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Escape from New York Review

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 15+

Extremely dark '80s sci-fi classic is too intense for kids.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that violence in this bleak vision of the future includes gunfire, crossbows, thrown knives, land mines, and gladiatorial death bouts with fists and clubs (though except for a severed head there's little explicit gore). Do-not-do-this-at-home stuff includes whiskey used as a firebomb. Swearing is at the typical R-level. The hero smokes cigarettes. There's a quick glimpse of bare breasts. An atmosphere of cynicism and darkness pervades, including a negative depiction of a US president and a police-state America.

  • Families can talk about Snake Plissken. Is he a "hero" or, as some have suggested, a character with no redeeming social value? What does his final dialogue with the president mean?
  • Research the real-life pathologies that assailed New York in the 1960s and '70s, like crime, decadence, drugs, blackouts, riots, economic turmoil, and punk rock, extrapolated to create this dire scenario.
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The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: The rotten Big Apple here represents the worst that could happen under a harsh, uncaring government. Along with that comes a theme of mistrusting authority and "the Man." There are no real heroes; the closest thing is a commando-turned-robber, motivated entirely by self-interest (or other people coercing him). Even he is disgusted by the callous attitude of the hostage US president (and, by extension, the society that president represents).

  • rolemodels true0

    Role models: Plissken is a hard-bitten, surly punk throughout. While most every character is a criminal, freak, or government bully of some sort (except for the friendly Cabbie), "good guys," for lack of a better word, are all white folks. Main villain is big black dude. The US president's personality is not well established, but we suspect he -- like his country -- isn't very nice.

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence: Gunfire, explosions, beat-downs, and gladiatorial death bouts with fists and clubs. A severed head. Characters stuck with arrows and knives. Implication that high-tech tiny time bombs are implanted in someone's head. A hijacked plane crashes into a Manhattan skyscraper as in 9/11, but only a radar-readout is shown.

  • sex false2

    Sex: Blink-and-you'll-miss-them bare breasts, as NYC prisoners manhandle a girl. Low-cut outfits for the leading lady. Plissken makes an angry joke about "playing with myself." He has a suggestive tattoo around his crotch.

  • language false3

    Language: The s-word, the f-word, "a-hole," "Jesus Christ," "bastard," SOB.

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Chock-Full-a-Nuts and Coca-Cola signs visible.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false2

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Tough-guy cigarette smoking. Drunken-derelict type characters in a skid-row setting, mention of junkies.