The March

Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
The March Movie Poster Image
Docu traces crucial moment in U.S. civil rights history.
  • NR
  • 2013
  • 60 minutes

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

Positive Messages

Viewers will learn about the underpinnings of the civil rights movement in the United States and gain respect for those who worked to make the movement happen. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The contributions of many civil rights leaders are spotlighted. Many of the leaders are still alive and participate in the documentary; the viewer can see the passion that inspired their actions.


Plenty of vintage footage of police menacingly fondling clubs while peaceful protesters (including children), walk by. Footage of riots, officers holding protesters in headlocks, of children cowering as officers spray them with fire hoses.


Some racist language, such as from old news footage of Deep South officials who don't want whites mixing with "nigroes."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The March is a documentary about the 1963 civil rights March on Washington. It contains period footage that may disturb viewers, especially younger viewers: police officers turning fire hoses on cowering young teens, protesters being taken into headlocks. Viewers will also see vintage racist language on display with Deep South officials affirming they won't let "nigroes" be on equal footage with whites. Otherwise, The March could play in almost any school classroom to illustrate units about civil rights or nonviolent protest movements, or at home for parents who want their children to learn about the history of racial inequality in America. But with a lot of talking-head footage and images of people sitting at desks or standing at lecterns, this documentary is too dry for younger kids. Teens are best suited to absorb its messages.

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What's the story?

Before the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, there was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, an event explored in the documentary THE MARCH. Narrated by Denzel Washington and featuring interviews with many key civil rights leaders as well as superstars like Oprah Winfrey, THE MARCH weaves together vintage television footage with new perspective from those who were there. Viewers will learn about the underpinnings of the March on Washington, including the Montgomery bus boycott (think Rosa Parks), and the political organizing efforts of leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and A. Philip Randolph. The documentary then follows the March on Washington from its planning stages through the day itself, with affecting footage of the singers and pundits who spoke that day, including MLK, whose spine-tingling "I Have a Dream" speech is the highlight of the doc.

Is it any good?

Earnest and straightforward, The March is the kind of documentary you can picture a high school history teacher wheeling an AV cart in for. Those who didn't know a lot about the 1963 March on Washington will learn more about it: the leaders who inspired the march, the foot-soldiers who made it happen, the nameless and faceless hundreds and thousands who made it their business to be there that day.

Probably the most gripping parts of the doc for teens will be footage of police officers bullying peaceful protesters, and images of signs like "colored bathroom." Young people who have never seen such images, or heard politicians railing fiercely against what we think of today as basic human rights, will be spellbound. The rest of the doc may be a tougher sell -- the thing about a peaceful protest is that it's not that dramatic. Nonetheless, The March illuminates a painful, yet crucial period in America's history, and parents (and history teachers!) who want their children to understand why may want to put The March on the "required viewing" list. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how far racial equality has advanced since the events spotlighted in the documentary. Can people of any color be barred from jobs? What about bathrooms? Are people of color on a truly equal footing with white people? Why or why not?

  • How much did you know about Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech before watching the documentary? How do you feel about the speech now? Was it an effective speech? How did it affect you?

  • How is the viewer supposed to view the March on Washington? Is the documentary The March meant to convince us of a point of view? Or simply to review a period in history?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history

Themes & Topics

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