The Homesman

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Homesman Movie Poster Image
Striking Western has some disturbing material.
  • R
  • 2014
  • 122 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Encourages tolerance and empathy toward the mentally ill; as the movie begins, these misfit characters are shown as scary and alien, but as it goes on, they become more human. Understanding and listening can go a long way. But also, treating intolerance with intolerance isn't a good choice.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mary Bee Cuddy is a very strong female character, even if she makes a poor choice and comes to a bad end. She's smart, sympathetic, and compassionate.


A baby is thrown away in an outhouse; other dead babies are shown. Situations involving three insane women are generally disturbing (screaming, thrashing, etc.). Guns are drawn. Characters fight; some blood is shown. A woman cuts herself with a needle. Characters die. A dead body is shown hanging from a tree. A man sets fire to a building. Disturbing scenes of forced sex between husband and wife, both mainly clothed. 


Main female character is shown topless. Sex scene that feels very graphic, even though little nudity is shown. Three insane women are occasionally topless (while bathing, etc. Some innuendo.


Mainly "son of a bitch" and "goddamn. Also "s--t" and "bastard."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The main male character asks for whisky to be packed for a journey but is only seen drinking on a few occasions. He's drunk and bawdy during the movie's final scene.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Homesman is a Western (based on a novel by Glendon Swarthout) with disturbing material, mostly related to three frontier women who go insane. They scream, thrash, and moan, and one cuts herself with a needle. One throws a baby away in an outhouse, and other dead babies are also shown. Violence includes forced marital sex, some fighting (with a little blood), drawn guns, and a body hanging from a tree. Women are shown topless, and there's a fairly strong sex scene. Language includes "s--t," "son of a bitch," and "goddamn." A character sometimes drinks whisky and is shown drunk in the final scene. The movie's mature material and Western setting may not put it at the top of teens' must-see list, but adventurous viewers will find it rewarding.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLaurieM 1 February 7, 2015

Utterly depressing, no depth

This tale has an interesting premise and the previews caught my attention but the story goes from bad to worse with no real meaning. It certainly gives an idea... Continue reading
Adult Written bykristyscott7 February 17, 2015

Very disturbing and disappointing

i just joined this site because of this movie because none of the previews or descriptions of the movie prepared me for the extremely disturbing images in this... Continue reading

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What's the story?

Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) is an upright, single pioneer woman in the Nebraska Territory, unable to find a husband on account of being "plain" and "bossy." When three local women go insane and need to be transported to Iowa for special care, Mary Bee volunteers for the unpleasant, dangerous job. She happens upon a so-called claim jumper -- the ragged, uncouth George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones) -- at the end of a rope; she rescues him in exchange for his help on the journey. Besides adapting to the women's unpredictable and disturbing behavior, the unlikely pair must face cold, Native Americans, and other dangers. But their biggest challenge might just lie in their own heart.

Is it any good?

Based on a classic novel by Glendon Swarthout, who also wrote The Shootist, THE HOMESMAN is something close to a great modern-day Western. As evidenced by his last film, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, director Jones has a keen eye for hard landscapes (including his own weathered face) and emotional compositions. The Homesman is full of striking imagery: the locked, coffin-like coach; fresh new buildings in hardscrabble dirt; a disturbed grave on a gnarly plain.

Jones is also wise enough to step into the supporting role, giving Swank room to do her best stuff as Mary Bee, an extraordinary woman who's as strong as a man yet full of yearning and forever giving more than she gets. As Briggs, Jones sometimes provides cranky comic relief from the grim material but eventually grows into a sympathetic, essential character (thanks to several women). Meryl Streep works her magic in the later scenes, as does young cowgirl Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit).

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether Mary Bee Cuddy is a role model. What does she sacrifice, and what does she gain? What does she learn? Does she make the world a better place?

  • How violent is The Homesman? How is the violence related to the behavior of the mentally ill characters? Why are they so disturbing and so upsetting? How does the movie's view of them change?

  • How does George Briggs change over the course of the movie? What does he learn from the many women he encounters throughout the story?

  • What's appealing(or unappealing) about the Western genre? What are films like these generally trying to say?

Movie details

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