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Courage Under Fire Review

Other Critics provided by

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

  • 4.0

    out of 100

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

  • 100

    out of 100

    ReelViews James Berardinelli

    As profound and intelligent as it is moving, and that makes this memorable motion picture one of 1996's best.

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  • 75

    out of 100

    USA Today Susan Wloszczyna

    A film that wins on 'Courage' of its convictions. {12 July 1996, p. D1]

  • 83

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    A large-scale military drama with a quiet, almost mournful center.

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  • 88

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    The end of the film understandably lays on the emotion a little heavily, but until then Courage Under Fire has been a fascinating emotional and logistical puzzle--almost a courtroom movie, with the desert as the courtroom.

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  • See all Courage Under Fire reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 15+

Military drama deploys plenty of violence, swearing.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that violence and death in this war drama includes gunfire casualties at close range (with blood), a helicopter crash, and a car wreck -- the latter actually being a suicide. One character is a drug addict, and the hero has a drinking problem (but seems to kick the habit). Swearing is R-level, with the f-bomb and the c-bomb dropped on a few significant occasions, and there's one use of an anti-Arab slur. The script is not exactly anti-military, but lethally mutinous actions happen, and undercurrents persist of generals and Pentagon spin doctors covering up and suppressing the truth.

  • Families can talk about the decisions the characters make. What would viewers have done in Serling's place? What about the pinned-down, panicked soldiers?
  • The concept of women in the American Armed Forces is still fairly new and took a long time to become instituted. Ask young viewers if they consider female soldiers to be a touchy issue or not.
  • Inform viewers too young to remember about "Operation Desert Storm" and Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. Could what is shown in Courage Under Fire have taken place in other wars? Why or why not?

The good stuff
  • message true3

    Messages: The military setting brings out themes of the slippery nature of "truth" in battle heroics and taking responsibility for one's actions -- even in a desperate situation under dangerous enemy fire. Along with it is the idea of sacrifice, bereaved families, and under-the-radar grief in war causalities (the hero snubs a Presidential ceremony to instead privately comfort a lost soldier's grieving relatives).

  • rolemodels true3

    Role models: Serling -- despite his on-off drinking problem -- represents a dutiful Army man in the modern, multi-racial armed forces, digging for the truth, even when it hurts (and when his superiors order him to back off). Not quite a recruiting-poster look at the US military, as officers cover up the truth of a sordid incident for glory-propaganda, and Army soldiers turn guns on each other, accidentally and on purpose. Some are addicts. Flashbacks toy with viewer preconceptions of woman warrior Karen Waldon (a divorced single mother), but ultimately portray her positively.

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence: Battlefield violence includes characters set on fire and shot at close range and bleeding. There is a spectacular, explosive suicide via car-train collision.

  • sex false1

    Sex: One off-color reference about "humping cheerleaders." Hunky guys in a locker room.

  • language false3

    Language: The s-word, the f-word, "ass," "Jesus Christ," the c-word (as pertaining to females), the racist slur "ragheads."

  • consumerism false1

    Consumerism: The hero uses Apple laptops.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false3

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Characters smoke. Serling drinks to steady his nerves after combat flashbacks and is accused/blackmailed about being an alcoholic. Soldiers in a VA hospital take pills and IV medication, sometimes to excess. One character confesses to being an IV drug abuser (which may or may not have been a consequence of war trauma).