Behind the Movement

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Behind the Movement TV Poster Image
Insightful biopic tells story behind momentous bus boycott.

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Positive Messages

Story of Rosa Parks and civil rights movement underscores power of standing up for your convictions despite ridicule and potential danger. Reminds viewers that the major players weren't extraordinary in and of themselves; they were ordinary people moved to action, driven by extraordinary emotional strength, courage, and perseverance. Their cause inspired some white people as well. On the other hand, traditional racial roles were ingrained in the South and the norm for much of the white population of the time. Movie doesn't elaborate on the movement's success, so parents may need to fill in the gaps for tweens to grasp the full scope of its value.


Positive Role Models & Representations

Guided by faith and the hope of a better future, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the rest of the civil rights movement leaders put themselves in the crosshairs to fight for racial equality under the law. They stood tall to intimidation and stayed confident in the importance of their cause, affecting sweeping change through seemingly small, peaceful means.



A brief scene shows a teen's face bloodied from a beating, his body hanging from a noose. No other violence is shown, but there is a general sense of foreboding as people discuss the potential for conflict during the bus boycott.



Very rarely "ass" and "damn."


Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A few characters smoke.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Behind the Movement is a historical drama that tells the story of the days between the arrest of Rosa Parks and the resulting Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955. Because of its unique focus within the more general scope of the civil rights movement, the only violence is the brief scene depicting Emmett Till's beating (his bloody face is all that's shown) and lynching. The rest of the story centers on the remarkable strength of ordinary people moved to stand up to injustice, even when it puts them in harm's way. Because of its lack of mature content and wealth of inspiring real-life characters, this is an excellent pick for families with tweens and teens.

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What's the story?

The events leading up to the momentous Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 provide the plot for BEHIND THE MOVEMENT. The story begins with the lynching of Emmett Till, then turns to a soft-spoken seamstress named Rosa Parks (Meta Golding), who refuses to relinquish her bus seat to a white passenger on December 1, 1955. Her subsequent arrest provides a rallying point for the local African American community, with leaders E.D. Nixon (Isaiah Washington) and Martin Luther King Jr. (Shaun Clay) collaborating with pastors to execute a sweeping boycott of the municipal bus system and strategizing to use Rosa's court case to take their cause to higher courts.

Is it any good?

True to its title, this movie tells the powerful story behind the now-familiar scenes of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and broader civil rights movement. It introduces Rosa Parks, played in impassioned fashion by Golding, and moves quickly through the events surrounding her arrest, on to the remarkable story of how a group of ordinary people used this tiny spark to ignite a revolution. Even with their shared goal, though, there are differences of opinion and pushback in surprising places, but also beacons of hope that help offset fear as they take this gargantuan step toward racial equality.

Behind the Movement is not an action movie. It's driven by dialogue and long pauses, giving viewers the chance to reflect just as the characters do. It's inspiring, captivating, and tense, even with prior knowledge of how the story plays out in the end. It pays homage to the mixed emotions felt by many of the people involved, who had to weigh their safety and that of their families against a broader cause, no matter how just. In other words, it's a fitting and insightful tribute to a generation of people who took a stand against inequality and paved the way for brighter futures for generations to come.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about standing up for what's right. What causes inspire you in a similar way to those in Behind the Movement? Is it wrong to consider personal safety when deciding whether to put yourself on the front line of a cause? What moved this many courageous people to make that choice during the 1950s? Why is courage an important character strength

  • How do we treat historical heroes like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. in comparison to idols in the sports or entertainment worlds? Who are some of your kids' role models?

  • How far have we come from the race relations of the 1950s? Do we still have need for change? If so, where and how? How would you define true racial equality? Are racial stereotypes still portrayed in the media?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love African American history

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