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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Movie downplays the agency and competence of Africans to solve their own problems, bringing in a British engineer to build a bridge and an American hunter to clear the area of marauding lions.
Positive Role Models
Men bravely set traps to kill wily lions but are largely outsmarted by the lions, until they get lucky.
Violence & Scariness
Several lions terrorize a colony of workers at an African outpost, killing more than 100 men. A victim's raw and bloodied neck is shown. Dozens of sick, injured men are attacked in a field hospital. Men are dragged off screaming by lions. Lions are shown leaping on people, their bloody teeth and mouths shown. Someone describes a lion licking off a victim's skin so he could drink the man's blood. Blood trails are left as lions drag people off to eat them. Lions seem to have super strength as they dodge bullets or fail to be killed by a single shot. A cow is punctured and men drink the blood for bravery. Dozens of human skeletons are discovered in a cave, the victims of lions. A man falls from a tree. A man dreams his wife and child are attacked by a lion.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink alcohol to celebrate.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Ghost and the Darkness is a 1996 drama about seemingly otherworldy lions that in 1898 killed more than 100 bridge-building workers at a Kenyan outpost. There's plenty of violence, blood, and red-stained lion mouths roaring. Language includes "s--t," and clever camerawork increases the terror of the lions' stalking, attacking, and dragging off of screaming, mauled men. The movie downplays the agency and competence of Africans to solve their own problems, bringing in a British engineer to build a bridge and an American hunter to clear the area of marauding lions. Adults drink alcohol. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This is a drearily conventional film. Director Stephen Hopkins himself said in a 1998 interview that The Ghost and The Darkness "was a mess ... I haven't been able to watch it." Worse yet, it promotes old racist and imperialistic assumptions about the competence and superiority of foreign White people over the wisdom and ability of local peoples familiar with their own terrain and problems. (Two notable exceptions are characters played by John Kani and Om Puri.)
If you can get past that premise, Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer give serviceable performances, but the narrative does little more than repeat the same problem -- how to defeat attacking lions -- over and over. It feels odd that White hunters are called in to kill an animal that natives are probably far more familiar with, but high-powered rifles will probably be more effective than spears and hand-to-claw combat. Any time a lion is shot, heroic music wells up to trigger our admiration for the great hunters. Vilmos Zsigmond's cinematography is lush and haunting.
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.