A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie is apocalyptic in its nature. The film deals with an attempt by Martians to invade and colonize the planet. Much of the film focuses on alien-on-human violence and the aliens' attempts to eliminate Earth's human occupants. There's a grisly off-screen murder. Characters drink and smoke.
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What's the story?
When aliens touch down in sunny California, it's bad news for the planet -- especially when they start destroying cities and shooting at everything that moves. WAR OF THE WORLDS explores what might happen if some of our intergalactic neighbors proved less than friendly. The action starts when a strange meteor lands outside a small town. Noted scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry) comes in to investigate and quickly teams up with Sylvia Van Buren (Ann Robinson). When almost everyone returns to town for a square dance, the "meteor" opens up, revealing itself as an alien spaceship. The visitors quickly demonstrate they're not looking to make friends with the neighbors by killing the three men who try to greet them. What follows is the "war" of the title, as the human race tries to defend itself, and the alien visitors fly around zapping everything in sight.
Is it any good?
Although this original War of the Worlds has woefully dated production values, the movie really is top-notch when it comes to telling a story. The special effects, which were cutting-edge in 1953, now seem hokey, but for viewers who have an appreciation of older films, or who are interested in film history, this sci-fi classic is a must-see.
When Orson Welles did a radio broadcast of War of the Worlds, people thought aliens really were invading. While director Byron Haskin's film version is nowhere near as convincing, it's still a great example of the science fiction genre.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the "science" of this science-fiction film, particularly if some viewers have an interest in outer space. Other possible topics for discussion might include the film's Cold War historical context or the concept of colonization. How might the Martians' attempt to take over the entire planet compare to the empire-building of nation-states? Why don't the Martians attempt to communicate with the people of Earth?