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WarGames

Suspenseful Cold War tale with teen gamer in control.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Release Year: 1983
  • Running Time: 114 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Strongly promotes that idea that there are no winners in a nuclear war. Along with that, the story shows the consequences of putting too much power into the hands of machines, without the fail safe of human wisdom and compassion.

Positive role models

A brilliantly obsessive high school student is never punished for infractions such as hacking into a computer to change a grade or rigging the system to fool his parents and school officials. He’s a boy without a moral compass until he learns a hard lesson. Lots of ethnic diversity among law enforcement and authorities, portrayed as basically honest, hardworking and doing their best. David has relatively clueless but well-meaning parents.

Violence

Heightened suspense as missiles are nearly launched to set off a nuclear war. One character holds a gun to another man's head; a speeding car crashes through a gate. The young hero is taken into custody and narrowly escapes in time to save the day.

Sex

A couple of teen kisses.

Language

Considerable amount of swearing and obscenities: "bulls--t," "hell," "Goddamn," "a--hole," "bastard," "piss," "screwed," "Jesus Christ," "pr--k."

Consumerism

Lots of products seen, mostly in background: Century 21, Tab, 7-Eleven, State Farm insurance, Chevrolet, Budweiser, Coors, Horizon Air, Exxon, Pepsi, Sega.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Several characters smoke cigarettes.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that WarGames is a suspense-filled drama that will appeal to older kids, teens, and grownups. While there’s no violent action and the film delivers a sound message, it's a race against time -- nuclear weapons are about to be launched. Young heroes face off against the FBI and the military; war and peace hang in the balance. There's frequent swearing and use of some obscenities, as well as product placement throughout.

What's the story?

America comes to the brink of World War III when a teenager accidentally hacks into a military computer. The story begins when computer gamer David (Matthew Broderick) accidentally cracks into the Pentagon's computer system and starts to play the game Global Thermonuclear War. But the game is real, and the fate of the world is at stake, leaving David, his friend Jennifer (Ally Sheedy), and government official McKittrick (Dabney Coleman) are in a race to stop the Pentagon computer from bombing Russia.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

Although dated in appearance, this clever and suspenseful movie questions both an overreliance on technology and the Reagan-era defense policy. This movie makes a strong case against nuclear war, portraying it as a game of brinksmanship with no winners. It also warns against leaving the responsibility of starting a nuclear war to artificial intelligence technology. The final sequence dramatizes these dangers with simulated explosions on wall-sized screens.

Nevertheless, WarGames manages to have fun with a very serious topic. The overall atmosphere of the movie is playful, as kids ride their bikes from house to house while the fate of the world rests in their hands. The Pacman-era technology may seem hokey by today's standards, but the military command center, with its multiple screens, is still impressive. Ironically, much of the "computer" simulation was accomplished with good old-fashioned animation. The movie anticipates various technological advances, most notably the explosion of the Internet. Teens interested in computers and game theory will find much to enjoy.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Cold War history. Also, while the movie is dated, it might be provide a way to talk about the current war and to ask your kids about their own fears.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 3, 1983
DVD/Streaming release date:April 28, 1998
Cast:Ally Sheedy, Dabney Coleman, Matthew Broderick
Director:John Badham
Studio:MGM/UA
Genre:Science Fiction
Topics:Adventures, Great boy role models, Great girl role models
Run time:114 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:thematic intensity

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Teen, 13 years old Written by9001 March 16, 2010

Iffy for ages 12-15.

I'm very surprised and disappointed with both the MPAA rating and the CSM rating. This movie has a TON of language, I was shocked to here so much swearing in a PG movie. This movie contains every, or almost every non-sexually derived swear word, and plenty of it. "PG for thematic intensity"? PLEASE. I've seen language mentioned in a PG movie for mild language such as "d--n" or "h--l". But yet they just happen not to mention language in a PG movie that has more language than many PG-13 movies? Wow. But yes, this movie definitely contains thematic intensity. My main concern would be the strong language and the scene of a sexually-themed biology class. Iffy for ages 12-15, off for 11 and under.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008

Suspenseful, classic, but language is unavoidable.

I like this movie, for being a tolerable family movie for it's time. Even more, my dad's best friend's great-uncle was the General at NORAD at that time. Suspense is a good factor of this movie, hackers may not want to risk starting a nuclear war because of this. Funny, but watch out, language is present in this movie.
Educator Written byJust saying November 27, 2010

Great discussion starter for our tech age

I love this movie, with its message that "mutual assured destruction" is indeed MAD, and that humans cannot let machines make decisions for them. There is no foolproof algorithm.
What other families should know
Great messages