The Four Musketeers

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
The Four Musketeers Movie Poster Image
Bawdy '70s swashbuckler sequel is slightly more serious.
  • PG
  • 1974
  • 106 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Hypocrisies and pretensions of the upper-class and religious orders are underscored. Religion -- Christianity, here -- proves a handy tool to manipulate assassins and destroy enemies in cruel political maneuverings.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The Musketeers are brave though not exactly ethical; they kill dissidents in a religious war without any qualms, and Porthos may not have been a very good husband. Clergy are shifty, power-hungry and not at all holy. Religious feeling is used to manipulate the only character who seem to take Christianity seriously, turning him into a killer and traitor.


Sword thrusts and knifings, some fatal, plus battlefield explosions, rifle fire, and personal combat. Female characters suffer a whipping and a strangulation, non-explicitly shown. Finale involves an execution by beheading, happening at a distance.


Bosomy costumes on women. One character may have started out life as a prostitute.


"God" as an exclamation, "damn."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking and occasional drunkenness.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this version of the classic Alexander Dumas saga has plentiful swordplay and mortar fire, with some fatalities and bloody wounds. Also, expect brief scenes of punishment by whipping/branding and a fatal strangulation (but no gore). Female characters wear cleavage-baring costumes. There is some drunkeness and a strong sub-theme of religion used to inspire war and murder.

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What's the story?

Following events in The Three Musketeers, young swordsman d'Artagnan of Gascony (Michael York) and his cohorts Athos (Oliver Reed), Porthos (Frank Finlay) and Aramis (Richard Chamberlain), fall victim to the scheming of the French prime minister, Cardinal Richelieu (Charlton Heston), whose plot they foiled in the last movie. Richelieu sends the four to fight in a small-scale civil war to defeat Protestant insurgents against the king and the Catholic Church; Richelieu won't mind if the resourceful quartet get killed in the process. But villainous Milady DeWinter (Faye Dunaway), also humiliated by d'Artagnan, wants more direct revenge. She and her lover Rochefort (Christopher Lee) target the four musketeers and their allies for murder. In a late revelation, the world-weary Athos discloses that Milady is none other than his treacherous ex-wife, who falsely pretended noble birth to marry him.

Is it any good?

This follow-up continues the giddy 17th-century joy-ride tone of its predecessor and its sly blend of comedy and action. But there is a slightly more serious effect -- maybe because of the intrusion of war and the sense of real death and loss for the established characters, both heroes and villains. The depiction of Christianity as a corrupting tool, brazenly wielded by the wicked for their schemes  (even "good guy" Aramis has a declared intent to go into the priesthood but can never find the time in between dueling and womanizing), is vivid indeed, although the flighty narrative is seldom weighed down very long by excess gravity, except for an execution epilogue.

Producers of the 1974 hit The Three Musketeers shot this sequel back to back. Actually, the plan was for a super-sized movie, covering the entire Alexander Dumas novel The Three Musketeers, but the narrative was split into two parts, and two separate movies were released to the ticket-buying public (and, in a bit of chicanery worthy of Richelieu, this was kept secret from all the movie talent, who only got paid for one film).

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the legacy of the Three Musketeers. What do kids know about them? Where did they learn about them first? Does this movie portray them in a surprising light?

  • Talk about the effects of watching onscreen violence. How do production values and the tone of a movie make a difference in the viewing experience?

Movie details

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For kids who love action

Themes & Topics

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