White House Down

Patriotic thriller is ridiculous, violent, and entertaining.
  • Review Date: June 26, 2013
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 127 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie has a strong patriotic message, but it's a bit conflicted, as some characters consider it the president's duty to be hawkish and kill all enemies, while others are for diplomacy. Sacrifice is also discussed again and again -- both positively (the importance of saving one person) and negatively (who cares whether we bomb an entire nation if its leaders are a threat to the United States?). Trust is a theme as well, and there's a strong father-daughter relationship in the movie.

Positive role models

John Cale has made mistakes in the past, but now he's committed -- to his daughter, to his country, and to his president (even though it's not his job to protect him). The president is a righteous man who wants to make a difference, not just make a name for himself. Both use violence as a means to solve problems. Emily, who's only 11, is incredibly brave and stands up to the armed hostage-takers on several occasions and even video tapes them and uploads the footage with her smartphone. Various members of the Secret Service and the armed forces do their duty admirably, but the mercenaries and the folks behind the takeover act without honor or care for human life.


Similarly to movies like Independence Day, there's lots of violence and an extremely high body count (collateral damage), but there are only a few bloody injuries. People die of bullet wounds, explosions, or blunt force. The weapons range from hand and machine guns to grenades and anti-aircraft missiles, military helicopters, and nuclear missiles. There are also a few hand-to-hand battles and various scenes of executions or close-range murders. Civilians, including an 11-year-old girl and a school group, are held hostage and threatened.


High-tech thermal equipment briefly reveals (through a building) the outline of two people on top of each other (sex is implied).


One "f--k you," plus "a--hole," "s--t," "bitch" (referring to a little girl), "prick," "hell," "damn," "goddamn," "oh my God" (as an exclamation), and insults including "idiot" and "old man."


Cars in the president's fleet include a Cadillac limousine and several Chevy Suburbans. Other product placements prominently mentioned or shown include Sony VAIO laptop, Nike sneakers, and Nicorette gum. The director's other White House movie, Independence Day, is overtly referenced.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The president chews Nicorette gum and is obviously a former smoker. A staffer for the vice president drinks on a plane.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that White House Down is a patriotic thriller in the vein of Olympus Has Fallen and Independence Dayin which the country is saved by one brave man with a gun -- in this case Channing Tatum. Like Independence Day, which was also directed by Roland Emmerich, there's a lot of violence, but most of it is on a grand scale -- explosions, helicopters/planes crashing, and deaths the audience doesn't see too up close. There are a few hand-to-hand combat scenes and a tense hostage situation in which people (some in high levels of the administration) are executed or wounded. A young girl is frequently in danger and is almost killed on a couple of occasions (which ups the movie's intensity level), and the president seems dead. There's absolutely no sex or romance, but there's some language, including a single "f--k you," plus "s--t," "bitch," and "a--hole." Ultimately it's a crowd-pleasing action movie with a well-intentioned but slightly contradictory message involving both peace and the importance of armed defense.

What's the story?

Progressive U.S. President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) is on the precipice of negotiating peace in the Middle East, and Capitol police officer John Cale (Channing Tatum) is at the White House in hopes of landing a Secret Service job. Cale's application is rejected, but he sticks around to accompany his politics-obsessed daughter, Emily (Joey King), on a tour of the White House. While the Cales enjoy their tour, the hawkish retiring head of the president's Secret Service detail (James Woods) orchestrates the bloody takeover of the White House with the aid of an extremist crew of paramilitary mercenaries led by disgraced Delta Force operator Emil Stenz (Jason Clarke). In the right place to make a difference, Cale is the sole person inside the White House with the experience to save President Sawyer, but he must also find a way to protect Emily before the terrorists destroy the nation's biggest symbol.

Is it any good?


Judged by the merits of serious filmmaking, the legends of the craft, and the movies that go down in history as being powerful or groundbreaking or novel, WHITE HOUSE DOWN is a by-the-numbers flop of a thriller. It's completely unoriginal (it's not even the first "White House is taken over" movie of 2013!) and derivative; the plot is illogical and the action preposterous (how can not one military-trained armed guard get a shot off, even in a surprise siege?). But. It's also one of those explosion-filled summer popcorn movies that make you succumb to the charm of its cast, the humor of the dialogue, and the over-the-top sequences of one man defeating a room of  machine gun-armed mercenaries.

Some movies are so silly you can't help but smile -- so ridiculous it doesn't even matter how impeachable the movie is on almost every level, because it's amusing and makes good use of its stars. People will laugh when they're not meant to, mostly because it looks like Tatum and Foxx (who, despite what he's said in the press, looks very much like he's doing an impression of an Obama-esque Commander in Chief) are having so much fun. The bits of humor (shoeless President Sawyer looks into his closet for wingtips and then changes into Air Jordans instead; later, he says "the pen IS mightier" when sticking it to a baddie with his presidential fountain pen), the well-choreographed action, and the performances -- from the irresistible Tatum, to the fabulous Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty) and Woods as villains, to Maggie Gyllenhaal as the Secret Service agent trying desperately to help -- will make up for this crowd-pleaser's many failings.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the amount of violence in White House Down. Does any of it seem realistic? How does that affect its impact?

  • How does seeing the destruction of national landmarks like the White House and the Capitol affect you? Is it more disturbing than when random buildings explode in movies?

  • Talk about which historical facts/trivia nuggets you learned about the White House and the presidency. Is the immediate line of presidential secession clearer now that you've seen it played out on screen? What did you think about the jockeying for control between the Secret Service and the military/joint chiefs of staff?

  • How does the movie's depiction of domestic terrorists and military mercenaries differ from other threats to the White House in previous movies/TV shows?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 28, 2013
DVD release date:November 5, 2013
Cast:Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Director:Roland Emmerich
Studio:Columbia Pictures
Run time:127 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:prolonged sequences of action and violence including intense gunfire and explosions, some language and a brief sexual image

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Written byAnonymous October 10, 2014
age 12+

White House Down review

========================================================= Sex/Nudity: An infrared scan is made through a sniper rifle scope of a suspicious apartment near the White House. But it turns out to show a couple having sex missionary style (we just see their heat signatures in human body form, but the view is from a distance and very brief). A woman John knows tell him he must promise her dinner and that he'll try to get to second base with her. Carol shows a tiny bit of cleavage. 4/10. ========================================================= Violence: We see that a terrorist acting as a janitor has a bomb. He then wheels that into the Capitol rotunda and leaves it there as its timer ticks down. That's followed by a massive explosion that presumably kills many people and wounds more, while also blowing out the glass panels on the Capitol Dome via a huge fireball. We later see the dome on fire, followed by it collapsing in an even later scene. We see a painting of the British burning of the White House in 1812, along with armed soldiers standing around. We see some explosions on a film playing in the White House theater. Stenz repeatedly shoots a person in the White House followed by him and his team doing the same to others (shooting and killing many people -- but with no viewed bloody results). Some of Stenz's team shoots and kills Secret Service snipers atop the White House and then use their sniper rifles to shoot some people down on the ground. Emily hides as she sees the terrorists shoot various people with machine guns inside the White House. Killick shoots people with a machine gun and then tries shooting John who runs for cover, barely avoiding the bullets. A bad guy fires a large machine gun at a news helicopter. A bad guy shoots a machine gun at John who then shoots that man with his handgun (the terrorist's machine gun fires wildly but hits no one), followed by John kicking that man's body in anger. Walker shoots and kills many of his own men, followed by John firing at him so that President Sawyer can escape (while Walker also fires back at John). John hits one bad guy, uses the machine gun of a second to shoot a third, and then hits another bad guy. John and various bad guys engage in a machine gun battle. Stenz shoots and kills the Secretary of Defense. Killick spots Emily and she hides in a closet where she tries to upload a photo she's taken of him and other bad guys. He then threatens to shoot into that closet, prompting her to come out. He then grabs her and takes her into another room of hostages where he throws her to the floor. Donnie tries to ask Killick to be careful around the priceless pieces of art in the White House, prompting Killick to break a vase on purpose. John shoots two bad guys and gets into a hard fight with another in a kitchen in the White House (with lots of blows and smashing into things while John also avoids being shot with a machine gun and handgun), all while President Sawyer kicks another bad guy in the face to get his machine gun. President Sawyer then aims that at John and the bad guy, and riddles the latter after John elbows the villain in the face and gets away from him. Stenz hits Emily on the head and then holds a handgun on her and Donnie. Walker hears President Sawyer and John who are hiding in a dumbwaiter. John fires up at Walker when he peers down into that shaft. President Sawyer and John discover a way out through a tunnel has been wired with explosives, with the bad guys alerted to their location. The latter run that way, all while John shoots at them as he and President Sawyer try to get through another locked door. President Sawyer and John blast out of the White House in an armored limo, with the bad guys shooting at them with machine guns and then giving chase in other vehicles, resulting in lots of driving around in circles on the White House grounds. One vehicles smacks into their limo, while a huge machine gun blasts it from another. During the chase, one vehicle has a severe crash, while a nearby Army tank is called into service and fires at those on the roof of the White House. They then fire back with an RPG that hits the tank and explodes, disabling it. Another RPG is fired at the limo, barely missing it, while President Sawyer retries a rocket launcher from inside the limo and shoots one of the White House gates. But another RPG hits the limo and flips it over into a swimming pool where it sinks. President Sawyer and John get out (with the latter holding a gun on the President to keep the villains at bay), with President Sawyer then throwing a grenade at the bad guys who flee to avoid the explosion. President Sawyer and John run back inside the White House, with the bad guys then riddling that room with machine gun fire, not realizing a large propane (or similar) tank is inside. It's hit, resulting in a massive explosion that blows back Walker and Stenz. Delta Force choppers approach the White House, but one is shot and crashes. A second is also hit and crashes, while Killick fires his machine gun at a third. John shoots several bad guys atop the White House and has a hard fight with Stenz, but the third chopper is hit and crashes into the roof, with its rotor slicing down through the ceiling of the room where hostages are being held, and it stops right up against Donnie (he's unharmed). John and Stenz continue to fight, including John hitting Stenz on the head with a brick (or similar), followed by both falling through a glass roof/ceiling and landing hard on a piano. That's followed by more blows, Stenz firing a machine gun at John who runs and jumps/crashes through a closed window, and then doing the same at John who's landed in the shrubs below and runs for cover. Skip fires a missile that hits Air Force One in midair, resulting in an explosion that tears the plane apart, resulting in the unseen deaths of the Vice President and others. Stenz shoots one guy and then violently grabs Emily. Walker holds a handgun under Emily's chin and then to the side of her head, threatening to shoot her if President Sawyer doesn't give him nuclear launch codes. John sets fire to the White House living quarters as a distraction. John slices and presumably kills two bad guys. John throws a grenade at Killick who kicks it back at him, prompting John to dive for cover as it explodes. Killick then goes up to kill John, but Donnie hits Killick with something heavy, downing him. He then proceeds to pummel him with that (we don't see the presumably fatal blows). Skip goes to escape, but a previously rigged fence in a tunnel explodes, killing him. Walker kills one person. President Sawyer stabs Walker in the back with a pen, but Walker then hits President Sawyer several times, incapacitating him. Stenz hits and kicks John several times. SPOILER ALERT: President Sawyer hits Walker and avoids being shot during the fight. But Walker manages to shoot President Sawyer in the chest, seemingly killing him (we later learn that the bullet was deflected). SPOILER ALERT: Stenz beats up John and prepares to stab him, but John stabs Stenz instead. He then wraps a line of grenades around Stenz's neck and takes cover as they explode. SPOILER ALERT: To stop Walker from launching nuclear missiles, John drives a car through the wall and into Walker. He then gets out and blasts Walker dead with machine gun fire. 7.5/10. ========================================================= Blood/Gore: One man has a slightly blood-soaked bandage on his hand. Two men are stabbed. (no blood) Stenz has some blood from his nose. We see a small pool of blood next to a downed villain. We see some blood on President Sawyer's shirt around a glass shard sticking out of his torso. One person has a bloody face. Stenz has blood on his face following a fight with John. John has a bloody nose. President Sawyer's face is bloody. 5.5/10. ========================================================= Profanity: At least 1 "f" word (and another possible one), 27 "s" words, 1 slang term using male genitals ("pr*ck"), 8 hells, 6 damns, 5 asses (all used with "hole"), 5 S.O.B.'s, 3 bitches, and 12 uses of "G-damn," 10 of "Oh my God," 4 of "Jesus," 2 of "Jesus Christ," and 1 use each of "God," "Oh Jesus" and "Swear to God" as exclamations. 5.5/10. ========================================================= Alcohol/Drugs: Walker has a drink. 0.5/10. ========================================================= Smoking: Skip might have a lit cigarette near him in two scenes (we see smoke wafting up near him from something unseen). We see smoking cessation gum in a drawer in President Sawyer's living quarters and he chomps on some vigorously, asking John if he smokes. John says no, with President Sawyer saying he doesn't either. We see a past photo of one villain who has a cigarette. 1/10. ========================================================= White House Down is an entertaining (but ridiculous) Die Hard-type action film and is worth a watch for fans of the genre. I give it 6.5/10. =========================================================
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 13 years old Written byswimgirl28 June 29, 2013
age 13+

Highly Recommended

I really enjoy this movie. The whole thing ket me on the edge of my seat. My heart wouldn't stop pounding. I also enjoyed the humor they added in. Just don't go to this movie if you are just looking for humor. Just be warned there are gun battles, hand to hand combat, and explosions. There are frequent uses of s***. Overall my movie ticket was definitely worth it.
Kid, 12 years old June 28, 2013
age 13+

Great Message

Really good! Kept me at the edge of my seat. Can be good for kids if they think positive or make jokes through out the movie. Has an overall wonderful message and countless role models anyone could learn from. There WAS hostages, airplanes falling out of the sky, loud bangs, explosives, highly powerful weapons (and A LOT of them, basically at least 4 in each scene) and fire.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Teen, 15 years old Written byMadbananas June 28, 2013
age 11+

Great movie! Violence is a issue.

There is a lot of violence. Lots of blowing up too. Language is also a issue. Over all its a great movie. Good for 11, or 12 year olds and up.


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