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Lincoln Review Critics


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

  • 5.0

    out of 100

    Universal acclaim
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    The movie is grand and immersive. It plugs us into the final months of Lincoln's presidency with a purity that makes us feel transported as though by time machine.

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  • 100

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    Mr. Day-Lewis works famously, and phenomenally, from the inside out. The mystery at the core of his gorgeous performance, which is enhanced by Mr. Kushner's script, has to do with his masterly grasp of Lincoln's quicksilver spirit.

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  • 80

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter Todd McCarthy

    Tony Kushner's densely packed script has been directed by Spielberg in an efficient, unpretentious way that suggests Michael Curtiz at Warner Bros. in the 1940s, right down to the rogue's gallery of great character actors in a multitude of bewhiskered supporting roles backing up a first-rate leading performance by Daniel Day-Lewis.

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  • 88

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    Through this very specific look at a critical time in Lincoln's presidency, Kushner, Spielberg and Day-Lewis work together to present an honest look at America's most revered statesman. Kushner finds an artful way to weave in the texts of the Gettysburg Address and the 13th Amendment, as well as a creative way to present Lincoln's assassination.

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 13+

Outstanding drama about revered leader's political genius.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Steven Spielberg's Lincoln isn't a biographical chronicle of Abraham Lincoln's (Daniel Day-Lewis) life in office but rather a political drama about the passing of the 13th Amendment and the end of the Civil War. The most sensitive issues in the movie are its depiction of war (severed limbs and bloody battlefields filled with dead soldiers are seen) and occasional strong language, including many era-accurate (but hard to hear today) racial epithets. But overall, the violence is much tamer than in war movies like Saving Private Ryan or Glory, and Lincoln is an educational, entertaining drama that even some mature 5th graders might be ready to handle, if they watch with their parents. (That said, it does move somewhat slowly, so kids hooked on fast-paced entertainment may not be interested.)

  • Families can talk about why President Lincoln is still considered one of the most influential presidents of all time. What is the continued relevance of the 13th Amendment?
  • How does the movie's depiction of President Lincoln compare to what you know or have learned about him? Did anything surprise you about his political or personal life?
  • What does the movie tell us about how politics have changed since the 1860s? Do politicians still have to work together and make compromises, even if they fundamentally disagree?
  • How closely do you think Lincoln adheres to history? How many liberties with the facts do you think a movie like this can take? Why might filmmakers decide to do that?
  • How does Mary Todd Lincoln's emotional fragility -- in no small part spurred by the fear of one of her remaining sons going to fight in the war that her husband considers necessary -- impact Lincoln's situation?

The good stuff
  • message true1

    Messages: Lincoln is a tribute to a president who took leadership seriously and knew that, for the United States to continue, slavery would need to be abolished -- even if he wasn't personally a die-hard supporter of equal rights. There are also messages about work-life balance, letting children make their own choices, and realizing that all people have worth and a right to their freedom.

  • rolemodels true1

    Role models: Lincoln is shown to be a thoughtful, intelligent, generous man who, while not as pro-equality as the abolitionists, is definitely insistent that the country abolish slavery. But he's not depicted as perfect: He's willing to play the political game of patronage (giving lame-duck Democrats political appointments) in exchange for getting the 13th Amendment passed. Thaddeus Stevens is the most progressive congressman, and he wants nothing short of total equality. The movie doesn't sit in judgment of or demonize the Confederates or Democrats who don't want to abolish slavery; they're depicted as closed-minded men who just can't fathom changing their way of life.

What to watch for
  • violence false2

    Violence: Scenes of the Civil War are mostly shown in passing, but there's definitely carnage -- including bodies lying dead across battlefields. Mentions of casualties upset the president and his Cabinet. In an Army hospital, amputee soldiers greet the president, and then two soldiers bury a barrel full of severed limbs -- making Robert Todd Lincoln (and likely many viewers) sick. Although we don't see Lincoln's assassination, he's displayed dead, with a pool of blood surrounding him.

  • sex false0

    Sex: Mary and Abraham Lincoln embrace.

  • language false2

    Language: As would have been accurate for the era, the words "Negroes," "coons," "coloreds," and "n-----s" are used to describe African Americans. Other strong language is peppered throughout and includes two uses of "f--k," plus "s--t," "bulls--t," "ass," "goddamn," "crap," "damn," "hell," "son of a bitch," and "oh my God."

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not applicable

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false2

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Characters drink liquor (some to excess) and smoke cigars, pipes, and hand-rolled cigarettes (accurate for the era).