By Andrea Beach,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Violent '80s Western with teen appeal.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Negative examples show that violence only begets more violence. Taking matters into your own hands and operating outside the law just makes things worse.
Positive Role Models
The gang of charismatic antiheroes are outlaws and murderers. Women seldom appear, but out of the four who do, none have more than a handful of lines. Two are prostitutes and a third is basically a slave, taken by the villain as payment for a ruined shirt.
Violence & Scariness
Lots of gunfights. Most don't show blood or gore, but there are a few close shots of shooting point blank. One shows lots of spatter, and blood spatter stays on a character's face for an extended time afterward. A few scenes show someone being shot through multiple times and falling, usually with little blood or gore, but one in slow motion shows some blood spray. Some bullet wounds and bleeding from cuts are shown. A few fist fights with punching, a slap in the face, horses fall in gunfights. A gunshot wound through the head is shown with some blood dripping. One character throws knives and pulls one from someone's back and wipes the blade on the victim's clothing. He also stabs someone in the throat. A past massacre is described.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some sexual innuendo bantering with a prostitute with exaggerated cleavage showing. A prostitute's bare breast is visible. Male nudity from behind shows only bare buttocks. Male buttocks visible when thorns are being pulled from them. A man urinates in the background; the urine stream is clearly shown but no sensitive parts are visible. A man mentions "pulling our tallywhackers."
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"Son of a bitch," "pendejo" (Spanish roughly equal to "a--hole"), "s--t" and variations, "ass" and variations, "bulls--t," "Jesus Christ" and variations as an exclamation, "hell," and "peckerhead." One character frequently uses racial slurs against another.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Main and background characters frequently drink from bottles, jugs, and shot glasses. Several scenes take place in saloons. The gang takes peyote as part of a vision quest, and an extensive scene shows their reactions with distorted speech, erratic behavior, vacant stares, paranoia, and vomiting. Main characters occasionally smoke cigarillos and cigars, villains and background characters do so more often. Two gang members chew tobacco, spit frequently, and one stuffs his mouth too full in one scene.
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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
- Inclusion Information: Latinx actors
- Studios: Morgan Creek Productions, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
- Genre: Western
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, History
- Run time: 107 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- Last updated: February 3, 2023
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