Why?

  • Do you think that science can be used for good as well as for evil? What are some examples of both uses?

  • Only one of the four scientists is a woman in this '70s movie. Why is it important for the media to showcase women in science? Will it persuade more girls to pursue work in research, medicine, and other sciences?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love science fiction

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