• Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2000
  • Running Time: 116 minutes

What parents need to know


Nonstop tension, many characters killed.


Very mild.


A few strong words.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some social drinking, smoking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that U-571 is an exceptionally intense and scary movie. Many people are brutally killed, including characters that the audience comes to care about.

What's the story?

U-571, a fictional story inspired by several different WWII incidents, follows a group of sailors who are trying to capture the German's Engima code machine, so that they can find out where the U-boats are headed in time to prevent them from sinking the Allies' supply ships. As the movie begins, Lt. Tyler (Matthew McConaughey) is bitter at not having been recommended for command. The Captain (Bill Paxton) explains that it is not enough that Tyler is willing to give his life for the men. He must be willing to order them to give their lives, and then he has to be able to live with the consequences. And he as to be able to do it "without pause, without reflection, or you've got no business being a submarine captain." Later, when Tyler and his men have taken over the U-Boat, and his first orders are tentative, Chief Klough (Harvey Keitel), the non-commissioned officer who has seen it all, takes him aside to tell him that "The skipper always knows what to do, whether he does or not." Tyler is confronted with decision after decision, forced to choose quickly and credibly among nothing but long shots.

Is it any good?


Minute for minute, U-571 is one of the most tense and exciting war movies ever made, with the crew on the brink of disaster and often several disasters at once, for most of the running time. Indeed, it's so busy being exciting that it is sometimes impossible to tell what is going on, especially since the sets are so dark, drippy, and claustrophobic and the dialogue so jargon-crammed. Still, as Lt. Tyler learns, it isn't enough to be brave, loyal, and honorable.

Submarines immediately grab our attention. They are isolated and vulnerable. Once they leave the dock, they become a world of their own, with no time to wait for orders when they get into trouble. In movies from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to Operation Petticoat, Crimson Tide and The Hunt for Red October, we see men who must make life and death decisions without time or information, and we get to think, as we lean back and eat our popcorn, about how we'd fare so deep below the surface. We get to see some terrific examples of problem-solving and moral choices.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how we develop the foundation of values and experience to enable us to make those choices. They should also talk about the difference between fiction and reality. The setting and the references to historical incidents like the capture of the Enigma may lead people who watch this movie to believe that it was based on a true story. It is not. It is based on pieces of several stories, mostly involving British, not American, sailors and soldiers, and it is heavily fictionalized, at times bearing more relation to Star Wars than it does to history.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:April 21, 2000
DVD/Streaming release date:October 24, 2000
Cast:Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, Matthew McConaughey
Director:Jonathan Mostow
Studio:Universal Pictures
Run time:116 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:war violence

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Teen, 16 years old Written bymoviemogul 2.0;... April 9, 2008

Yeah, it was ok...

It tired too hard to keep its audience tense, so as a result, it almost got boring because it was so repetitive with its explosions and "oh, are we going to make it past this Nazi blah-blah (ship, submarine, you name it). The plot was basically given to you in the begginning and there was a real lack of character evolution-- it was sort of introduced, but barely anything was done with it. So overall, if you want a TRULY tense war movie, not to mention a good one, I highly suggest "Saving Private Ryan" (though if you are a parent, you already know you don't want your kid watching that), or the other war classics: "Platoon" and "Full Metal Jacket".
Adult Written bySoccer08 April 9, 2008

Attention: WWII movie fans

U571 is a very good WWII portrayal of life on a submarine in combat. Mathew McConaughey does an excellent job as the executive officer on a US submarine disguised as a German U-boat. The American’s mission was to capture a disabled German U-boat in order to obtain the German encryption machine. This mission had to be completed in total secrecy or the effort would have been in vain. As the story unfolds, the American captain (Bill Paxton) is killed and McConaughey is left in charge of the U-Boat. The film is non-stop action as the Americans navigate their way through German occupied territory. High drama is abundant when the Americans run into a German destroyer that uncovers the mission and attacks their own U-boat. The ending is slightly predicable, but very good. Terrific marks to this short, but entertaining film.
Teen, 15 years old Written bybananalover March 23, 2011


best war movie ever. period
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great messages