Thirteen Days

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Thirteen Days Movie Poster Image
Superb film about Cuban missile crisis, best for older kids.
  • PG-13
  • 2000
  • 145 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Behind-the-scenes White House intrigue shows how fragile the international political climate can be. By the film's end, the audience fully recognizes the importance of having men of goodwill and superior leadership in positions of power. Clearly it's easy to destabilize a world with such different ideologies, voices, and motives. It takes bravery, intelligence, and the support of other leaders to keep the world safe. Themes include communication, courage, and teamwork.


Positive Role Models

Though President Kennedy and his closest aides stumble a bit, in this crisis they prove to be open-minded, earnest, and brave as they try to live up to the enormous responsibility they've been charged with. Military officials are, for the most part, characterized as eager to go to war and unwilling to reveal any weakness, no matter what the consequences. The events took place in 1962; no women or men of color are involved in a significant way.



Cuban soldiers fire at U.S. planes, some of which are slightly damaged. There are some tense moments as enemy ships engage in a standoff. A plane is shot down and we learn that the pilot has been killed.



Frequent swearing: "balls," "s--t," "hell," "bastard," "crap," "ass," "goddamn," "Jesus Christ," one use of "f--k" and one ethnic slur "Jap carrier."


Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Men consume alcoholic beverages in moderation during some meetings and private conversations. Smoking is seen in the background of many of the White House discussions. President Kennedy swallows some pills in one scene.



What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Thirteen Days, a docudrama about the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, is exciting and suspenseful, even though the actual outcome is well known. The film is a recreation of a crucial incident in American history that's suitable for teens and mature tweens, as well as adults. There's frequent swearing used to heighten the emotional impact (i.e., "bastard," "asshole," "s--t," "Jesus Christ," one use of "f--k"). Because the film is set in the 1960s, smoking is a casual part of many of the meetings in the White House. Alcoholic beverages are consumed in several scenes, never to excess. President John F. Kennedy is seen taking a prescription drug on one occasion.


User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byCavie97 October 25, 2021

Educational movie perfectly fine for young people

While there is strong language sprinkled through various parts of the movie, 13 Days is a FANTASTIC telling of the Cuban Missile Crisis. There are no objection... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old March 6, 2018

Exciting, suspenceful movie that kids have to be old enough to understand.

Parents need to know that Thirteen Days is about the Cuban Missile Crisis during the Cold War. One sad death scene happens when an American soldier is flying a... Continue reading

What's the story?

THIRTEEN DAYS chronicles the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, when American planes took photos that confirmed the existence of a secret Soviet missile base under construction in Cuba for nuclear missiles capable of striking the United States, provoking a 13-day confrontation between the Soviet Union and Cuba on one side and the U.S. on the other. President John F. Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood) had endured the botched attempt at the Bay of Pigs to overthrow Castro the previous year. This drama doesn't waste time on introductions or exposition, giving the story a sense of immediacy and urgency. Advisors like Dean Acheson and the military urge JFK to bomb the sites. But Adlai Stevenson says, "One of us in the room should be a coward," and he asks the president to come up with a diplomatic solution. Kennedy knows better than to fight the last war, but he is not sure how to fight the next one. The president and his advisors argue about what to do ("Bombing them sure would feel good!"), interrupted by "just as usual" events to avoid letting the press or the Soviets suspect that anything was going on. When President Kennedy tells Chicago Mayor Daley that he "wouldn't miss this event for the world," we appreciate the literal meaning of his words.

Is it any good?

This gripping film will leave audiences reminding themselves that we are still here, and for once, the tag line has it just right: "You'll never know how close we came." Thirteen Days may seem like a movie script, but it really happened.

Producer Kevin Costner plays a real person, Kennedy staffer Kenny O'Donnell, but the character combines the roles and actions of several people and essentially exists to help tell the story as efficiently as possible. Most of the time, he blends in with a large, capable cast of character actors (though he seems to make himself too important in a pep-talk scene and at the end there is a sort of "Three Musketeers" shot that seems inappropriate).

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the portrayal of the Cuban missile crisis in Thirteen Days. Why is this incident considered such an important historical event? What other movies have you seen that deal with the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union?

  • Families can also talk about what we do when we have hard choices to make. President Kennedy and his brother, his closest advisor, listen to advice from experts, but realize they must make their own judgment. Who would help you make a big decision?

  • How do the people portrayed in Thirteen Days demonstrate courage, communication, and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate