Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Compelling but uneven dramedy has swearing, drinking, more.
  • R
  • 2016
  • 111 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Amid the chaos of life in a war zone (which is unstable at best and shows characters dealing with their circumstances through drinking, drugs, and casual sex) is the idea that it's never too late to reinvent yourself.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Flawed, headstrong, and sometimes reckless, Kim is nonetheless good at her job; she's unafraid to ask the questions that need to be asked and is willing to train her own journalistic eye on herself. But overall, characters make lots of choices that are iffy at best. Also, two of the more prominent Afghan characters are played by Caucasian actors.


Frequent, much in a war context. Land mines explode, mortar shells go off, people are dismembered and killed, gunfights, men scream at women about how they dress on the streets, and more. Demonstrations sometimes get violent, too.


Kissing, groping, and making out. Nudity limited to bare shoulders under a sheet. Brief snippets of porn are glimpsed on a computer screen. Frank talk about people needing to have sex with others to pass the time in Kabul.


Nearly constant use of everything from ""f--k" and "c--t" to "ass," "bulls--t," "p---y," and more.


Brands/labels seen/mentioned include Mercedes-Benz, North Face, and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lots of drinking; it seems to be what sustains and/or comforts many war correspondents. Cocaine is spotted at parties; partiers also smoke with hookahs.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a dramedy based on journalist Kim Barker's memoir The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Despite starring Tina Fey, the movie is by no means all laughs; rather, it's a fairly unflinching look at life in a war zone, including bombings and gunfights (some of which result in deaths), as well as political instability (as characterized in tension-filled scenes that show sometimes-violent demonstrations) and the ways in which journalists cope in such unstable conditions -- methods that include lots of alcohol and dangerous career decisions. Expect tons of swearing (including "f--k" and more), plus hard drinking (with an occasional foray into cocaine), innuendo, kissing/groping, a quick glimpse of porn on a computer screen, and implied sex. The film has also drawn some controversy for casting white actors as as some of the Afghan characters.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 13-year-old Written byPrincess L. April 21, 2017
Parent Written byKatherine T. March 30, 2017

Iffy for 17+

True story about a journalist who is in Afghanistan
Kid, 10 years old October 14, 2019
Teen, 15 years old Written byChloe's sweets March 13, 2017

17 and up

I think this movie is recommended for a 17 the language is has 40 f words and 39 of the p words

What's the story?

Tina Fey stars in WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT (which is how you'd spell "WTF" using the military alphabet) as Kim Barker, a TV news writer who jumps at the chance to become a war reporter in Afghanistan in the mid-2000s when her life hits a standstill. The ramp-up to the job is steep and dangerous; staying alive even more so. And then there's the challenge of staying grounded to who you are and what you really want out of life when you're faced with abject poverty, violence, and terror. The cast also includes Alfred MolinaBilly Bob ThorntonMargot Robbie, and Martin Freeman.

Is it any good?

It's by no means perfect, but in some ways, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot goes further than other films in communicating what the war correspondent experience really is like. It doesn't just reveal the highs -- the journalistic scoops, the adrenaline-spiking wins -- it also frankly deals with the some of the lows, primarily the chaos and dislocation that both soldiers and the media encounter when dropped into embattled countries like Afghanistan. But here's where the film taps out: capturing what happens when they're settled in, so to speak. Though it does show the characters slowly normalizing what's a decidedly not-normal existence, it would seem -- at least based on what we see here -- that the usual way anyone copes in such circumstances is through drinking, drugs, and casual sex. No doubt that's likely accurate, but there's an inordinate focus on that stuff (even though the film takes great pains to impart the fact that such extracurriculars don't really work that well, or for long) when larger questions loom: How do journalists' expectations and approach to their work shift when they witness the day-to-day existence of the citizens in the country they cover? How do they maintain ties back home? Can they?

Also problematic, though not enough for it to entirely detract from the film's strengths, is the tone. The yearning to keep things light when making a movie about a subject so dark is understandable. But Whiskey tries too hard to do so, giving it a more-dangerous-and-with-bigger-stakes Eat Pray Love vibe that it doesn't deserve. Fey is winning, displaying a burgeoning ability to balance both pathos and comedy, but treading that line isn't always successful, and the movie's humor chips away at some of the potency of the more serious moments. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is worth a watch, but it could have been more of a contender.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Whiskey Tango Foxtrot depicts life in a war zone -- for both the soldiers and the journalists. Is one group portrayed more sympathetically than the other? Are there any additional perspectives taken into account?

  • What role does violence play in the story? How does the impact of violent scenes in a movie like this compare to those in an action film?

  • How is drinking portrayed in the movie? How do the characters feel about drinking/other substances? Is that a healthy situation?

  • Did you learn anything from the film that you didn't know from the news? Why do you think Kim decides to become a war correspondent?

  • Did you notice that some Afghan characters were played by Caucasian actors? Does that matter? Why or why not?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

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