A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
- In theaters: June 3, 1983
- On DVD or streaming: 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
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
For kids who love action and strategy games
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.