A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Bonds of loyalty, trust, and affection can come from unexpected places, especially if you give people the chance to prove themselves. In a team, people are often capable of more than you think, so don't judge too soon.
Positive Role Models
Mattie is smart and brave, won't give up even in the worst circumstances, and can more than hold her own against older, intimidating, even villainous men. Rooster Cogburn is gruff and a heavy drinker, but once you've earned his respect and trust, there's nothing he won't do for you. At first La Boeuf seems to care only about his own interests, but he learns to work together with the others and proves his utmost loyalty in the end.
Mattie is a quick-witted and self-assured teen girl who has agency, though she needs to be saved by a man in the end. Main characters are all White, while the characters of color who do appear are stereotypical, often serving as punchlines. For example, a White lawyer jokes that he can't tell Rooster's Chinese friend, Chen Lee, from a cat; upon seeing a friend's Native American barber, Rooster jokes that he's seen "plenty of Indian scalps on Indian belts." Black character Yarnell is Mattie's servant, and a Mexican character nicknamed "Dirty Bob" is part of the villain's gang. Main character Rooster has only one eye, but his disability doesn't interfere with him being strong and brave. (One man refers to him as "a one-eyed fat man" to rile him up in a gunfight.)
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Violence & Scariness
Nonstop gun violence throughout includes very loud shoot-outs, with many people shot to death -- bright red blood is visible. A long and gruesome scene shows a drunk man getting into a fight; another man cuts off his fingers and stabs him in the chest. Severed fingers and blood are shown, and the drunk man dies a painful death while crying out. A public hanging shows dangling legs from below the gallows. Multiple scenes where men pin Mattie down to kidnap her -- she screams and tries to fight back -- and a much older man tells Mattie, "I thought of stealing a kiss from you, although you are very young and unattractive to boot! But now I'd sooner give you some licks with my belt!" He whips her clothed bottom with a branch as she screams. A character falls into a skeleton-filled pit and gets bitten by a rattlesnake. Rat and turkey carcasses are shown. A horse collapses from exhaustion and dies. (Spoiler alert!) An important character dies.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
An adult man tells a teen girl that he'd thought about kissing her but might just spank her instead (more details in Violence & Scariness section).
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"Bastard," "damn," and "son of a bitch."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Rooster drinks throughout from jugs or bottles, sometimes slurs his speech, and once falls off his horse. Other men also drink. A scene set in a saloon includes gambling and lots of alcohol.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that True Grit (1969) is a classic American Western. After decades as a top box-office draw, John Wayne received a Best Actor Oscar for his performance as Rooster. Expect frequent peril and suspense, gunfights, bloody deaths, and a gory scene in which severed fingers are shown. A grown man much older than a teen girl mentions that he thought about kissing and spanking her. Language includes "bastard," "damn," and "son of a bitch." The main male characters are "tough guys" who drink and fight. Rooster frequently drinks alcohol. Mattie disapproves and tries to get him to stop. Despite his drinking habit, Rooster -- along with other main characters -- are generally good role models. They're courageous and capable of teamwork, and they don't give up when the going gets tough. This movie is a solid introduction to the Western genre and to what made Wayne a Hollywood icon. But its racist portrayals of Black, Mexican, Chinese, and Native American characters, as well as its scenes of sexual harassment, may require off-screen discussions. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This is an entertaining American Western classic. True Grit combines action, suspense, fascinating characters, and spectacular landscapes, serving as a textbook introduction to the genre -- and to its star, Wayne, who won his only Oscar for his role here as Rooster. Depicted as his equal, teen Mattie is a remarkable lead who feels ahead of her time. Audiences will enjoy watching her put older men who bully her in their place, as she more than holds her own. Darby's captivating portrayal of the character is the movie's brightest spot. That said, other aspects of the film, such as sexually charged violence against a young woman and racist characterizations, are tougher to watch.
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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.
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Our Editors Recommend
Westerns for Kids and Teens
Excellent Adventure Movies for Family Fun
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