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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Young Guns is a Western with a lot of gun violence, mostly without blood and gore, but a few scenes do show blood spatter and dripping from injuries. It tells a part of Billy the Kid's life with many events that really happened. The gang of outlaws are charismatic and likeable, and so taking the law into your own hands, seeking vengeance, and even cold-blooded murder are sometimes glorified. Strong language is frequent: "son of a bitch," "s--t" and variations, and "ass" and variations most often. One character frequently uses racial slurs against another. No strong or well-developed female characters. Lots of drinking, mostly whisky, and an extended scene shows the gang taking peyote and "tripping." Two of the gang chew tobacco and spit frequently, other main characters smoke occasionally, and villains and background characters smoke frequently. Male buttocks are shown from behind, and a woman's bare breast is briefly shown once.
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What's the story?
The YOUNG GUNS are taken in by John Tunstall (Terence Stamp), who helps them stay out of trouble and provides them an education. Tunstall's also clashing with the corrupt Lawrence Murphy's (Jack Palance) stranglehold over commerce in Lincoln, New Mexico. When Tunstall's gunned down by Murphy and his gang, Billy the Kid (Emilio Estevez), Doc Spurlock (Kiefer Sutherland), Richard Brewer (Charlie Sheen), and the rest of Tunstall's "Regulators" are determined to scour the Southwest if necessary to avenge Tunstall's death. But now that they've taken the law into their own hands the sheriff, bounty hunters, and even the U.S. Army are after them. Where can they go from here?
Is it any good?
The charismatic cast of infamous '80s "brat pack" members may be the biggest draw, but Western fans, especially history buffs interested in the legend of Billy the Kid, will find a lot to enjoy, too. The acting's good, not great, but the star power of the Young Guns is on full display, making likeable characters teens will relate to and enjoy rooting for. Action packed and guns a-blazing, it's an OK choice as a popcorn movie for mature teens who can put the violence, drinking, and salty talk in historical context.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Young Guns. Is it OK if it's historically accurate? Does it seem realistic? How much is too much?
Does the movie make drinking, smoking, and taking peyote seem OK, or even cool? What are the real-life consequences that aren't shown?
Did you know much about Billy the Kid before you saw this movie? Why is he such a fascinating historical figure? How could you learn more?
- In theaters: August 10, 1988
- On DVD or streaming: February 20, 2001
- Cast: Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, Lou Diamond Phillips
- Director: Christopher Cain
- Studios: Morgan Creek Productions, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
- Genre: Western
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, History, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 107 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
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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.