The Rocketeer



More style than substance -- but fun, if gun-heavy, action.
  • Review Date: October 12, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 1991
  • Running Time: 108 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Good against evil plays a part here in pre-war 1938, although in real life the original plan for the rocket invention was not for use in the war.

Positive role models

When Cliff finds the rocket he just wants to "borrow" it to make some money and fix his plane, but has to find his inner hero when Jenny is kidnapped. Mafia men turn suddenly patriotic when they find out they're working for a Nazi.


Plenty of car chases, aviation disasters, quick fist fights, gunfire (a house is practically turned into Swiss cheese), and explosions. A mobster holds a character's head close to a restaurant grill, but doesn't cause injury. Evildoers are killed off mainly by gunfire and falling from great heights, with the exception of the two nasty characters who are incinerated by an exploding rocket pack and a burning zeppelin. Jenny is knocked out with chloroform and kidnapped.


Some romantic kisses. Lots of lingering shots of cleavage as the drugged heroine is revived and (unsuccessfully) seduced in the villain's bedroom; she escapes his lustful clutches by knocking him out cold with a vase. W.C. Fields says he's "doubly charmed" as he leers at Jenny's cleavage.


Lots of "hell" and "damn" and "dammit" plus one "son-of-a-bitch" and one "bloody," but nothing stronger. Germans are called "Krauts" and Neville is called a "Limey."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some light smoking of cigars and cigarettes. Champagne is toasted and talked about.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie based on the graphic novel by Dave Stevens can get pretty violent. There are plenty of car chases, aviation disasters, gun fights, and explosions. A mobster holds a character's head close to a restaurant grill, but doesn't cause injury. The bad guys are killed off mainly by gunfire, with the exception of the two nastiest characters who are burned to death. There's some mild language (mostly "damn" and "hell") and sexual content too as a drugged heroine is revived and (unsuccessfully) seduced in the villain's bedroom. Kids will get a bit of a history lesson with the movie's depictions of Howard Hughes and W. C. Fields and a classic newsreel shown in a theater.

What's the story?

Amid the beautifully rendered landscape of 1938 Los Angeles, wholesome Cliff (Bill Campbell), a talented pilot, has his hopes dashed when the plane he has spent three years developing is destroyed during its maiden voyage. When he discovers a rocket pack stowed away in the local hangar, he thinks he has found a way to salvage his flying career. Instead, the FBI, the Mob, and a debonair Nazi all suddenly want what he's got. After some suspenseful chase sequences, Cliff discovers that his new toy is actually America's attempt to catch up to the German war machine. He transforms himself into a jet-powered superhero and saves the world and his girl in the final showdown.

Is it any good?


Visually elegant and fitfully exciting, THE ROCKETEER suffers for its formulaic and occasionally vague plot. As a Nazi-themed action-adventure, the film can't help but bring to mind the funnier and more exciting Raiders of the Lost Ark. While not on par with Raiders, it is, nonetheless, an enjoyable movie that takes some unexpected jabs at old Hollywood.

Amusing performances parody the acting styles of depression-era Saturday matinee serials. As a swashbuckling movie star and Nazi agent, Timothy Dalton oozes villainous charm, but Jennifer Connelly as the aspiring starlet and love interest is less lively than this brand of heroine can be. More winning are Cliff and his aw-shucks brand of American charm. Kids will thrill as Cliff rockets to superhero status. Not as well realized is the mobster subplot. It ends with the unconvincing conversion of these murderous thugs into American patriots, eager (in pre-war 1938, no less) to quash the Nazi threat.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about action movies as a genre. What makes for a good action film? Are they limited in any way?

  • How is Jenny like most damsels in distress in action movies? How is she different?

  • Families who enjoy the Iron Man movies can compare them to this film. How are the heroes different?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 21, 1991
DVD release date:December 17, 1996
Cast:Bill Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Timothy Dalton
Director:Joe Johnston
Studio:Walt Disney Pictures
Topics:Superheroes, Adventures
Run time:108 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:parental guidance suggested.

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Learning ratings

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  • 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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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 12 year old Written byWeeklybob December 26, 2010


They say (a beaver's home that starts with a D)as often as a teenager says "like".
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Teen, 15 years old Written byMitchell Charleston May 16, 2013

Highly entertaning, it stands out from lots of Disney films (in a good way)

The Rocketeer is one of those films that should be viewed by EVERYONE. Despite some violence, kissing, cursing, cigars, cigarattes, and shampane, kids will enjoy it. When I turn 21, i'm going to choose NOT to drink. I am a Christian. Also, I HATE smoking. It smells nasty and it messes your lungs up. Anyways, back to my review. The graphics are outstanding and the actors did a great job. Anyways, The Rocketeer gets 5 stars.


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