TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Captive TV Poster Image
Compelling true-crime series chronicles real kidnappings.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Victims and criminals are each given space to tell their stories, which are related in an evenhanded, non-sensationalistic manner. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Captive takes pains to point out who acted heroically and thoughtfully when responding to crises by including praise for certain people in survivor interviews.


The focus of the show is on kidnapping and captivity. Every episode involves weaponry and often death; we see dead bodies on-screen with blood and sometimes gore, often in vintage news footage and newspaper photographs. Family members of the kidnapped are interviewed, sometimes piteously grieving the loss of their loved ones. 


Some episodes have more cursing than others. Some have multiple unbleeped four-letter words ("f--k," "s--t," "motherf---er"), others have only a "damn." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drugs are mentioned in a criminal justice context.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Captive is a gripping docuseries about real people who were kidnapped and held captive. News footage and reenactments show material that's potentially very disturbing: dead bodies, blood and gore, shadowy figures brandishing guns, blindfolds, beatings. Grieving family members who have lost loved ones cry piteously on-screen; interviews with survivors combined with vintage footage drives home the fact that these events really occurred and terrible things happen. Some episodes have a lot of iffy language, with multiple unbleeped four-letter words and curse-littered threats. Others have very little cursing save for the odd "damn." Drugs are mentioned in a criminal justice context.

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What's the story?

A prison riot on Easter Sunday in 1993. An ordinary English couple held hostage by Somali pirates. An Al Qaeda kidnapping of charitable workers in Yemen. Docuseries CAPTIVE digs into these cases and others involving kidnapping and captivity. Interviews with survivors are combined with reenactments, recordings of phone calls, vintage news footage, and other historical documents that tell each story, from the events that led up to the captivity until those held are released -- not always alive. 

Is it any good?

Thorough research and reporting uncovers the kind of throat-clutching detail that true-crime fans will particularly respond to in this smart but dark series. Each of the events spotlighted in Captive made the news, but unless you're a world news completist, you probably haven't heard of many of these incidents, which makes the retellings all the more gripping: Will these people make it out alive? And in one piece? When they do, it's cathartic. When they don't, haunting.

Viewers may find themselves Wikipedia-ing the details of each story to find out more, but you won't get much further than what Captive has shown you. This is an eminently binge-worth series, but parents should consider carefully whether teens should watch, since some of the material is quite unsettling. If you allow it, you may want to watch along to reassure them that they're safe in their own home and everything they're seeing has long been resolved. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Documentaries are designed to present factual stories and details from a specific point of view. But is it possible to offer too much information? Is it necessary to include so many violent details to tell this story in Captive? Why, or why not?

  • What is a a documentary? Is it the same as a reality show? Should documentaries be unbiased in the way they tell their stories? Should a documentarian have an agenda? Why, or why not? 

  • Does seeing real news footage make you understand or believe a story? How does Captive distinguish between real footage and a staged reenactment? How can you tell which you're seeing? 

TV details

  • Premiere date: December 9, 2016
  • Network: Netflix
  • Genre: Reality TV
  • TV rating: NR
  • Available on: Streaming
  • Last updated: September 28, 2020

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