The Lone Ranger

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Lone Ranger Movie Poster Image
Occasionally entertaining but overlong and overly violent.
  • PG-13
  • 2013
  • 149 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 14 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 49 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The message is rather dubious, because the law doesn't necessarily provide true justice, so ultimately the Lone Ranger decides to work outside law enforcement. Tonto and John do form a brotherhood of sorts and, despite all their bickering, have each other's back again and again.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The Reid brothers are both upstanding, moral men who believe in what they do: Dan as a Texas Ranger and John as an attorney and man of the law. Tonto is dedicating to righting the wrong that led to the deaths of so many of his tribe. He helps the Lone Ranger again and again, though they do work outside of standard channels/procedures. Rebecca, Dan's wife, is the opposite of a damsel in distress. She displays courage and bravery throughout the film.

Violence

More violence than you might expect, and some of it is pretty close up. Villain Butch Cavendish not only shoots people, but he's also known for eating their body parts. Audiences watch as he slices a man's stomach open and then holds his victim's heart in his hands. In silhouette, he's then shown eating the heart. There are lots of explosions, and the body count is quite high. A group of white (and one Mexican) outlaws dresses up like Native Americans and terrorizes people using arrows, burning down homes, etc. Butch's crew kills people -- usually with guns. The Army fights Native Americans, sparing no one. A woman is kept as a hostage and slapped/pushed/threatened. Butch alludes to rape when threatening her. Men are scalped and blown to pieces and drowned; horses are shot and killed in battle. A young man lies and says that Tonto and the Ranger threatened to "violate" him. A boy holds a gun on a man who's threatening his mother, and a boy is slapped in the face by a man. There's also a very startling scene in which seemingly cute bunnies turn ferocious.

Sex

A couple of kisses and a passionate embrace. A scene takes place in a brothel, but nothing too risque is shown other than women dressed in cleavage-baring corsets.

Language

Native Americans are referred to as "savages," "Injuns," and "heathens"; other insults and exclamations include "hell," "harlot," "damn," "drunks," "ass," "oh my God," and "idiot."

Consumerism

No product placements in the movie, but there are plenty of off-screen endorsement deals, from LEGO sets targeted at kids 9+ to promotions at Subway restaurants.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink from jugs and wine glasses. A couple of men smoke cigars (accurate for the era).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Lone Ranger is a reboot of the famous TV show and film serials about a lawman-turned-vigilante and his trusty Native American sidekick, Tonto. Only in Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski's take, Tonto (Johnny Depp) isn't merely a secondary character -- he's the story's guide, catalyst, and narrator. There's a surprising amount of violence -- not just the body count, but also persistent references to cannibalism (including a scene of a man's heart being cut out and eaten, albeit partially in shadow) and rape. (Some of the scary scenes are interrupted by flash-forwards, relieving the intensity, but things still get tense.) The language is mild, as is the sexuality (although one scene does take place in a brothel, and a supporting player is a madam), and the drinking is done by adults. A kid holds a gun to a man who's threatening his mother's life, and the lesson that sometimes the law can't provide true justice takes a bit of discussion. On the plus side, Depp has said he is in fact of Native American heritage and had the support of several Native American groups in his portrayal of Tonto.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8, 12, and 15-year-old Written bydjljejm July 29, 2013

Great movie!

Although a bit long, I think this movie is pretty good. I really enjoyed the perspective from which the story is told, thanks to Johnny Depp. Unless people ge... Continue reading
Parent of a 5, 12, and 16-year-old Written byChris T. January 1, 2018

Bit dissapointing, but still pretty solid action.

This is no average Disney movie. It features lots of mildly violent sequences which are racy and quite fun, but for many younger children this violence will be... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byOMG it's Ethan C November 24, 2016

The Best Western Ever

The violence is mild you don't see any body part eating. There is blood but it isn't that bad so all i have to say is that if your kids ask for it let... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old June 12, 2014

awesome

This movie was violent but it was entertainig the whole movie. This movie did have some bad words but nothing to worry about. the effects were amazing and it re... Continue reading

What's the story?

Director Gore Verbinski reteams with his Pirates of the Caribbean muse Johnny Depp in a reboot of the character made popular in the 1950s TV Western and 1930s film serials. With Depp co-starring as Tonto, Verbinski makes the Native American character more of a protagonist and narrator than a mere sidekick. The framing story takes place in 1933 San Francisco, where a Lone Ranger-costumed boy meets an ancient "Noble Savage," who's actually Tonto. The wrinkled Native American tells the boy the story of THE LONE RANGER. Originally an attorney, John Reid (Armie Hammer) returns to his small Texas town, where his brother Dan (James Badge Dale) is the head Ranger and where a railroad executive (Tom Wilkinson) is planning a public execution to prove to the community that the train won't bring lawlessness. But the criminal Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) escapes, and Dan's entire crew of Rangers is killed trying to recapture him, including the newly deputized John. But a white spirit horse (yes, it's Silver) leads Tonto to John's body, who re-awakens and eventually becomes the masked lawman. John and Tonto must hesitantly work together to bring justice.

Is it any good?

The problem with The Lone Ranger is that it's a strange hybrid of politically correct Western and mindless popcorn fodder that somehow manages to take itself far too seriously. On a purely nostalgic level, there's something viscerally entertaining about hearing Rossini's iconic "William Tell Overture" and seeing Depp and Hammer get the bad guys (and laughing as Tonto tells the Lone Ranger never to say "Hi-yo, Silver, away!" again). Full points to Disney and Depp for reimagining Tonto as a sarcastic guide with an emotional backstory and for reaching out to the Native American community to assure them that Tonto wouldn't be reduced to a minstrel act. Depp's Tonto is incredibly clever and wise, albeit seemingly incapable of more than one facial expression.

Of course there's humor and plenty of extravagant set pieces the likes of which only a Depp and Verbinski production financed by Jerry Bruckheimer could afford. But there's also an overly complicated plot line that might confuse tweens (not to mention far more violence -- cannibalism! rape references!) than you'd expect in a movie with LEGO tie-ins) and a rather bland Ranger who's a lot less compelling than his dead brother (Dale deserves a leading role, stat) and, of course, the scenery chewing (and crow-feeding) Tonto. It doesn't seem like the start of a beautiful franchise, but where there's explosions and Johnny Depp in a costume, you never know.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in The Lone Ranger. Is there more, less, or the amount you expected in the movie? What is the violence motivated by? What is its impact?

  • Johnny Depp, who's partially of Native American heritage, and Disney reached out to the Native community to make sure that his portrayal of Tonto wasn't offensive. Do you think they succeeded?

  • Discuss the history of the railroad, the idea of manifest destiny, and why the country's Westward expansion was so pivotal in the decades after the Civil War. Talk about the facts that there really were many Chinese men involved in the making of the railroad and that the history of the Native Americans in the late 19th century is one of death and loss of land.

  • This adventure is an origin story for the Lone Ranger of television lore. What do you think of the story line? Has it sparked or renewed your interest in the TV show?

Movie details

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