The Patriot

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
The Patriot Movie Poster Image
Rousing Revolutionary War tale has graphic battle scenes.
  • R
  • 2000
  • 165 minutes
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 18 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 61 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive messages

Heroism, courage, and sacrifice by all the colonists who fought for their independence from the British. The lead character mentions the sins of his past and seems to know that they will catch up to him in a terrible manner. A racist man who initially believes that African-American men shouldn't be soldiers, much less earn their freedom by serving in the Continental Army, changes his mind when his life is saved due to the bravery of the African-American soldier in his militia. 

Positive role models & representations

Benjamin is the "strong, silent type," a reluctant hero who displays tremendous courage and bravery when he ultimately has no choice but to fight the British for independence. His son Gabriel also displays courage and valor in the face of such profound loss, and cares enough for the cause of liberty to be willing to die for it. The members of the militia led by Benjamin are citizens from all backgrounds who put their lives at tremendous risk for the sake of independence. 

Violence

Frequent and unrelenting battle violence. Fighting with muskets, rifles, swords, hatchets. Blood and gore. A solider is decapitated by a cannonball; other soldiers lose limbs from cannonballs. A man shoots himself in the head after finding his wife and child murdered in front of his home. African-American characters are shown hanging dead from a tree. A horse is killed when stabbed in its underbelly with the spear of a flagpole. Dozens of characters are burned to death while locked in a church. A scene in which injured soldiers are getting their limbs hacked off by battlefield surgeons. Talk of eating dogs. The lead character discusses the atrocities he committed while a soldier -- he hacked to death dozens of the enemy into little pieces and kept two survivors to bring their dismembered remains to their superior officers. 

Sex

Some gentle sexual references in a scene depicting the colonial custom of "bundling bags" for courting couples.

Language

"Hell." "Damn." 

Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

Wine drinking, whiskey drinking, but nobody seems drunk. A man is shown with chewing tobacco, spits some of it on the floor. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Patriot is a 2000 movie in which Mel Gibson plays a South Carolina farmer who joins the cause of liberty in the Revolutionary War. This is a very violent movie, with many graphic battle scenes, vividly portrayed. A character commits suicide when his family is killed. A solider is decapitated by a cannonball; other soldiers lose their limbs to cannonballs. There's blood and gore throughout the battle scenes, fighting with muskets, rifles, swords, cannonballs, and hatchets. African-Americans are shown hanging from a tree. Dozens of characters are burned to death while locked in a church. The atrocities committed in a past battle are vividly described. There are some gentle sexual references in a scene depicting the colonial custom of "bundling bags" for courting couples.

User Reviews

Parent of a 14 year old Written byTsion September 13, 2009

Graphic Violence, but Uplifting Messages...

When I came on this page and saw that parents rated this movies as "iffy ages 12+", I was very surprised. While not as bad as other R-rated films, th... Continue reading
Adult Written byRandomKindaGuy December 16, 2010

A movie that should be exclusively for teens and not earlier

This movie is a farce. Full stop. Well, okay, it has a great soundtrack, and decent effects, but that's about it. This movie is washing white America'... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byLuna Evergreen June 7, 2011

I love this movie!

Very entertaining but things can get VERY intense! But since the movie is trying to be realistic then it needs to be intense like saving private ryan! By the... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old May 1, 2013

the violence shows it like it is

there are scenes like when a guy chops up a guy so bad you can see the blood splattering and some scenes with language so thats what i think

What's the story?

THE PATRIOT stars Mel Gibson as Benjamin Martin, a veteran of the British army who was a hero during the French and Indian War. Twenty years later, he has no love for the monarchy but some skepticism about the alternative. He asks, "Why should I trade one tyrant 3000 miles away for 3000 tyrants one mile away?" and "I haven't got the luxury of principles." More than that, his memories of the atrocities of war, his own as well as the enemy's, and his passion for protecting his seven children won't allow him to fight again. But when Benjamin's son is killed by a British soldier, he throws guns to his younger boys, straps several onto himself, and goes off to fight his own personal war, a sort of Robin Hood crossed with Terminator.

Is it any good?

Despite minor flaws, this is a very enjoyable popcorn movie, sumptuously and excitingly filmed, and rousingly entertaining. The action sequences play well, and the black characters are treated with as much dignity as possible. Gibson delivers, as always. He is utterly compelling whether he is hacking an opponent to death, looking tenderly at a tiny daughter who will not speak to him, or agonizing over his past sins. Fellow Aussie Heath Ledger is superb as oldest son Gabriel, at first impatient to join the fight, later a brave and mature soldier and an ardent suitor.

There's a long Hollywood tradition of reluctant heroes who are forced into violence, thus giving us the best of both worlds with a hero whose heart is in the right place, but whose muscles and gun are, too. So, Benjamin has to find a reason to fight. It would have been nice if that reason had something to do with liberty and democracy, but instead it's about revenge. The only heartfelt struggle for independence in the movie is teenage rebellion. And, producing/directing team Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich play fast and loose with historical facts here. Colonel Tavington is a villain so reprehensible that he not only burns down a church filled with civilians, he also enjoys it. This level of cartoonish exaggeration makes it harder for us to engage with the characters.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the real origins of the Revolutionary War. How could you learn more?

  • Was the violence in the movie necessary to convey a sense of the terrible realities faced by soldiers fighting in the Revolutionary War, or did it seem forced in for the sake of trying to make the movie more exciting? 

  • This movie is a classic example in which a "reluctant hero" is the center of the story. What are some other examples of movies with "reluctant heroes?" 

Movie details

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