Twelve O'Clock High

Movie review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
Twelve O'Clock High Movie Poster Image
Gripping psychological war drama has more talk than action.
  • NR
  • 1949
  • 132 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Leadership; teamwork; loyalty; courage; patriotism.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters are complex and varied. Many have high standards for themselves and others and are dedicated and courageous. Some falter in the face of terrible odds but stay in spite of the option to transfer out.


Wartime violence includes discussions of death or injuries (a blown-off arm; discussions of the number of men killed; a reference to frozen blood on an airplane windshield; scenes of wounded recovering but no blood shown). Exterior shots from a distance of planes blowing up, bombs dropping.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Casual smoking of cigarettes and pipes throughout; casual drinking while characters strategize in bars. Discussions of being drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Twelve O'Clock High is a 1949 WWII film in black and white about daylight bombers. There's casual era-specific drinking and smoking, wartime violence with no bloodshed but references to death, and exterior shots of planes blowing up. It focuses more heavily on the psychological effects of war and turning a hard-luck crew into a fighting machine than high-action scenes: There's a lot of extensive strategizing and talking, with only a few scenes of action out of 132 minutes. A gripping look at war, but not likely to keep the attention of young kids. Best for teens or older.

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What's the story?

The tough General Frank Savage (Gregory Peck) must turn a bomber unit facing low morale into a lean, mean fighting machine.

Is it any good?

TWELVE O'CLOCK HIGH is a gripping action-drama that focuses on the psychological effects of war. For kids who like war history, there's much to engage with here: an exploration of heroism, motivation, patriotism, and courage based on a real unit of bombers stationed in England in early WWII who learned to master daylight-precision bombing in raids over Germany in spite of terrible odds and low morale. The violence is incredibly tame, with mostly references to the dead or the occasional shot of a plane blowing up, and no blood. There's no profanity, and smoking and drinking are faithful to the era. That said, this movie focuses heavily on the details and strategizing involved in the planning of war and, as such, likely will not keep the attention of younger kids, much less anyone not already fascinated by the drama of war.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how this film depicts war compared to films of today. How is it different? How is it similar?

  • This film discusses death and shows planes blowing up, but does it seem violent to you? Why, or why not?

  • Do you think this film glorifies war? Why, or why not?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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