Small Axe

TV review by
Danny Brogan, Common Sense Media
Small Axe TV Poster Image
Miniseries celebrates Black British culture; adult themes.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Stands out for positive messages.

Positive Messages

Courage, perseverance, love, hope, and standing up for what's right are all prominent themes. Despite being set in the 1960s-1980s, many of the issues in the series remain relevant today, including racism and police brutality.

Positive Role Models

The series is based around the lives of London's West Indian community. Most of the central characters are portrayed positively and realistically, showing strength and courage in the face of adversity. The police are generally shown to be corrupt, prejudice, and violent. Communities come together to celebrate and stand up to oppression.


Police brutality -- people are hit with batons, pushed, kicked, and held on the floor. Characters are shown bruised and battered -- and even hospitalized -- after being assaulted by the police. Police officer is pushed and has a handbag thrown at them. Character sexually assaults someone, before another character comes to their rescue. Cigarette is flicked in someone's face. Character is grabbed by the throat. A sharp instrument is held to someone's neck. Reference to domestic abuse. A police training exercise involves someone trying to hit people with a mallet. Character is hit with an iron bar. Child is slapped in the face. After wetting the bed, a child has the urine-soaked sheets forced into their mouth. A schoolchild is placed in a straitjacket after getting into a fight. An arson attack -- that resulted in multiple deaths -- is referenced, with black and white photos of the real-life incident depicting the aftermath. A riot involves bricks being thrown, cars set alight, and batons being used.


Kissing, flirting, hand-holding. Characters dance together suggestively, gyrating against each other, and placing their hands on each other's behinds. Someone dances shirtless at a party. Shower scene depicts a naked backside. Character is made to strip to prove they are not wearing a wire -- no graphic nudity depicted.


Racist language include "wogs," "coons," "negroids," "colored," "coconut," and "black bastards." Racist graffiti also depicts the "N" word and the racist slur "Paki." Also variants of "f--k," "c--t," "s--t," "whores," "twat," "bloody," "ponces," "nonces," "tarts," "wankers," "p---ys," "piss off," and "blasted." "Jesus Christ," "Christ's sake," and "God" are all used as exclamations. The derogatory term "micks" is used to describe the Irish.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters smoke and drink. Some depiction of drunkenness including characters acting merrily but also aggressively. Characters are seen rolling and smoking joints and using bongs. Some drug dealing of pot.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Small Axe is a superb British five-part TV series about London's West Indian community and deals with themes such as racism and police brutality and corruption. Set between the 1960s and 1980s, the series -- which stars the likes of John Boyega and Letitia Wright -- is written and directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen, with each episode a standalone story. Despite the heavy themes, the series is also hopeful and celebrates Black British culture, remaining as relevant today as the time period it's set. There are many examples of racist language such as the term "wogs," as well as swearwords including variants of "f--k," "s--t," "whores," and "bastards." Racist graffiti depicts the "N" word and the racist slur "Paki." Some of the police brutality depicted is brutal, with characters being hit with batons and held and kicked on the floor. Characters are seen bruised, battered, and hospitalized as a result. There are also some instances of child abuse. In one scene, a young boy has urine-soaked bedsheets shoved into his mouth. There is also a sexual assault that results in someone holding a sharp instrument to the attacker's neck. Characters drink and smoke tobacco and pot. The effects range from merriment to aggression. As each episode is its own story, some episodes are more appropriate to younger viewers than others.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byKyloRenandstimpy December 25, 2020

Powerful, Moving "Mangrove"

An essential story for our times, there is something to be gained and learned from tweens and teens watching this painful true story of racial strife and injust... Continue reading

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What's the story?

SMALL AXE is a five-part anthology series by award-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen with each film telling a different story about London's West Indian community. Set between the late 1960s and mid-1980s, the series is a celebration of Black British culture, while dealing with serious issues such as racism and police corruption.

Is it any good?

Steve McQueen's Small Axe anthology series is powerful, beautiful, and above all relevant. The Oscar-winning filmmaker's five-part series shines a light on Black culture, opening a door to the lives of London's West Indian community during the the late 1960s and mid-1980s. A mix of real events and fictional storytelling, each episode sits as its own story. The result is an eclectic miniseries that is both a celebration and reminder of all that is good and bad in society. Serious topics such as racism and police corruption are depicted with their devastating impact laid bare for all to see. But there are also touching, gentler stories about first love, friendship, and family.

McQueen -- who also wrote the large part of the series -- is a master of his craft, with the cinematography worthy of a feature film. He manages to draw you in to a point where you feel part of the story. The cast is also made up of actors at the top of their game, including John Boyega, Letitia Wright, and Jack Lowden. Viewers will find something different from each episode -- some are hard-hitting, while others more subtle -- and will subsequently have their favorites. But collectively this superb series is television at its best.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about some of the themes featured in Small Axe. Are they still relevant today? What messages do you think the series is trying to tell?

  • Talk about some of the violence depicted. Was it necessary to the story? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • Discuss the language used in the movie. What did it contribute? Why does language matter?

  • How is drinking, smoking, and drug use depicted? Are they glamorized? What are the consequences? Does that matter?

  • How does the series celebrate community? Why is community important? Discuss your own community. Are you involved with it? If not, how could you be?

TV details

Our editors recommend

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