Parents' Guide to

The Express

By James Rocchi, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 12+

Inspirational true story tackles race, football.

Movie PG 2008 121 minutes
The Express Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

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

Community Reviews

age 12+

Based on 3 parent reviews

age 16+

Too much cursing

I was shocked this movie had a PG rating. It had many curse words in it, including several instances of profanity with terms of deity. What constitutes PG these days?!? This movie’s bold message would have still come through without the offensive swearing. It’s not advised for children.

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing
age 10+

A movie about football- and a whole lot more!

When Ernie Davis was a young boy living in Uniontown, Pennsylvania he faced lots of racism. (Even if Jim Crow laws weren't official outside of the Southeast, they were informally observed in certain other parts of the country.) Being forced to run from his white tormentors gave him the idea to play football. Things got better for him when he moved to Elmira, New York, in the western part of the state, at age 10. The great skills that Ernie Davis had led to a scholarship at Syracuse University, and ultimately to being the first black player to ever win a Heisman trophy. Unfortunately, he wasn't allowed at the banquet that was given in his honor because of his race, so most of his teammates wisely boycotted the banquet. (It would be interesting to find out why a few didn't.) After graduation he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns. Unfortunately his health prevented him from ever playing pro football. He died a year after being drafted. Ernie Davis even had it even harder than Jackie Robinson. If you think about it it makes sense. After all, Jackie Robinson never had to play in the Southeast since major league baseball at the time was only in the Midwest and the Northeast. Davis, however, did have to play in the Southeast. A great way to see where we were in race relations in various parts of the country at the time. I'd highly recommend this movie.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (3):
Kids say (11):

Inspirational true-life sports films seem to be a dime a dozen, but when they're good, they're worth their weight in gold. Directed by Gary Fleder, The Express is a little overlong and a little over-directed, but the fierce momentum of Davis' story keeps the film going through the slower moments, and the sincerity and sober thought that Fleder and screenwriter Charles Leavitt bring to the film shine through some of the overly flashy camera work and directorial choices.

The cast is also excellent, especially Brown; he manages to make Davis seem dignified but not dull, principled but never preachy -- and he completely sells the excellence of Davis' real-life athletics in the film's recreation of bygone games. Quaid is also outstanding as Schwartzwalder, a man both cold and compassionate, focused on football and yet aware of the world outside it. The film moves downfield as if on rails -- from early childhood to early success, from initial excitement to unexpected setbacks, all leading up to the big game and the tragic real-life events that followed. At the same time, the talent of everyone involved makes it easy to watch the cast and crew go through the moments you expect from the film. The Express isn't as subtle or specific as it could be, but at the same time it's hard to imagine not being moved by Davis' real struggles and story.

Movie Details

Inclusion information powered by

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

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

See how we rate