Three Kings

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Three Kings Movie Poster Image
Violent, liberal George Clooney Gulf War caper.
  • R
  • 1999
  • 115 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The American troops in general use racist language directed particularly at Arabs and behave like kill-crazy party monsters (at least with the announcement of the war's "ending"). The "heroes" are initially lawless rogues intent on robbery and making themselves rich, but they undergo a moral transformation and begin to appreciate that the Iraqi resistance (and even some of the bad guys) are real people involved in a serious moral struggle. Ultimately the main characters turn into saviors, but very flawed ones. The one female character of consequence is a pushy and vindictive news reporter, but she too shows some signs of lessons learned.


Unsparing war violence and many deaths. Includes severe depiction (using a clinical X-ray view) of what happens when bullets tear through human tissues. People are shot through the head in the closeup, including a mother (whose child grieves by the body). A little boy sniper is blown up by a tank shell. Landmines explode further vehicles. A man in tortured with electric shocks. There's some closeup battlefield surgery.


A brief early scene of Archie having sex with a young news associate, she in a bra and panties, he almost fully clothed. Later talk about sex (mostly in the context of ascending the ranks in broadcast journalism).


Pretty extreme, including subtitled f-words and s-words courtesy of the Iraqis.


Fancy motorcars on display, with much talk of the Lexus Infinity. References to cultural media icons, including Bart Simpson and Michael Jackson, and popular music. Usually it's ironic commentary, not a sales pitch. Usually.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking and partying after the U.S. victory.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this film is unsparing in the violence of the battlefield, with soldiers, civilians, mothers, and children dying in gunfire and RPG attacks. Several special-effects scenes actually go within a human body to demonstrate, classroom-lecture style, the damage that bullets do. There is also one rather gratuitous sex scene early on. The depiction of the coalition troops sent to liberate Kuwait is cynical, to put it lightly. Families who are strong Bush Jr./Sr. supporters will either yell at the screen, decide George Clooney isn't all that handsome anymore, or turn it off. Other families may cheer at the film's brazenness.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byharrisonfordlova January 12, 2009

I enjoyed this :P

I watched this movie thinking that it was gonna be just another war movie etc but it is actually really good. A bit violent and graphic in some places such as c... Continue reading

What's the story?

In 1991, U.S. troops, under the first President George Bush, chased Saddam Hussein's army back across the Kuwaiti border, then halted, abandoning the homegrown Iraqi freedom movement once the Kuwaiti oil wells were secure. Saddam Hussein's cease-fire surrender brings jubilation to U.S. forces, who act like frat guys on Spring Break. During the melee, soldiers find a map hidden by a high-ranking captive Iraqi. Special Forces Capt. Archie Gates (George Clooney) deduces the map shows the location of stolen Kuwaiti gold and forms a small raiding-party of three reservists (Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, < a href="/reviews/Spike-Jonze">Spike Jonze) to venture past the cease-fire lines to get the loot. Gates is correct about the gold, and Saddam's forces are busy violently crushing uprisings among their own people. But Gates and his men are sickened by the sight of innocent civilians being terrorized. Instead of making a clean getaway they do what the Bush Administration did not; open fire to help the oppressed Iraqi rebels. Now,the accidental freedom-fighters have to race, shoot, and deal their way to safety.

Is it any good?

THREE KINGS was filmmaker David O. Russell's scorpion-stingingly cynical take on the American/Coalition military action Operation Desert Storm. Watched today, this gains an extra dimension from the 2003 "Operation Iraqi Freedom" war. Kids who have lived with the controversial second war might be a little confused about the issues that the 1999 film raises. The gore, action, dark humor, and suggestions that "Americans just don't get it" are still pretty applicable, in varying degrees.

The American characters say lines like "The war is over, I don't know what the f--k it was about," and "You guys call America the Great Satan, right?" All while generally exhibiting the sort of self-serving, stupid, and insensitive actions that have given the U.S. a bad name in the Arab-Islamic world. Much criticism is put into the mouth of an otherwise villainous character, an Iraqi military father whose wife was maimed and whose son was killed in U.S. bombing targeted at Saddam. He tortures one of Gates' comrades using what he says was the whole objective of U.S. meddling in Mideast politics: oil.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the film's politics and the way the main characters turn from glorified looters into humanitarians. While Saddam Hussein is never discussed as more than a despicable warlord (hated and feared by even his own legions), it's stated that the Iraqi people, on both sides, are ordinary people involved in a complicated struggle for power and survival that most Americans -- with mainly money and oil on their minds -- can't/won't/don't comprehend. The filmmakers find fault with the George Bush government for not supporting the anti-Saddam resistance in 1991. Families in Bush-supporting households can debate whether this is a fair charge or not, especially considering that another President Bush invaded the country to charge wholesale after Saddam ten years later. Why wasn't George Clooney cheering then?

Movie details

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