The Green Mile

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
The Green Mile Movie Poster Image
Thoughtful, intelligent movie has violence, cursing.
  • R
  • 1999
  • 188 minutes
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 10 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 44 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Kindness, compassion, and miracles, even in the most dismal environments and circumstances. Through a graphic scene, capital punishment by the electric chair is shown to be cruel and unusual. The importance of ensuring that the elderly be allowed to live out their final days with dignity. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The warden in charge of the death-row block of a Louisiana prison in the 1930s demands that the officers under him comport themselves with decency and respect in their dealings with the inmates, believing this approach to be the best way to maintain a sense of order and calm. A large and illiterate man believed to have murdered two young girls in cold blood displays remarkable kindness and compassion. 

Violence

A large man is found sitting in a field with two dead little girls in his arms. Graphic depictions of execution by electric chair, including a botched execution in which the man being executed clearly suffers excruciating pain as he is burned to death. Altercations with one of the death-row inmates, including fights, violent restraining, and a kick to the groin. A mouse is stomped to death, crunching sound audible. Little girls shown in peril as they are kidnapped by a psychotic criminal. 

Sex

One of the prison guards is shown leafing through a magazine of sex-themed cartoons. Implied sex between husband and wife. Obnoxious criminal grabs one of the guards and kisses him on the face while grabbing his buttocks. Death-row convict makes a joke about how he wants Mae West to perform a sexual act with him. 

Language

Frequent profanity, including variations of "f--k." "N" word used by antagonists. "Sambo" also used. African Americans called "colored." Homosexual slur used. "Son of a bitch." "S--t." "D--k." "Hell." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Beer drinking, no one drunk. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Green Mile is a 1999 movie based on a Stephen King novel in which a newly arrived death-row inmate has a miraculous gift. In the film's most graphic scene, a man is brutally killed by a botched electric chair execution -- the man screams in excruciating pain as his skin visibly and audibly sizzles; comment is later made of how the smell of the execution will linger in the prison for a long time. A large man is shown sitting in a field with two dead little girls in both arms. Use of the "N" word, another racial slur, and the obsolete "colored" designation. Frequent profanity, including variations on "f--k." In a tense standoff with a prisoner, one of the guards urinates himself. Themes of racism, criminal justice, capital punishment, miracles, and faith even in the direst environments, and the treatment of the elderly in contemporary society are conveyed throughout this movie, and should provoke discussion and debate between parents and mature teens. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10, 11, and 12 year old Written byMichael R. April 28, 2016

Much more graphic than I remembered.

The movie focuses on the rape and murder of two little girls though it is only ever mentioned maybe 3 times in the 3 hour movie. The criminal who committed the... Continue reading
Adult Written byMatt B. May 24, 2015

A very good movie but more for older kids and teens.

This movie is emotional to some people. I think that older kids would like it but the younger kids probably will not. However if they are under 16 they should b... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old October 8, 2011

Best Movie Ever!

I just watched this film last night, and I was absolutely mesmorized. It is no doubt, my favourite film. It has got and extravagent storyline, brilliant acting... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bymoviemogul April 9, 2008

What a movie...

From the very beginning, this movie feels different-- which is a good thing. It can be hard to capture an audience so completely without action or whatnot, but... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE GREEN MILE, Paul Edgecombe (Tom Hanks) is a Depression-era Louisiana prison guard. His responsibility is the prisoners on Death Row, called "The Green Mile" because of the color of the floor between the cells and the electric chair. New prisoner John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) is a huge black man convicted of raping and murdering two little girls. He is a gentle man with a mysterious power to heal. Edgecombe treats the prisoners with kindness, partly because it's the best way to maintain order, but also because he is a fair and compassionate man. In sharp contrast, another guard is petty and cruel, and a far more evil man than any of the prisoners.

Is it any good?

This is a thoughtful, intelligent movie with outstanding direction. The plot veers into melodrama at times, with at least one coincidence that is overly convenient, but the humanity of the guards keeps the movie on track most of the time. Hanks is the American ideal, just, kind, capable, decent. Bonnie Hunt's performance as Edgecombe's loyal, wise, patient, and very loving wife is a pleasure to watch. Doug Hutchison is terrific as Percy, the nephew of the governor's wife who is assigned to work for Edgecombe, and whose combined arrogance and insecurity lead to disaster. And Michael Clarke Duncan is deeply moving, showing us both Coffey's innocence and his dignity.

It's pretty easy to make a movie where the hero saves the Earth from asteroids or blasts the bad guys into smithereens, because those kinds of battles give us lots of very cool stuff to look at. It's a lot harder to make a movie like this one, holding our attention with heroism in small moments and unlikely places. Teens, who often feel that the problems of the world are too overwhelming to address, can learn from this movie that a small courtesy can have an enormous impact.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the idea that a person might have an extraordinary talent to heal, where that power might come from, and what the responsibilities and burdens might be. Must that ability be accompanied, as it is in John Coffey, with the agonizing experience of "feeling the pain of the world?" Can a person be a healer without experiencing the pain he relieves in others? Must a person whose entire existence is about healing be willing to destroy? What can be healed, and what can not?

  • The movie is primarily set in two institutional locations -- a prison and a nursing home. What are the similar and different ways in which these two places are shown, and how do they play into the movie's overall themes and messages? 

  • What would be the challenges in adapting a novel into a movie? Are novels generally better or worse than the movies based on them? What are some examples of each? 

Movie details

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love dramas

Our editors recommend

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

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate