The Hero

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Hero Movie Poster Image
Sweet, soulful story about aging actor has mature content.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 93 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Prizes relationships with friends, family, and loved ones over work or pursuit of personal pleasures.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A man learns to value the relationships in his life, making hard (and unusual) decisions about his life while thinking of others.


During Western sequences, a hanged man is shown and guns are drawn.


Kissing. Sex is implied. Partial naked breast. Brief naked photos/paintings.


Uses of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "goddamn," and "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation), plus a "gay" reference.


Apple iPhones and computers are used.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The main character smokes pot on a regular basis, tries "shrooms" once, and drinks frequently (whisky, vodka, champagne, etc.). Two main characters take an Ecstasy-like drug. There are no real consequences.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Hero is a drama about an aging movie star (Sam Elliott) who's diagnosed with cancer and tries to get his life back together. It's such a warm, easygoing movie that, despite the dark material, it's a delight to watch. But it has quite a bit of drug use -- including pot, "shrooms," and an Ecstasy-like powder -- as well as frequent drinking, with little to no consequences. Language is also strong, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," "goddamn," and more. There's an implied sex scene between two main characters; kissing and a partial naked breast are shown, as are nude photos/pictures (briefly). When a character dreams about a Western movie, the scenes include mild violence (guns and the image of a hanged man).

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What's the story?

In THE HERO, Lee Hayden (Sam Elliott) was once a Western movie star known for his iconic role in a movie called The Hero. But these says he's doing radio ads for barbecue sauce. He goes to buy pot from his old friend, Jeremy (Nick Offerman), and, while he's there, meets the pretty, younger Charlotte (Laura Prepon). They strike up a tentative relationship but then a routine checkup reveals that Lee has cancer. He starts trying to pick up the pieces of his life, specifically attempting to reconcile with his daughter, Lucy (Krysten Ritter). But then an appearance at an awards banquet supercharges Lee's career, and he finds himself pulled in several directions at once, struggling to decide what's most important.

Is it any good?

Director Brett Haley manages to take an underused subject, i.e. a character over 70, and make a movie that's deeply soulful and sweetly easygoing. A movie like this could easily turn into a dire, hand-wringing affair, full of tears and anguish and button-pushing. But The Hero -- like Haley's own wonderful I'll See You in My Dreams -- is remarkably laid-back, happily open to looseness and exploration. It's warm, funny, and very much in tune with all of its characters, young and old, male and female.

The central May-December relationship could have been troubling, but the movie treats it just right, with a measure of shyness, a measure of questioning, and a measure of distance; each character feels around, rather than assuming a solution. Likewise, the father-daughter relationship seems to respect each character's point of view. No one's feelings are presented as hysterical or unreasonable. And, at the same time, nothing feels forced or overly dramatized; it's a breezy, effortless movie and a good choice for mature moviegoers of all ages.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Hero portrays drug use. Are drugs glamorized? Are there consequences? Why does that matter?

  • Which images of violence are shown? Why do you think Lee thinks of violence during his "Western" reveries?

  • What is a "legacy"? Why would someone care so much about it? How much control does a person have over their legacy?

  • Why do you think more movies aren't aren't made about older people? What drives the business of filmmaking?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love memorable characters

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