The Dirty Dozen

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Dirty Dozen Movie Poster Image
Classic WWII action movie still packs a violent punch.
  • NR
  • 1967
  • 150 minutes

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Kids say

age 11+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

This movie celebrates the actions of misfits and outsiders, especially their bad behavior. The more responsible authority figures are seen as buffoons and bad guys. However, the main theme of the movie is that 12 outcasts learn to work together. The major shows them respect and tolerance for perhaps the first time in their lives, and they respond with loyalty and teamwork.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Though he's a bit of a hardheaded maverick himself, Major Reisman earns audience sympathy during the first scene, when he registers disgust at the hanging of a prisoner. Assigned to train 12 troublesome prisoners for a dangerous mission, he begins by treating them roughly, though it's all a plan to form a bond between them. Once the bond is formed, Reisman shows that even the most undesirable misfit can contribute something if given trust and something to believe in.


This WWII movie was considered excessively violent in its day and even though some of the more brutal violence is offscreen, the effect is still intense today. It opens with a hanging. Over the course of the story, there's fighting, kicking, and stomping. A knife is pulled. During the climactic sequence, there's shooting, dead bodies, and explosions, but very little blood. There's a mention of rape and castration. One character attacks and repeatedly stabs a woman, though the focus is on the man's face and not the attack itself.


The men enjoy an evening with some "hired girls," though we don't see anything more than dancing and flirting. There are "girly" pictures on the walls.


Language was strong for its day, but mild compared to now. Words include "hell," "damnation," "bitch," "slut," "bastard," "Oh my God," "horny," "mothers" and "son of a ...."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink Scotch during the party scene. Some characters smoke cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this classic WWII action movie from 1967 was considered extremely violent when released, though it's tamer than many PG-13-rated movies of today. It includes a hanging, fighting, kicking, shooting, and explosions (though there's very little blood), plus a man stabbing a woman to death. In one scene, the men spend an evening with some "hired girls," though nothing more than dancing is shown. Language is light, but includes some gateway words like "damn," "hell," "bitch," and "bastard. There is also some drinking and smoking.

User Reviews

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Teen, 16 years old Written byRodri's Retro Club July 7, 2020

WWII movie classic has some graphic violence only!!!!

This WWII movie of the 60's has some graphic violence only. It's not for younger kids, because they'll not understand about the history of the US...
Teen, 14 years old Written byDillpickle37 August 6, 2015

The Dirty Dozen: A Classic WWII Action Movie

Parents should know that The Dirty Dozen is a movie about a group of twelve convicted murderers who are selected to assault a German chateau and kill several hi... Continue reading

What's the story?

During WWII, General Worden (Ernest Borgnine) calls Major Reisman (Lee Marvin) into his office with a new assignment. He will attack a chateau filled with German officers. Unfortunately, his men will consist of 12 convicted criminals (played by Charles Bronson, John Cassavetes, Jim Brown, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, and others). Many of these murderers, rapists, and other scoundrels are condemned to death anyway. Reisman has the impossible task of training them but soon figures that he can use one thing to make them bond: their collective hatred of him. His ploy works, and before too long he has a platoon of tough, loyal, disciplined warriors. But will their raid on the chateau actually work?

Is it any good?

The Dirty Dozen is a classic, and it's great entertainment, though it's not generally considered a great movie. Director Robert Aldrich (Kiss Me Deadly, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?) was one of Hollywood's most brutal, unruly directors, and his instincts sometimes led to huge flops, as well as to popular successes like this one. Certainly a 150-minute action movie could come across a bit sloppy and overstuffed. Today, however, the movie actually looks tighter and more focused -- and less violent -- than it might have when it first opened.

Aldrich manages to use his time well, focusing on character traits and never letting the pace become bogged down. It comes more from the gut, or by the seat of its pants, than it does from a place of thoughtfulness or artistry. Moreover, it seems to have a very low opinion of women, although that's not surprising given the genre and time period. Regardless of its place in cinematic heirarchy, watching The Dirty Dozen is a rite of passage for some teen boys and many successful movies have followed its format (see The Expendables.)

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's violence. How does it compare to the violence in contemporary movies? Would more intense violence serve the movie better, or does it work the way it is?

  • What does the movie have to say about authority figures?

  • How does the movie handle female characters? Does it portray a stereotypical view of women?

Movie details

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