Parents' Guide to

The Boys in the Boat

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Heartwarming, historical sports drama; smoking, language.

Movie PG-13 2023 124 minutes
The Boys in the Boat Movie Poster: Coach Al Ulbrickson stands on a dock, looking down at his team in their boat

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 9+

Based on 9 parent reviews

age 8+

Ok for everyone from grandma to youngest to get in the boat

Parent of a 14 yo rower and saw an advance screening. Other than language (and smoking but everyone smoked in the 30's), this film is as close to an elementary-age approved film as you can get. Even the kisses are few and G rated. The book has so much more dimensions than the film and I highly recommend both the young reader version (appropriate for upper ES and MS grades) and the full version (for advanced young readers and HS and above). The overall message is the importance of team work, grit beating wealth, and a touch of USA beating Nazis. As already written, there is a noticeable absence of diversity which, though true for the times in that sport, really needed a way to build in beyond a few seconds of Jesse Owens with a notable and important one liner with a second athlete (presumably another star of track and field) next to him. No suspense since the story is already known but a rare easy movie for a multi-generational outing with kids, parents, and grandparents. Our screening was rowers age 11 - 70 and all enjoyed but obviously had a more than passing interest in the subject. I'm being generous with four stars because I appreciate both the effort and investment and expect it will mostly get panned but the rowing sequences are so much better on a large screen in a theater than they'd be if you wait to watch on streaming.
age 13+

Great Historic Sports Movie

Shows determination and teamwork. While there is foul language, it is mainly in one brief scene and it seems to fit the situation. There are some brief hints of sexual intimacy, but they are healthy. One scene is a wife inviting her husband into bed. The other scene is interrupted before it begins by a dorm monitor. These are both opportunities to discuss health marital sexuality with your teens.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (9 ):
Kids say (7 ):

This heartwarming historical sports drama is a conventional but inspiring tale of how the have-nots beat the haves not only on a regional and national scale, but on a global one. Clooney doesn't reinvent the wheel with this traditional "triumph of the underdog" story. In fact, he has to accelerate the timeline to make both parts of Brown's nonfiction book (countless descriptions of rowing practices and competitions and the story of the infamous 1936 Olympics) work. And, yes, the athletes look much older than 18-22, but these young men weren't pampered, blue-blooded prep school graduates -- they were the sons of lumberjacks and fishermen. Joe was actually abandoned by his father and left to fend for himself at age 14, so it makes sense that he'd look a little more rugged than the average Junior Varsity crew member. Turner gives a nuanced performance of controlled emotions as the film's central character. It's a little disappointing that The Boys in the Boat doesn't allow for a deeper dive into some of the other boys of the title, though it does offer a nice introduction to Joe's then-girlfriend and later-wife, Joyce (Hadley Robinson), who's unfailingly supportive.

There's a touching subplot about Joe's blossoming friendship with the wise, comforting English boatbuilder George Pocock (Peter Guinness), who proves to be more of a father figure to Joe than his own, absent dad. Luke Slattery gives a small but explosive (like his character!) performance as coxswain Bobby Moch. He, even more than Joe, serves as an anchor to focus on as he yells out motivational instructions to the rowers. Alexandre Desplat's rousing score is particularly effective, and Martin Ruhe's cinematography captures the immediacy of the races and the beauty of the rivers. Even audiences who think they're indifferent to rowing will likely feel a thrill as Washington team beats the odds and rows as one. Yes, that's a race-day cliche, but it's also a slogan that the individuals involved believed in and championed their entire lives.

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