The Lucky Ones



War/road trip dramedy is cliched but affecting.
  • Review Date: September 29, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 115 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Strangers are either awkwardly supportive or derisive of soldiers' experiences in Iraq. In one scene, women make fun of a character who has a limp because she's been shot during combat. A wife isn't interested in letting her deployed husband rejoin her life now that he's back -- for no apparent reason, it seems, other than that she liked being alone. Characters are clearly affected by their time served in Iraq -- they're besieged by nightmares, fears, and insecurities. But they also display empathy for one another's experiences and are generous with their time and help even though they don't know one another that well.


A soldier has a quick trigger finger -- she talks about missing her weapon and gets into fights quickly (no guns are drawn, though a bar fight almost turns into a melee). A husband and wife have a big argument in front of guests. Soldiers are injured on the battlefield; close up of a bullet wound in a thigh.


A married woman propositions a virtual stranger; later, they're shown having sex (though there's no nudity), and her husband walks in on them; two characters listen as a couple engages in sex; conversations about how a man can get an erection and please a woman without one. A character is on a mission to find prostitutes who can help him with his sexual problem.


Regular use of words like "p---y," "s--t," and "f--k."


Nothing excessive. Signs for Dollar car rental, McDonald's, etc. Mentions of Porta-Johns.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Soldiers drink and carouse while on leave. One of them pops pills.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this fairly unsentimental dramedy about what life is like for soldiers on leave from war deals with themes and subjects that may be overwhelming for younger teens. It doesn't pull any punches, depicting civilian life as being just as fraught as fighting in Iraq. Some scenes show the soldiers in battle and getting injured, and there are frank discussions about the aftereffects of war. There's also a fair amount of strong language, some drinking, liberal use of sexual innuendoes, and a moment in which a couple is caught in the middle of having sex (though not too much skin is shown).

Kids say

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What's the story?

Three soldiers deployed to Iraq -- paternal Cheaver (Tim Robbins), hopeful Colee (Rachel McAdams), and pragmatic T.K. (Michael Pena) -- are thrown together on their way home. After their flights end up canceled, they decide to share a van to get to their respective destinations. Thus begins a trouble-plagued journey that proves they may not be so lucky after all to have returned home alive -- unlike some of their peers -- because civilian life, though infinitely less dangerous, is in some ways just as challenging as combat. Cheaver's wife isn't exactly welcoming him with open arms, and his son needs $20,000 asap for college. Colee is returning the guitar that her boyfriend/fellow soldier owned before he was killed in hopes that his family, whom she doesn't know, will take her in. And T.K. isn't sure his fiance will want him anymore when she finds out exactly how he's been injured.

Is it any good?


THE LUCKY ONES has lots of flaws, including artificial twists, cliched setups, and all-too-familiar road-trip snafus (keys left in a locked car, bickering travelers, etc.). The story opens up like a highway with uninteresting pit stops. But the movie has heart, and that's what saves it. It plays on a low register, smartly aware that its basic premise -- veterans who are hobbled physically must endure emotional warfare, too -- is already intense. Given the heavy subject matter, director Neil Burger smartly realizes that it's better to keep a light touch and deftly mixes humor with drama.

The Lucky Ones is also fortunate to have a great cast. Robbins is sympathetic yet subtle, McAdams balances fear and awkwardness with optimism and spirituality (she really is lovely, even in a role this gritty), and Pena is surprising in a role that's hard to pin down because it's refreshingly complex.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the media typically depicts war and its consequences. How is this film different from other movies about war? How is it similar? The filmmakers have said they made a point of not actually using the word "Iraq" in the script -- how can you tell that this movie is about that war anyway? Families can also discuss soldiers' homecoming. Does it seem less than spectacular? Why? Why is the film titled The Lucky Ones? What makes these characters lucky -- or unlucky?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 26, 2008
DVD release date:January 27, 2009
Cast:Michael Pena, Rachel McAdams, Tim Robbins
Director:Neil Burger
Run time:115 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language and some sexual content.

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  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written bywonder dove August 5, 2013

Pretty good watch.

This movie wasn't bad. I mainly watched for Rachel McAdams who did a wonderful job playing one of the soldiers on her way back home from Iraq. She meets two other men and together they share a van to all return to their destinations. Each character has issues of their own, they help each other solve them along the way which makes their friendships stronger in the end. A very laid back road trip movie with great characters played by a great cast. Language is strong with plenty of curse words including the f-word. Violence has arguing of a married couple with loud yelling, a close-up bullet wound, a fight scene at a bar, injured soldiers and lots of bickering and complaining. Sexual content has a character having sexual issues after getting shot in the thigh, lots of talk about sex stuff, guy looks for prostitutes to see if they can "cure" him, a married woman goes to bed with a man right after meeting (moaning sounds heard) her husband walks in, sexual remarks throughout. Plenty of drinking. Pretty safe for the 16+ crowd I think.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing


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