The Man in the Iron Mask



Slow-moving swashbuckler is better for teens and up.
  • Review Date: May 4, 2003
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 1998
  • Running Time: 132 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie's key theme is that the king is wrong to treat his subjects with contempt and rules through fear, rather than kindness. The movie also advocates teamwork and telling the truth.

Positive role models

The famed Musketeers in this story are older, and each has his own baggage and character flaws, including womanizing, deceptiveness, and revenge. Only the Man in the Iron Mask, Philippe, is worth emulating. Despite his years in prison, he harbors no ill will and tries to act out of the goodness of his heart (even when doing so will endanger his life). D'Artagnan has hope that the king can change and improve.


Frequent swordfighting, with lots of stabbing but not a lot of blood. One character is stabbed in the back. There are also guns, some disturbing images of men in prison, and many threats. One character is killed in battle; another character commits suicide by hanging.


Porthos is a womanizer and is seen with his hand down women's tops and literally "rolling in the hay" with three women. There are references to his anatomy and performance (such as "hung like a donkey" and "my 'sword' is bent"). The king is also a serial seducer and is seen (and heard) in bed with more than one woman. Nudity consists of a naked male behind. One romantic kiss between D'Artagnan and the queen.


Language includes "t-ts," "piss," "s--t," and "God" (as an exclamation).

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Porthos appears drunk, and there is a toast during a celebration scene.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this Three Musketeers adventure film based on the classic novel by Alexandre Dumas includes some fairly overt sexual references (but little nudity) and violence (but little blood). The womanizing, revenge-driven Musketeers themselves are a mixed bag when it comes to role models, but ultimately the movie does advocate teamwork and honesty. Although the slow-moving story not hold teens' interest, fans of Leonardo DiCaprio may be curious to see the baby-faced heartthrob playing dual roles, both good and evil. Parents can take the opportunity to introduce kids to Dumas' books and some of the Musketeer stories that came before this one.

What's the story?

Decades after the heyday of the Three Musketeers, the heroes have parted ways. Athos (John Malkovich) has raised a son, Raoul, to become a Musketeer himself; Artemis (Jeremy Irons) is a priest; Porthos (Gerard Depardieu) passes the time womanizing and drinking; and their old pal D'Artagnan (Gabriel Byrne) serves the cruel, selfish young King Louis XIV (Leonardo DiCaprio) ... and is secretly in love with the queen (Anne Parillaud). The king's fearsome rule has caused his subjects to riot -- so Artemis reunites the Musketeers to carry about a dangerous plan involving the mysterious prisoner known as the "man in the iron mask,." If they're successful, they could save the entire kingdom.

Is it any good?


It's great fun to see the aging Musketeers in action, and actors Irons, Depardieu, and Malkovich share a wonderful chemistry. But the movie never really focuses on them, and despite their strong charisma, they mostly emerge as supporting characters. The main draw is Leonardo DiCaprio, playing dual roles in his first film after Titanic.

Unfortunately, the younger viewers who want to see him will be disappointed by the movie's slow pace. Director Randall Wallace made his directorial debut here after writing Braveheart, and -- as with all of his other films (We Were Soldiers) -- THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK has a sense of dutiful propriety; it's like Wallace doesn't know how to have fun. The Man in the Iron Mask needed more of a jaunty twinkle, more wolfish grins, less thinking and more doing.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the film's violence? How did it affect you? Is it exciting? Is it gory?

  • The king uses his power to order women to his bedchambers, while Porthos wins them over with his exuberant attitude. How does the movie depict sex overall? Is there an example of a good relationship in the movie?

  • When Philippe is released from prison, he shows no interest in vengeance. Is this the right thing to do? Is his behavior rewarded?

  • Is it better to rule through fear or kindness? Why?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:March 13, 1998
DVD release date:August 12, 1998
Cast:Gabriel Byrne, Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Leonardo DiCaprio
Director:Randall Wallace
Run time:132 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:sequences of violence and some sensuality/nudity

This review of The Man in the Iron Mask was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 14 years old Written bybibliophile April 9, 2008


This movie had some real problems three minutes in. I had to stop watching it after ten, and that was with an edited version. One of the main themes was sexual dialogue, so you can imagine how that went. My mom says it's a good movie, but it is not appropriate for teens and kids.
Teen, 13 years old Written bysunshinegirl012 May 19, 2011

OK with parents ok but not for school!

We watched this in our performing art class and I was horrified! This movie is based on sex. The king sends off a girls true love to the army and gets him killed so he can have her all to himself. The king then invites her to dinner and has sex with her. not appropriate!
What other families should know
Too much sex
Adult Written byJEDI micah April 13, 2013

Slow-moving? Really?!

I wasn't really too hyped up to see this movie in the first place with my family, but I gave it a shot. And I'm glad I stayed to see the whole movie! DiCaprio is a great actor, along with the three musketeers. There's plenty of action with little blood, some sexual content, and a compelling story. I don't see how Common Sense thinks this is slow-moving. I think it went at an easy-to-follow pace. This is actually a good movie!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing


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