Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Won't You Be My Neighbor? Movie Poster Image
Profound, poignant biography of an extraordinary, kind man.
  • PG-13
  • 2018
  • 94 minutes
 Parents recommend

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 10 reviews

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 4 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Excellent messages for parents and kids, particularly about children's social and emotional needs. Rogers was a staunch advocate for children's media that entertains, educates, encourages kids. He believed in power of TV to help kids feel loved and understand current events and topics affecting them. He and his show promoted inclusion, tolerance, respect, literacy, citizenship, expressing your emotions, and the power of compassion, kindness, confidence, love. Show conveyed positive messages such as "I like you as you are," "you are loved," "love is the root of everything," "I'm an adult who cares," "expect and accept mistakes."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Rogers' sons jokingly say their father was considered "a saint" or "the second coming of Christ," but it's true that Rogers had integrity, did a huge amount of good. He loved teaching and helping children feel they had value and that they and their opinions matter. He dedicated himself and his show to edifying children, not selling anything to them. Movie addresses the fact that Rogers didn't initially support a cast member coming out as gay, and the fact that Rogers' own gentle demeanor and willingness to express love and other emotions "showed another way of being a man."

Violence

Historical/news footage of segregation, civil rights unrest, the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, and the Challenger disaster. King Friday engages in war on the show, but it's resolved. On the series, Rogers references shooting, violence, grief/death, and depression. More footage included in the documentary includes war movie clips and an ad for an M-16 gun. Montage of children's programming featuring weapons, battles, etc. A show segment revolves around a dead pet fish.

Sex

Puppets kiss briefly. A man "moons" Rogers; the mooner's bare bottom is seen.

Language

Infrequent but includes "butt," "damn," "ass," "bitch," "d--k," "bastards," "God no," "second coming of Christ." Rogers used to be called "Fat Freddy" and was apparently bullied as a kid. Protesters carry signs that include the word "f-gs."

Consumerism

PBS, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Saturday Night Live.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Behind-the-scenes footage shows an adult with a cigarette.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Won't You Be My Neighbor is a poignant biographical documentary about Fred Rogers, the creator of public television's iconic Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Mixing footage from the show and interviews with Rogers' widow, children, colleagues, and friends, Academy Award-winning director Morgan Neville traces Rogers' life's work and legacy to educate, encourage, and inspire very young children. Expect a few swear words -- including "bitch" (in a Saturday Night Live sketch spoofing the show), "ass," "d--k," and "bastard." There are also brief clips of footage from the Vietnam War, civil rights protests, assassinations, and the Challenger disaster, as well as discussions of tough themes (from divorce to grief to Rogers' post-9/11 public service message) and how the show handled them in a child-friendly way. Otherwise, this documentary is focused on the positive aspects of Rogers' personal and professional crusade to put children, not profit, first in children's programming. Compassion, integrity, and the healthy expression of emotion are all strong themes.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byStable_Abel June 26, 2018

Mister Rogers Would Be Proud

I've never seen a documentary that was so delightfully heartfelt in my life. Through this film, you can really get a sense of what a great man Fred Rogers... Continue reading
Parent of a 6 year old Written byBTilliso June 29, 2018

Wow! We need more films like this in the world!

Full of love and hope! My 7 year old son loved this film. I would completely recommend this film to any family with children 7 years of age or older. We are a v... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old June 18, 2018

Amazing

It's amazing, Even though I didn't grow up with Mister Rodgers, It was beautiful. What parents should know is that there is a bit of death on tape in... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old July 21, 2018

Mr. Rogers Expands His Neighborhood

This is a great movie for families, especially for kids like myself who had never seen the television show. There are a few inappropriate lines, "d--k... Continue reading

What's the story?

WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR is Academy Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville's (20 Feet from Stardom) documentary about the life and work of children's programming/public TV pioneer Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Through extensive footage and interviews with Rogers' widow, Joanne; their two adult sons; and a host of colleagues and friends -- including Yo-Yo Ma (whose son is one of the documentary's producers) -- Neville digs into the legendary man who remains a symbol of friendship, kindness, and make-believe for generations of adults. The film documents how Rogers, who hailed from Pittsburgh's upper crust and was trained and ordained as a Presbyterian minister, dedicated his life to service, faith, and young children.

Is it any good?

This documentary is a touching, triumphant tribute to Fred Rogers, a remarkable man who reminded generations of young children that they mattered and that they were loved. There are no secret behind-the-scenes shockers here, no "gotcha" moments of unexpected behavior. Rogers was just as upright, compassionate, and loving off camera as he was on, although his family did have to share him with the world. The various interviewees reveal that Rogers, a devout Christian, was disciplined (he swam every single morning and weighed 143 lbs. his entire adult life) and single-minded in his pursuit of quality children's programming for young children. Rogers may have been gentle and mild-mannered, but he was also quite passionate about his work, the show, and the role it played in children's lives.

Neville's film is an emotional and nostalgic experience for adults who grew up watching Mister Rogers, but it also explores (and refutes) criticism of the idea that the show's core message -- "everyone is important" -- is somehow responsible for a generation of entitled, self-absorbed whiners. Rogers was a lifelong Republican, and he was also a supporter of government funding for public television. He was a mentor, friend, and champion of his African American closeted gay co-star François Scarborough Clemmons (though the film acknowledges that Rogers was, at least initially, reluctant for Clemmons' sexuality to become public knowledge). And Rogers was a big believer that even very young children can handle and understand a lot. There's no such thing as a perfect human being, but there's no denying Rogers came pretty close: He was an extraordinary man who always put children first.

 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the kind of role model that Fred Rogers was. How would you describe his relationship with -- and opinion of -- children? Is that typical? Why is educational programming for kids so important?

  • Rogers demonstrates many different character strengths both personally and through Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, including compassion, curiosity, and teamwork. How does he demonstrate communicationempathy, and gratitude? What about courage and perseverance? How does he show his humility and integrity? Why are these character strengths all so important?

  • Talk about the importance of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and how it impacts children. How does Rogers' legacy live on? What do you think of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, which is also produced by the Fred Rogers Company?

  • What did Rogers' friend mean when he said that Rogers "showed another way of being a man"? Why do you think it's important for kids (and adults!) to see various representations of gender?

  • How would you describe Rogers' approach to discussing difficult topics with kids? Do you agree? Why or why not?

Movie details

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