G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero

TV review by
Will Wade, Common Sense Media
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero TV Poster Image
Popular 1980s cartoon fun, but glorifies battle, toys.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 7+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

The show isn't aiming to teach kids anything specific, though some episodes touch on historical and/or cultural topics (like ancient Egypt).

Positive Messages

Combat and violence are generally presented as the solution to every problem. Each episode does include a PSA at the end designed to teach kids everything from what to do when you're lost to why not to go swimming during a storm.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The characters are clearly divided along lines of good (the G.I. Joe team) and evil (Cobra), with the bad guys' goals being obviously nefarious -- though none of the characters ever try for non-violent conflict resolution. Many young viewers will find it exciting to watch the characters' exploits and may want to recreate some of the battle scenes with their own toys.

Violence & Scariness

Almost nonstop combat, featuring gun fights, fistfights, jet fighters, tanks, battle robots, gladiator-style arena duels, and much more. Amazingly, though, for all the explosions and high-tech weaponry, none of the main characters ever gets even a scratch. ... 

Sexy Stuff

No sex or nudity, though there are a few chaste kisses and some flirting.


The entire series is based on the venerable line of G.I. Joe toys. Fans of the series are almost certain to clamor for G.I. Joe action figures.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this classic 1980s animated series consists of nearly nonstop fighting. The G.I. Joe team must constantly stop the evil Cobra organization from taking over the world, and combat seems to be the only way to stop them. There’s no swearing, drinking, or sex, but the underlying message is that guns and fists are the best way to settle your differences. The series is based on the venerable line of G.I. Joe toys, so parents of young fans should expect plenty of demands for action figures.

User Reviews

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Kid, 11 years old December 23, 2020

One of the best cartoons of the 1980s

I like to watch this show with my cousins and my uncle. I have many favorite episodes of this show.

What's the story?

First of all, G.I. Joe isn’t an individual; the name refers to an elite squad of highly trained commandos -- the best of the best. Their mission: to preserve freedom and protect democracy from the nefarious Cobra organization, which is bent on world domination. The classic 1980s animated series G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO follows the adventures of the Joes, including team leader Duke (voiced by Michael Bell), weapons expert Scarlett (B.J. Ward), and machine gunner Roadblock (Kene Holliday), as they take on the wily Cobra Commander (Chris Latta). The villain will stop at nothing to achieve his goal, and only the G.I. Joe team can stop him.

Is it any good?

The series' plot line is pretty straightforward. Cobra attacks, the Joes defend, then the Joes attack, and Cobra defends. Combat sequences make up the vast majority of each episode, and the only real variation comes in the locations of the fights and the types of weapons they use -- a truly amazing variety of blasters, jet fighters, machine guns, tanks, battle robots, and other high-tech death-dealing devices. The stories have enough variation that the fights can jump from Cobra’s secret base, to the Arctic, to the bottom of the ocean, and then into the heart of the G.I. Joe compound.

The show isn’t very complex, but the nonstop explosions are exciting -- which means it will still have plenty of appeal for young viewers who've been raised with quick-cut action movies, super-slo-mo martial arts brawls, and other action-packed films and TV shows. Just don't be surprised if they start clamoring for the tie-in toys, too. ...

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about fighting. Is violence the only way to settle a dispute? What can you do when someone refuses to negotiate? Is it OK to fight back when attacked? What about a pre-emptive strike to head off a planned attack?

  • This series is based on the classic G.I Joe toys; what do you think its main goal/purpose is? Is there a significant difference between creating a TV series based on a line of pre-existing toys and developing new toys and other tie-ins based on a hit show or movie? Does one seem more commercial than the other?

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