A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
An effort is made here to de-romanticize violence as it is usually shown in Western movies. Killing is seen to take a toll on the perpetrator as well as the victim. The message is that it's not easy to shoot and kill another living being "unless you have no conscience." There is also a solid effort to illustrate moral ambiguity: the sheriff, who believes in upholding justice and fairness, is also sadistic and evil when he loses his temper. On the other hand, the ferocious, violent gunslinger has a softer, moral side and fights to be a better person. The women are prostitutes, but are shown working together to fight for their safety and a semblance of dignity and respect.
Violence & Scariness
Graphic killings, beatings, knifings, and mayhem throughout. Opening sequence shows a prostitute being slashed in the face. Men are ambushed, shot at point-blank range, beaten ferociously, kicked, and whipped. Men and women are hit with fists, knocked to the ground. A man is shot multiple times while sitting in an outhouse. A dead man is shown hanging on a sign. A sheriff loses his temper and is seen as violently out of control on several occasions.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Primary female roles in the film are prostitutes. The action is precipitated by an angry "client" graphically slashing one of these prostitutes during a sexual encounter. Several scenes show the women negotiating for and in the early or late stages of sexual activity with randy cowboys. These women are treated as "property" and have few rights as citizens. They live in fear and are greatly disrespected, but strive to find some dignity and worth. There is no nudity.
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Harsh swearing and cursing throughout: many forms of "f--k," "ass," "piss," "hell," "bitch," "dick," "hump," "whore," "pecker," "for Christ's sake," "goddamn it," "Jesus," and more.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Numerous occasions in which men swig liquor directly from a bottle; drinking whiskey is seen as an integral part of the culture of the Old West. There is much discussion of drunkenness and the resulting immoral, often violent behavior.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this movie contains multiple scenes of point-blank gunfire, vicious close-up beatings (including bull-whipping a man's bare back and repeatedly kicking a fallen man in the face), slashing of a woman's face, and a man shot dead while sitting in an outhouse. The language is coarse throughout. The women at the center of this film are prostitutes who are depicted as "property" rather than human beings. One scene shows a sexual act, though the participants are mostly clothed. Other suggestive scenes show the men negotiating for sexual favors. Alcohol is consumed in several sequences. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Clint Eastwood's career as a filmmaker and director soared with the release of this hauntingly memorable film. Winning Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director, among others, UNFORGIVEN offers an original, thought-provoking, and gritty look at the true nature of violence, morality, and justice. Heroes are flawed; villains are complex. The act of taking a life has seldom been examined in action movies and Westerns. In this one, the consequences of that act override the deed itself: "Killing a man... it don't seem real... how he ain't gonna never breathe again, ever." And, "it's a hell of a thing, killing a man -- you take away all he's got, all he's ever gonna have."
Screenplay, performances, direction, cinematography, and music combine to create a different kind of Western, one that made a significant change in an All-American genre.
Did we miss something on diversity?
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.