The Chocolate War

  • Review Date: May 11, 2003
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1988
  • Running Time: 100 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Fans of the book may enjoy this dark story.
  • Review Date: May 11, 2003
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1988
  • Running Time: 100 minutes





What parents need to know


Jerry beat up by a gang of smaller kids, boxing match at the end, blackmail, harassment, and other emotional violence.


References to masturbation, (false) accusation of homosexuality used to taunt Jerry.


Very strong language.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Smoking by teens.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that mature teenagers, especially fans of the popular book by Robert Cormier, will appreciate this dark story, a kind of "Dangerous Liaisons" for teenagers. Archie says that "people are two things, greedy and cruel," and devises his plans to take advantage of those qualities.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

At Trinity Prep, Archie (Wally Ward) determines the "assignments" to be given to those boys selected for the elite club, the Vigils. Freshman Jerry Renault (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) is selected for an assignment. Intent on becoming headmaster, hardnosed teacher Brother Leon (John Glover) tells Archie that the boys must sell 20,000 boxes of chocolates for their annual fund-raiser, twice the number from previous years, and at twice the price. All of the boys agree, but Jerry refuses because that is his test to get into the Vigils. But even after passing the Vigils' test, he continues to refuse to participate, despite harassment by the other boys. Now, Archie must ensure they meet their sales quota or lose his position within the club.

Is it any good?


Mature teenagers, especially fans of the popular book by Robert Cormier, will appreciate this dark story, a kind of "Dangerous Liaisons" for teenagers. While the story is exaggerated for satiric effect, much of it will seem true to teenagers, who often feel a heightened sense of proportion. The movie shows us some of Jerry's dreams or fantasies, which add to the surreal and claustrophobic feeling of the movie.


The movie provides a good basis for a discussion of the different ways that people get other people to do what they want, the exercise of power, and the ways that power is maintained -- and lost. The interaction between Brother Leon and Archie is especially interesting, because of their uneasy interdependence. As powerful as both of them seem, they ultimately lose their power without much of a struggle.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the tools that Archie uses to maintain and exercise power. What tools does Brother Leon use? How can anyone or any group decide to make something "popular" and "cool" as Archie does with the chocolate sale? Why does Archie tell Janza to "use the queer pitch" on Jerry? Why does the screenplay have Archie holding an impaled butterfly when he talks to Janza on the phone? Why does Jerry tell the girl she was right? What is the significance of the Vigil's marble test for the person who gives the assignments?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 18, 1988
DVD release date:April 17, 2007
Cast:Ilan Mitchell-Smith, John Glover, Wallace Langham
Director:Keith Gordon
Run time:100 minutes
MPAA rating:R

This review of The Chocolate War was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 13 years old Written byAimeeF. December 8, 2014

The chocolate war review

If you like movies that hit the exact points that were in the book, then I don't suggest this for you especially if you feel disturbed when the movie doesn't follow the book. I don't believe it was great but I don't think it was bad. In the beginning, the movie sort of followed the book then in the end of the middle, towards the end, there were things that wasn't even in the book. That wasn't the only bad thing, the cinematographer was really bad to where you could hear the cinematographers footsteps and at times, the camera was a bit shaky. Oh and yes there is some foul language that will be used throughout the movie.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Teen, 16 years old Written byVeronica Andrew December 14, 2011

Preferable... THE BOOK

The Chocolate War is a very interesting book, and so is the movie. Adolescents can relate to this kind of situation-- peer pressure. I prefer the book, it is VERY different from the movie and has way more detail.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much swearing


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Essential School Tools