Parents' Guide to

The Great Debaters

By Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Inspiring true story confronts racism head-on.

Movie PG-13 2007 123 minutes
The Great Debaters Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

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

Community Reviews

age 13+

Based on 3 parent reviews

age 12+

The great debaters

This is a great movie that presents good world views. This movie is about a black debate team that eventually has to debate Harvard. There is a graphic seen of a black person being lynched and a sex scene.the quality is amazing. Overall a great movie.

This title has:

Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
age 14+

much to learn

This movie does an excellent job at tackling the issue of segregation head on. The best part was at the end, when Wiley College beat Harvard when the one student talked about what segregation was like for his grandfather. There is much to learn from this movie about our nation's history and our struggle for civil rights for African-Americans. The lynching and other violent scenes might be too much for some, but mature viewers who can handle them will gain great insight into what life was sometimes like for blacks back then. As terrible and tragic as those things were, it's good that Oprah wanted to show that things like that happened back then, and it's important that people know these things. Not to do so would be to close our eyes and pretend that these events didn't exist.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (3):
Kids say (35):

This earnest-till-it-hurts film has a lot of the characteristics of the typical "underdog" movie: personal hardship, social oppression, and resilient spirits. It's based on a true story and produced by Oprah Winfrey. The titular team, fortunately, features a set of wonderful young performers, including Nate Parker as Henry Lewis and the terrific Jurnee Smollett as Wiley College's first female debater, Samantha Booke. Despite its formulaic plot and overstated, string-heavy score, The Great Debaters reminds viewers of an important early moment in Civil Rights history, showcasing the resilience of youthful idealism and wisdom that comes from experience.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: December 24, 2007
  • On DVD or streaming: May 12, 2008
  • Cast: Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Jurnee Smollett
  • Director: Denzel Washington
  • Inclusion Information: Black directors, Black actors
  • Studio: Weinstein Co.
  • Genre: Drama
  • Character Strengths: Communication
  • Run time: 123 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG-13
  • MPAA explanation: depiction of strong thematic material including violence and disturbing images, and for language and brief sexuality.
  • Last updated: May 25, 2023

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