Watch It

On DVD: Now | On Blu-ray: TBD

The History Boys Review Critics


Dave White Profile

… like Dead Poet's Society, but not stupid … Read full 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.

  • 70

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter Kirk Honeycutt

    If you liked the play and the compelling ideas Bennett kicks around, the movie makes for an intellectually invigorating couple of hours.

    Read Full Review

  • 75

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    The History Boys is an erudite, sharply written film with consummate performances, but its origins on the stage are all too obvious.

    Read Full Review

  • 75

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Lisa Schwarzbaum

    The History Boys is as much about the meaning and value of reading and learning as it is about the ho-humness of genital fondling by sir with love.

    Read Full Review

  • 75

    out of 100

    Chicago Tribune Michael Phillips

    The film is worth seeing, if you have any fondness for the writer who co-created "Beyond the Fringe" and who is second only to Stoppard in his sprightly but mellow wit.

    Read Full Review

  • 80

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    The screen, like the stage, can barely contain this marvelous play of intelligence.

  • See all The History Boys reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 16+

Play-turned-movie grapples with sexuality, life.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that kids, even older teens, probably won't be very interested in this small, talky British film based on Alan Bennett's award-winning play. Several central characters -- both students and teachers -- are homosexual and struggling with their desires. Treated in a mature way, this theme is addressed through clever, occasionally explicit dialogue (but no graphic imagery). The movie doesn't outright condemn the teachers' desire or suggest that the boys are damaged when one awkward instructor regularly "handles their nuts." In one scene, a student takes off his trousers (you see boxers) to act out a skit in class; in another, he's in bed with a female secretary (they're talking, post-sex, no explicit nudity). A fatal traffic accident occurs off-screen, and characters mourn the resulting death. Characters smoke and use "f--k" and strong other language.

  • Families can talk about the differences between the students' and teachers' ambitions. How do the boys learn to make use of their two teachers' different styles of learning? How do the boys "come of age" in different ways? Also, how does the movie show multiple points of view through conversations and camerawork? And how do the movie's dialogue and staging show that it was based on a play? How is the movie's treatment of its characters' homosexuality similar to and different from the way sexuality is addressed in other movies and TV shows?

The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: Characters lie and cheat to get ahead; students have a decidedly un-hysterical repsonse to a teacher's sexual advances toward them; Muslim student must instruct his peers and teachers what being Muslim means; Jewish student suggests that being Jewish limits his options ("I'm a Jew, I'm small, I live in Sheffield, I'm f--ked"). The boys and their teachers honestly care about each other, but their relationships are complex.

What to watch for
  • violence false0

    Violence: References to historical wars (shell shock, memorials, friendly fire); off-screen traffic accident results in a character's death and another's injury.

  • sex false3

    Sex: Thematic focus on homosexual teachers/students negotiating their interests in each other; a teacher has a propensity for fondling students' "thighs" one student has affair with female secretary (one scene shows them in bed, in underwear); students act out a scene in a bordello to practice French, and one boy drops his pants, showing boxers. Reference to "foreskin" some sexual slang ("wanker," "c--t," "nancy," "balls," "dick"). Characters proposition each other.

  • language false3

    Language: Several uses of "f--k" (10+), plus other language, like "s--t" (5+), and some colorful phrasing ("piss my life away"). British slang.

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false3

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Student smokes cigarettes; students pretend to smoke cigarettes to act out a scene from Now, Voyager; champagne drinking in celebration.