The Rocketeer

Movie review by
Ellen MacKay, Common Sense Media
The Rocketeer Movie Poster Image
More style than substance -- but fun, if gun-heavy, action.
  • PG
  • 1991
  • 108 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

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 & Representations

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."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 9 and 13-year-old Written byLaa007 January 1, 2021

Should be PG-13

It’s a great movie and my kids (9 and 13) love it. They’ve seen it twice. I watched it with them this time and vaguely remembered some brutal death scenes where... Continue reading
Parent of a 9-year-old Written byKathyebailey April 11, 2018

Violent and scary for Littles

My eight year old son was horrified at the violence. We watch a lot of g and pg films, I don’t expose my kids to a lot of violence, and I was pretty taken aback... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byTeenFilmScholar September 21, 2017

Fantastic, accurate adaptation... But it is essentially a PG-13 film with a PG rating.

As a younger kid, I wasn't very into super-heroes, but I did love comicbooks about other things, be it robots, detectives, Transformers and G.I. Joe. That... Continue reading
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 enjo... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love action and adventure

Themes & Topics

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