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Copperhead Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 2.0

    out of 100

    Generally unfavorable reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 20

    out of 100

    Los Angeles Times Mark Olsen

    Painfully lugubrious, any sting Copperhead might contain for its contrarian's view of history is undone by its wayward sense of storytelling.

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  • 20

    out of 100

    The New York Times Neil Genzlinger

    Though the tale, based on a novel by Harold Frederic, remains relevant to our time, the film is too self-conscious and tedious for the message it delivers.

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  • 40

    out of 100

    Village Voice Nick Schager

    Director Ron Maxwell (Gettysburg, Gods and Generals) shows a flair for mythologizing via beautiful panoramas of upstate New York landscapes but less so, unfortunately, through his film's inert story and flat performances.

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  • 50

    out of 100

    Variety Justin Chang

    Director Ron Maxwell’s adaptation of Harold Frederic’s 1893 novel elicits a certain amount of admiration for its old-fashioned carpentry and earnest, worthy approach, but its stilted dramaturgy and endless speechifying defeat the committed efforts of a sprawling ensemble.

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  • 50

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter John DeFore

    Named for a slur used against Northerners who opposed waging war on the South, the film works best when focused on Abner Beech (Billy Campbell), whose conscience-driven minority opinion makes him a pariah in his upstate New York village.

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 12+

Civil War drama may raise questions about history.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Copperhead is a Civil War drama that focuses on one family of upstate New York Democrats who opposed the conflict. Called "Copperheads," the Northern Democrats are depicted as pacifists who don't believe that President Lincoln is acting within his constitutional bounds, while the town's abolitionists are portrayed as violent zealots who will stand by as the country is destroyed for the sake of freeing the slaves. Older kids and teens who've learned about the war may have questions about the movie's historical accuracy, and parents should be prepared to clarify some of the oversimplified depictions. There's very little language, a few kisses, and a couple of scenes of men drinking from a jug. Violence includes a brawl, a mob that accidentally lights a house on fire, and a disturbing image of a man who hangs himself. Ultimately, the movie's lesson is a biblical and civil one -- to love your neighbor as you love yourself, even if you disagree with him.

  • Families can talk about what they learned from Copperhead about the Civil War. How does it differ from other depictions of the time?
  • What is the director trying to say about the Civil War? Why do you think there are still such strong opinions about the causes of the war?
  • According to one historian, the Northern "Peace Democrats" weren't pacifists, like the Quakers and the Mennonites, and were very much pro-slavery. So why do you think the filmmaker makes it seem like Abner is a pacifist who's "concerned" about slavery? How could you find out more about the abolitionists and the Copperheads?

The good stuff
  • message true2

    Messages: The pulpit scenes have a clear message to love your neighbor as you love yourself. The movie challenges popular beliefs about the Civil War.

  • rolemodels true1

    Role models: Abner Beech, a "Peace Democrat," is portrayed as a pacifist who doesn't believe that the Civil War is constitutionally sound and who stands by his beliefs, even though he's one of the only ones in his town to be against the war. He's calm and intelligent and never loses his temper, unlike the abolitionists, who are depicted as violent warmongers. Jeff/Tom and Esther both believe in abolition and equal justice for all, but in a less violent manner.

What to watch for
  • violence false2

    Violence: An election day brawl takes place, followed by a mob visit (with torches) that ends with a house being accidentally burned. A young woman is presumed dead after a fire, and several men who volunteered for the Civil War are reported as killed in action. A man commits suicide when he believes that both of his children are gone. One young man is injured and walks with a limp.

  • sex false1

    Sex: Esther and Jeff court, dance, and kiss a couple of times. Warner flirts with Janey and dances with and kisses her.

  • language false3

    Language: Infrequent strong language includes "s--thole" and insults like "jackass" and "idiot."

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not applicable

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false2

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Adults drink straight from a jug a few times. A character is portrayed as a drunk rabblerouser.