War of the Worlds

  • Review Date: November 18, 2005
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Release Year: 2005
  • Running Time: 117 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Alien invasion thriller too scary for young kids.
  • Review Date: November 18, 2005
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Release Year: 2005
  • Running Time: 117 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Father and son mutually disrespectful; people afraid, selfish, and violent.


Aliens attack; humans evaporated, exploded, de-blooded, floating en masses in a river, and sucked up.

Not applicable

Abrupt and passionate.


Generic products referenced.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some drinking.

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.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

WAR OF THE WORLDS stars Tom Cruise as Ray, a disheartened, divorced father, taking care of his two children -- 10-year-old Rachel (Dakota Fanning) and 15-ish brother Robbie (Justin Chatwin) -- for the weekend. A brief game of backyard catch reveals immediately that Robbie resents his dad's absence and selfishness. But the domestic strife soon takes a backseat to the gargantuan trauma brought on by an alien invasion -- lightning strikes awaken towering Tripods, machines on long spider legs that push up from under the streets of Bayonne, NJ, the pavement buckling and cracking as people, including Ray, watch in astonishment. It's the watching that dooms them initially: they can't anticipate that the machines will, seconds later, be detonating buildings and zapping human targets into a dust that recalls the white detritus that clung to survivors of the 9/11 attacks in NYC. What comes next is a prolonged look at unthinkable devastation, framed by one family's reactions. In part, this focus is achieved by Ray's quick thinking -- he steals the only working vehicle in sight, determined to drive the kids to their mother in Boston, imagining against odds that this end will provide safety.

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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the conflict between Ray and his teenaged son, which ignites several arguments: the boy doesn't trust his emotionally distant father, and resents his seeming selfishness in trying to save the family only and not seeking revenge against the aliens. This raises another issue, as the film's images of invasion allude to 9/11, as well as subsequent fears. How does the movie compare Ray's reaction to that of a survivalist holed up in his basement? How does Ray learn to be a more committed father by paying attention to his kids? How does the film marginalize the kids' mother, and to what effects for viewers?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 29, 2005
DVD release date:November 22, 2005
Cast:Dakota Fanning, Tim Robbins, Tom Cruise
Director:Steven Spielberg
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Genre:Science Fiction
Run time:117 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:frightening sequences of sci-fi violence and disturbing images

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Written byAnonymous October 1, 2014

War of the Worlds review

========================================================= Sex/Nudity: None. ========================================================= Violence: Ray and Robbie progressively throw a baseball at each other harder during a game of catch (while not getting along), resulting in Ray's throw eventually going through and breaking a window. Ray and others watch as a small crater in the middle of town starts to crack open and then grow in all directions. The cracks eventually go up and through various buildings and knock down people standing nearby. This continues to get worse (with thunderous bass being heard/felt), with everyone panicking and fleeing as the church steeple falls off, the crater suddenly grows upward and then collapses down into a deeper hole, and a car then flies through the air and lands on another car, nearly hitting some nearby people. Some enormous, pod "fingers" come out of the crater, smashing a car near Ray. What looks like a spaceship then emerges from the crater, but it's really the main top section of what turns out to be a towering, alien "tripod" war machine. Mass panic ensues as the tripod fires energy blasts that vaporize many people (no blood and mostly seen from a distance, but one moderate close-up shows a person quickly turning into vapor) and destroys lots of property. Ray tries to race to safety while people and buildings around him are hit. A mechanic is vaporized. As Ray tries to drive his kids to safety, we see enormous amounts of destruction occurring behind him from the tripods, including an elevated expressway (bridge) being completely demolished, along with nearby homes. We see news video footage of tripods destroying buildings in other parts of the world. As Ray tries to drive through throngs of survivors who are on foot, a few of them bang the van he's driving. More surround the van, with some jumping on the hood, resulting in Ray gunning the van, throwing one such person hard to the street. Someone throws something that smashes into the windshield, with Ray then swerving to avoid a mother and child in front of him, causing him to crash into a utility pole. The throngs of people then attack the van, with one tearing at the hole in the windshield with his bare hands and others pulling Robbie and Ray from it. Trying to save Rachel, Ray kicks one man and punches another but is then hit on the head. He then pulls his gun and fires it into the air several times to make everyone stop. They do, but a stranger then holds his gun to Ray's head, telling him to drop his gun. Ray does and retrieves Rachel (who initially tried to get out but couldn't) and they and Robbie then hear more gunshots and then see throngs of people on and inside the van, with one man shooting his handgun pointblank at those inside (we don't see the impact). As a ferry suddenly speeds away from the dock, the engines blast many people with water and the large moorings on the dock are torn lose and slam into several people. An enormous whirlpool forms near a ferry carrying people and cars. A tripod then slowly emerges from the water, causing the ferry to turn sideways, dumping people and cars into the water (with the latter nearly hitting the former as they jump off). A car crashes down and shoves Ray and his kids under the water (we see panicked people inside as water fills the car), while long cables from the towering tripod start snatching people out of the water and yanking them way up into the night sky (with Ray and his family trying to swim away and avoid being picked up). From a distance, Ray and his kids see Tripods vaporizing more people, and are then nearly stepped on themselves by one of the tripods. We hear the sounds and see flashes of light from an enormous battle just over the top of a hill between the tripods and the U.S. military (that's shooting at them with tanks and missiles, etc.). Ogilvy prepares his shotgun to attack some aliens that are in his basement, but Ray silently implores him not to. The two then silently struggle over the shotgun, with Ogilvy finally overpowering Ray and pushing him down to the floor with the shotgun that both hold (as the aliens are very close to them). We see a blade pop out from a tripod's tentacle and then thrust down toward a body partially hidden behind a tractor. We don't see the impact, but do see the legs move from it, as well as bodily fluids being sucked up through the tentacle to the tripod base. Ogilvy hits Ray on the head with a shovel. We hear the sounds of some muffled violence behind a closed door, and it's implied that Ray's killed or otherwise incapacitated another person whose actions are endangering Ray and Rachel's lives. The large, snake-like probe has suddenly returned and is right in Rachel's face. Ray then springs to action, repeatedly whacking the metallic probe with an ax, nearly severing its "head." A tripod's tentacle comes after Ray who tries hiding in a truck, but the tentacle blasts through it, lifts it off the ground and spins it around several times. It then picks up Rachel and then Ray after the latter throws a grenade at it. Several grenades detonate inside a tripod, causing it to blow apart. Some large cages holding humans then drop down from that and land in some trees. Rockets/Missiles are repeatedly fired into a tripod, causing part of it to blow up and then fall into a large building, demolishing it (with the wreckage nearly hitting some people who scramble out of the way just in time). 7/10. ========================================================= Blood/Gore: Various people are vaporized by laser blasts from the alien tripods, but being looking like they instantaneously turn to dust, there's no usual blood or gore with such moments. Ray has what looks like dried/caked blood on his head following the initial attack. Rachel states she has to pee and runs off to do so, but we never see that occur. However, she then spots a body floating by in a river (seen from a distance with no blood/gore) that's followed by many more bodies. Robbie has a bloody nose following people attacking the van he was in. We see some bloody scrapes on Ray's face. Ogilvy has some bloody scrapes on his face and then more a bit later. We see a blade pop out from a tripod's tentacle and then thrust down toward a body partially hidden behind a tractor. We don't see the impact, but do see the legs move from it, as well as bodily fluids being sucked up through the tentacle to the tripod base. Ray has more bloody scrapes on his face. Some thick, orangey liquid pours out of a tripod, but it's never identified what it is (alien blood, human bodily fluids earlier seen sucked up into the base, or some sort of mechanical fluid, etc.). 6/10. ========================================================= Profanity: At least 10 "s" words, 1 slang term for male genitals ("d*ck"), 5 hells, 2 asses (1 used with "hole"), and 7 uses of "Jesus," 6 of "G-damn," 3 of "Oh my God" and 1 use each of "For God's sakes," "God" and "My God" as exclamations. 5.5/10. ========================================================= Alcohol/Drugs: Ogilvy and Ray briefly have some peach schnapps. 0.5/10. ========================================================= Smoking: None. ========================================================= While not one of Steven Spielberg's better films, War of the Worlds is still worth watching. I give it a 6.5/10. =========================================================
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 11 years old July 3, 2010

perfect for tweens

LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Teen, 13 years old Written bytaylorlaunterluver July 6, 2010
very scary scenes many dead ppl throught the movie wudnt recomend for 10 year olds and younger but for tweenes its just fine
What other families should know
Too much violence
Parent of a 12 and 18 year old Written bytbaudler1410 April 19, 2009


Very good but not scary or bad


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