The Ottoman Lieutenant

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Ottoman Lieutenant Movie Poster Image
Old-fashioned wartime romance gets very violent.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 106 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The movie argues that war is bad while also objectifying battle. It also neglects a key piece of relevant history -- the Armenian Genocide -- though it does include a brief but potent message about the evils of racism.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The characters are generally quite admirable, selflessly giving their time and effort -- and eventually risking their lives -- to help people in another country. A female character insists that women can do more than just raise families.


Very bloody war scenes, with guns and shooting, explosions, and bloody wounds. Brief moments of gore/blood spurts. Stabbing/slicing. Digging bullets out of skin. Characters fight with their fists, and there's a fight/chase on horseback. Disturbing hospital images. Dogs fight over human arms. Children in the war zone. Verbal references to gore.


Characters kiss passionately, undress, and have sex (brief scene, no graphic nudity).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A character takes ether when alone.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Ottoman Lieutenant is a wartime drama/romance set in Turkey during the early days of World War I. It's a little sappy, but it's heartfelt and good in an old-fashioned way. That said, it's also very violent, with lots of war scenes, guns and shooting, punching and fighting, blood spurts and wounds, stabbing/slicing, explosions, disturbing hospital imagery, and other gory stuff. Characters kiss passionately, undress, and have sex, though it's a fairly brief scene with no graphic nudity. One character takes a hit of ether when he's alone. Viewers should also know that the movie is told from the point of view of the Turks and doesn't address the Armenian Genocide of 1915.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byHellenic1 July 26, 2020


Does not represent the truth of the Turkish slaughtering of Christians
Adult Written byNune1 June 26, 2019
This is a romance that provides cover for a whitewashed history of the Armenian Genocide. Without a shred of passion evoked by the film’s love triangle and the... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byThe-real-MPAA December 22, 2017

Stay far Away

Kids should not see this purely because we don't need our youth tainted with such a horrible example of the film industry. Bad influence in all respects: t... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE OTTOMAN LIEUTENANT, nurse Lillie Rowe (Hera Hilmar) finds that 1914 Philadelphia frowns on headstrong women who'd rather work than be married. She also hates the fact that her hospital turns away non-white patients. But everything changes when she meets doctor Jude Gresham (Josh Hartnett), who works at a hospital in Turkey. Lillie decides to donate supplies to the hospital and travels there to see to their delivery. She finds a guide in Ismail Veli (Michiel Huisman), a lieutenant in the Ottoman Imperial Army. Before long, Lillie finds herself in a love triangle between the good doctor and the raffish lieutenant; worse, a relationship between a white Christian woman and a Turkish lieutenant would be forbidden. But soon, war begins, and the danger grows ever more intense around them.

Is it any good?

Unabashedly old-fashioned and romantic, this World War I-era movie fearlessly plucks at the heartstrings while offering glorious, big-screen cinematography ... and a bit of revisionist history. The Ottoman Lieutenant may may lack big-name movie stars. And, because it was funded largely by Turkish financiers, it shines a positive light on the country, largely ignoring the Armenian Genocide of 1915. But if you judge it based on goal of telling a romantic story against an intense wartime backdrop, like a mini-Dr. Zhivago or The English Patient, it succeeds handsomely.

The three characters involved in the love triangle are very appealing, and their human qualities make their relationship all the more complex. Plus, Ben Kingsley is wonderfully hammy as the founder of the Turkish hospital. Veteran director Joseph Ruben, who usually makes low-level thrillers (like the excellent The Stepfather) forgoes any tricks and simply uses a gorgeous widescreen backdrop with spectacular landscapes and plays of light to underline his story. The telling of it is smart but not confusing, tragic but not weepy, and swoon-inducing without being dopey.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Ottoman Lieutenant's violence. How is it depicted? How does the historical/war backdrop affect the violence? Does it seem important or gratuitous? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • What did you learn about the first World War? Did the movie inspire you to do more research or learn more? What other WWI movies have you seen? How do they compare?

  • Why would it be so unusual -- and frowned upon -- for a woman to volunteer at a hospital in another country, in a war zone?

  • In an early scene, an injured black man is turned away from an American hospital. Why would this have happened?

  • Just because a story is based on history/real events, does that mean that it portrays all facts/perspectives? How does this movie reflect a particular outlook/view of the past?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance

Themes & Topics

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