The Aviator

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
The Aviator Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Howard Hughes biopic has mature themes, violence.
  • PG-13
  • 2004
  • 166 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 30 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Movie shows what can be accomplished in life through drive and determination. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

For all his faults, Howard Hughes is shown to be a man of boundless ambition, with the drive and determination to succeed in both the aviation and film industries. 


A plane crashes into a neighborhood, ripping the roof off a house as the occupants inside barely escape the carnage. The pilot is shown bleeding and injured with burns on his body inside the cockpit and the hospital. Fistfight in a ballroom: punches, broken glass. 


Sexual references and situations. Brief male nudity, buttocks. Man kisses a woman while standing behind her, reaches in front and puts his hand down her blouse, cupping her breast. During a meeting with a censorship board concerning the amount of breast exposed by Jane Russell in a film made by Hughes, Hughes unveils several pictures of other actresses in different motion pictures and the amount of cleavage shown in these movies. During a heated argument, a woman tells her paranoid lover the names of two men she has "screwed." Hughes is shown having relationships with different women, as well as with a 15-year-old girl.


Occasional profanity. One use of "f--k." "Bulls--t," "bitch," "t-ts," "pr--k," "ass." African-Americans called "coloreds" in one scene. Someone is described as being "queer as a bedbug." Woman names men she has "screwed" during a heated argument. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking in nightclubs. Cigarette and pipe smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Aviator is a 2004 biopic in which Leonardo DiCaprio plays Howard Hughes. This movie has some very violent airplane crashes, some causing serious injury. Characters drink, smoke, and use occasional profanity, including "f--k." There are explicit sexual references and situations and some nonsexual nudity. Some audience members may be upset by the scenes involving Hughes' struggles with OCD. In addition to the highs and lows of his career in both aviation and film, Hughes is shown having relationships with different women, as well as with a 15-year-old girl. Overall, the movie shows the complexities and paradoxes of Howard Hughes, and how his high standards that led to his success were rooted in traumas and illness that also led to his unraveling. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byicantfindausern... September 21, 2015

I think I like it more than most people

I found this movie very engaging despite its nearly three-hour run time. The character of Howard Hughes was oddly sympathetic with profound character developmen... Continue reading
Adult Written bydranaqueen February 10, 2013

for those with Ocd this could be your movie.

a good movie for those who suffer from Ocd best known as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder so i can relate to this movie.
Teen, 14 years old Written byLadylollipop1 April 26, 2011

Great for mature kids.

Other than the slightly gruesome plane crash and implied sexual relations this film is really fairly ok. It probably is better if older more mature children wat... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bywannabemoviecritic January 12, 2012


At fist I didn't think it was going to be good. I don't have a single interest in planes. I WAS PROVED WRONG! Dicaprio did an outstanding job...again!... Continue reading

What's the story?

THE AVIATOR chronicles the life of Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio), the man who produced era-defining movies, dated the world's biggest movie stars (Katharine Hepburn, Ava Gardner, Jean Harlow), founded an airline (TWA), owned seven Las Vegas casinos, designed and test-piloted airplanes, risked fortunes and made bigger ones, and died as a recluse, the prisoner of illness and of the greedy people around him who did whatever he said instead of insisting he get help. Hughes assembles the world's largest private air force to make a movie, designs and flies experimental airplanes, gets trapped in the men's room because he can't bear to touch the germ-covered doorknob, and takes on the most formidable of opponents, from Katharine Hepburn's family to the movie rating board and Maine's corrupt senator.

Is it any good?

A true story that is both touching and thrilling and tons of talent on both sides of the camera are enough to make this a good movie, but not enough to make it a great one. Hughes' larger-than-life story could easily fill six movies, so even this energetic and muscular three-hour-epic feels like it's just skimming the surface. There's no way to try to cover even this one section of Hughes' life without making it feel like a "greatest hits" clip job instead of a story with a real narrative arc. And it never rises from incident to insight.

The second problem is Leonardo DiCaprio, who is a brilliantly gifted actor, but here his squint, tics, and accent make Hughes seems more like a kid struggling with ADD than the tortured larger-than-life tycoon. But no one does pageantry better than Scorcese, and this is a brilliant film, even with its flaws. Cate Blanchett brings Katherine Hepburn to life. Kate Beckinsale is adequate as Ava Gardner. The crash scene is bone-chillingly harrowing, and the scenes of old-time Hollywood reflect the director's deep love of that era. Like the life it depicts, it's uneven and fascinating.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what made Hughes so passionate about his many projects. Why didn't he want people to know he could not hear? Why wouldn't Ava Gardner let him buy anything other than dinner? 

  • How were the contradictions in the personality of Howard Hughes conveyed in the movie -- how, for instance, he was more afraid of touching a public doorknob than he was of flying a test plane? 

  • What facts can you glean from this movie about the origins and development of the commercial aviation industry in America? How could you learn more?

  • Families may also want to learn more about obsessive-compulsive disorder. Would Hughes have had to get treatment if he weren't surrounded by people who would do whatever he said to continue working for him?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love true stories

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