The Last King of Scotland

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
The Last King of Scotland Movie Poster Image
Brutal look at the consequences of absolute power. No kids.
  • R
  • 2006
  • 121 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Based on the real-life story of notoriously brutal dictator Idi Amin, the film implicates as well those non-Ugandans who made his rise to power possible, including the British and the CIA.


Violence is pervasive, including shooting and tank battles; characters are shot in close-up; discussion of assassinations; images of bloody body parts (one woman's body gruesomely appears briefly, cut into sections); the protagonist is tortured by being hung from the ceiling on hooks attached to his chest (gruesome again); a child suffers a frightening epileptic attack.


Sexual activity/naked body parts in two or three scenes; women perform sensuous dances during celebrations (some are topless); a pregnancy results from an adulterous affair.


Over 20 uses of "f--k," plus other profanity ("hell," etc.).


BMW, Holiday Inn.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Frequent drinking and some smoking (cigarettes and cigars).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie is based on the real life of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and includes references to massacres, revenge killings, torture, and abuse. Some scenes depict such violence explicitly, including bloody bodies, shooting, knifing, and grisly torture. There are also some scenes of sexual activity, including a one-night liaison between the protagonist and an unknown woman and the protagonist's dangerous adulterous affair. Women appear in revealing or little clothing (some dancers are topless). Characters use foul language (especially "f--k") in anger. It's the 1970s, so characters also drink liquor and smoke cigarettes as emblems of class comfort.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAlexxis1995 May 11, 2013

A harrowing, uncompromising cinematic experience

A harrowing, uncompromising cinematic experience that explores the insidious nature of evil. The main character is meaning good, but he makes a series of disast... Continue reading
Adult Written byJohnny J May 10, 2012

Unpleasant Waste Of Time

It's that simple, really. The 15 Rating it received in the UK is another example as to the uselessness of the BBFC these days, and adds more weight as... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old August 23, 2020

Good but violent thriller

James McAvoy and Forrest Whittaker are outstanding!
Kid, 11 years old August 18, 2020

Brutal and Intense film

The last hour of this film is violent, gruesome, and intense. There is also nudity (butts and breasts are shown) and a very severe sex scene (with plenty of nud... Continue reading

What's the story?

Newly minted doctor Nicholas (James McAvoy) avoids going into practice with his father by traveling to Uganda, where he imagines he can "make a difference" and have an adventure. When Nicholas is invited to serve as president Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker)'s personal physician, he imagines that he'll get excitement, access, and a chance to "do good" with the new resources at the hospital in Kampala. But Amin's reign quickly turns violent (he kills anyone he deems an enemy and expels 50,000 Asians from Uganda), and Nicholas watches the action and pretends that Amin isn't responsible. The doctor goes so far as to justify his own errors in judgment: He wants to look after Amin's wife Kay (Kerry Washington), currently on the outside because her son is epileptic. As Amin becomes visibly (or more consistently) psychotic and paranoid, Nicholas begins to fear for his own safety.

Is it any good?

Harrowing and provocative, THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND traces the rise of Idi Amin by taking the perspective of the young Scottish doctor. While the device could seem hackneyed, it's instructive here, for the film never lets viewers forget that the doctor comes to Africa to "play the white man," as Amin puts it, careless and self-indulgent.

As a metaphor, the fictional Nicholas makes clear the insidious means by which the West, and -- in particular -- the Caucasian West, exploits and abuses its privilege in other nations. While The Last King of Scotland makes Nicholas pay dearly and repeatedly for his vanity and willful ignorance, it also encourages your investment in his plight. Still, the fact that Nicholas -- however inadvertently, however much he seems a victim -- is also capable of great horrors (he lets others perform them, then judges them), makes him even more troubling than Amin. He should have known better.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the cycles of violence that afflict developing nations. How are these cycles supported by outsider money and exploitation of resources? Who's to blame for what happens in these cases? Families can also talk about the story of Amin, a former heavyweight boxer and British colonial army sergeant who declared himself president of Uganda following a military coup and ruled for eight years. What effect does having a fictional character tell his story have on the movie and what viewers take away from it?

Movie details

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