A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Father and son mutually disrespectful; people afraid, selfish, and violent.
Violence & Scariness
Aliens attack; humans evaporated, exploded, de-blooded, floating en masses in a river, and sucked up.
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Abrupt and passionate.
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Products & Purchases
Generic products referenced.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this movie features repeated violence by frightening, spider-legged and penetrative machines, in particular directed against a 10-year-old girl. Her high-pitched screams and tears might alarm younger viewers. The aliens blow up streets, buildings, and cars, explode or zap some humans into dust, and literally suck the blood out of others (this last occurs in long shot, but it's clear what's going on). In one scary scene, a mob of humans attack Ray and his kids in their car (again, the girl's reaction is disquieting). The movie also includes some harsh language, tense scenes between Ray and his son, and Ray and his ex-wife, and Ray commits what he sees as a necessary murder off-screen. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Gangbusters effects and terrific camerawork propel Steven Spielberg's film well into its last act, when it runs out of energy and ideas. This collapse is especially disappointing because War of the Worlds begins as a provocative look at how terror affects family and community, that is, something more complicated than an explosion movie. If the first part of the film offers an absorbingly detailed look at the family's dysfunction, the ride in the minivan tightens the focus, as they struggle to make sense of the disaster unfolding around them. "Is it terrorists?" asks Rob. No, says Dad, this "came from someplace else." Rob tries again: "What do you mean, like Europe?" This brief comedy only sharpens the scares that follow, not all caused by aliens. Indeed, two of the most awful scenes involve people fighting each other.
This and other particulars -- a monstrous surveillance eye on a sinuous, seemingly endless arm invades Harlan's basement; clothes from disintegrated victims float through tree branches; a peanut butter sandwich Ray has thrown at the kitchen window slides almost imperceptibly down the glass as he wonders what to do next; Ray asks a man who appears to have survived a plane crash, "Are you a passenger?" -- create a potent mix of recognizable and fantastic moments. The film's last minute breakdown is really the loss of such clever details.
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Our Editors Recommend
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