Find the best for your family
See what's streaming, limit strong violence or language, and find picks your kids will love with Common Sense Media Plus.
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 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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
This movie is, though unique, a very good film (in my opinion). Though they might not all be obvious, there are many antiwar messages in Three Kings (including negative messages about Bush, so, if you're a Bush supporter, this might not be the movie for you) but along with that comes the very violent tone of the film. The 13+ rating is not necessarily for the gore and violence, but that the violence is not cheesy or overdone; it is sensitized and disturbingly realistic. So, I do advise this for teen+ viewers who are interested in the Iraq war (or, more specifically, what came after it) or just up for a good film, but I do warn anyone under 13 or who gets qweezy during gory scenes that this movie might bother you. Thanks for 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?
- In theaters: October 1, 1999
- On DVD or streaming: April 11, 2000
- Cast: George Clooney, Ice Cube, Mark Wahlberg
- Director: David O. Russell
- Studio: Warner Home Video
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: graphic war violence, language and some sexuality
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
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.