A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Flawed characters show self-control, courage, integrity, teamwork, and perseverance to overcome threats during their mission to reach the truth of their parents' deaths. Some characters in the town are corrupt but others show virtue and stand up for truth and honesty, sometimes putting themselves in danger.
Positive Role Models
John Elder is the oldest of the four Elder brothers, all back in town for their mothers' funeral. The estranged brothers bond again as they try to uncover the mystery of the corrupt town they left long ago. Three have reputations as rogues, while youngest brother, Bud, went to college. He wants to be a gunslinger like his brothers but they insist he has a better future. Morgan Hastings has taken over the town and is willing to kill to protect his name. He hires the cocky troublemaker gunman Curley to protect himself. Mary Gordon stands up to people and is on the side of truth and justice.
The movie features mostly White men. The few women are portrayed as wise and well liked. Four Mexican children are gravediggers. A character pretends to have a glass eye for a bar scam. All White male writing and directing crew.
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Violence & Scariness
Like in most Westerns, nearly all characters carry guns. Characters are generally against violence but are sometimes forced into it by their situations. Only the villains use violence for their own gains. Some people are shot and killed. There is occasional blood around wounds but no gory scenes. Characters have fistfights. One person dies with wood impaled in their stomach, another dies in a burning building. A prisoner with a dagger considers using it on a guard but is stopped by other inmates. A mob forms to lynch prisoners.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
One character smokes cigarettes in most of their scenes. A deceased (never seen) parent is said to have been dependent on alcohol and gambling. People in a saloon drink whiskey, beer, and smoke cigarettes while gambling.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Sons of Katie Elder is a 1965 American Western about four brothers who return to town for their mother's funeral and investigate evidence of foul play in their father's death. The movie features classic cowboy actor John Wayne and deals with themes of reputations, integrity, justice, and fairness. Being a Western, most characters carry guns and there is some violence, with people shot dead and fistfights. There is occasional blood but no gory scenes and generally characters try to avoid violence. Many are forced into violence but only the movie's villain, Morgan Hastings (James Gregory), uses it for his own gains. There is a clear morality to the movie and characters' actions are well explained when they cross lines. Scenes of threat play like exciting adventure movies and being made in the mid-1960s, the movie is relatively family friendly. It features mostly (White) male characters. Katie Elder is dead but spoken of highly by everyone in the town, while Mary Gordon (Martha Hyer), is confident, fair, and stands for fairness and justice. There is some smoking and drinking. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Made at the end of Hollywood's golden age of Westerns, this 1965 offering is a classic example of the genre. In The Sons of Katie Elder, Wayne plays the rogue John Elder with a calm and kind strength, while Dean Martin shines as a charismatic conman. The four estranged brothers are varied siblings and bond believably over the course of their adventure. The movie's murderous villain, Morgan Hastings (James Gregory), is equally as formidable and the townsfolk who choose sides are all great characters in their own right. The violence is mild and the characters' intentions are always clear, so it makes for a good family movie that can spark discussions about the choices we make.
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Our Editors Recommend
Westerns for Kids and Teens
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