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
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.
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: 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: Mary and Abraham Lincoln embrace.
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: Not an issue
Drinking, drugs and smoking: Characters drink liquor (some to excess) and smoke cigars, pipes, and hand-rolled cigarettes (accurate for the era).
Fan Reviews provided by
Just about perfect! by pedsarq
This is a terrific moviegoing experience! The fact that this is history and a great lesson for us all to see is just a plus, because this is movie-making at its finest. There are action and battle scenes, great drama in Congress, The White House, and between the members of the Lincoln family. Just about every actor is top-notch and they seem to be enjoying themselves immensely. The 2 1/2 hours just fly by. Special mention to the acting of Daniel Day Lewis. He does it again. HE IS LINCOLN! What a great actor. It was also amusing to see James Spader back in the saddle again. He's hilarious in his role! Truly, this is a great film that everyone should see. I'm considering seeing it a second time because I'm sure I missed some subtle nuances.
A Man for All Times - "Lincoln" by Conch39
As many have already written, the acting of Lewis, Fields, Jones, Holbrook, Strathairn and others created so many memorable vignettes that "Lincoln" will become another classic portrayal of Lincoln and his personal and political struggles during critical moments in American history. The demeanor of House debates on the Thirteenth Amendment seem strangely relective of current House debates on very different topics. One thing is certain. I would gladly support the Civll War House Speaker Colfax (another midwestern Republican) over Speaker Boehner any day. Some leaders do take personal stands on issues in order to break deadlocks and work toward meaningful compromises designed to make the United States a more democratic and humane nation for all. Author Doris Kearns Goodwin's exceptional biographical study/words on Lincoln truly come to visual life as "Lincoln" returns to remind us what one person, one couple, one family, one nation can accomplish in the struggles to be free.
Lincoln's other battles by dpswarn
Daniel Day-Lewis, of course, is a top candidate for an Oscar, but Sally Fields and many of the supporting cast need to also be considered, especially Tommie Lee Jones. And, Spielberg is as usual superb in his direction.
The movie did not focus nor even show much of the on-field battles of the Civil War. The battles it did reveal were the ones in the congress and in private and governmental meetings between Lincoln and others, and between Lincoln and his wife and sons.
The most interesting story, and the movie's focus, was Lincoln's push to get the 13th Amendment accepted and ratified by the soon-to-be reunited USA and how important that amendment would be to the future of the USA and especially the slaves freed by war decree.
Outstanding! by gvernonj
This is one of the best historical dramas I have ever seen. The screenplay and the performances were wonderful. Not only was DDL amazing, but Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones and James Spader were also fantastic, as were everyone. Now let me be clear: this is a very literate film. This is not an action/war film, this is a story about the American political system ? a system that can be dirty and involves lots of shady behind-the-scenes deal-making, but occassionally all these machinations can bring about something which uplifts the human race. There were a great many funny moments too. Just wonderful!
Lincoln was the perfect movie! by rb_in_chicago
I see over 100 movies a year and can always predict the Academy Award nominees. This will absolutely be among them, and possibly the winner. It's that good.
This movie also makes you realize why Americans should understand history.
"Lincoln"... How Things Get Done. by chazmichel
Every American from about 10 years old and up should see Spielberg's "Lincoln"... If we all did see this important film, we'd be a little less cynical about our politics and our politicians. We'd remember that those who lead us are human, and that great things happen in small human steps that are taken by folks who get their boots pretty muddied along the way... The act of governing is always a messy business...Even Lincoln, as towering a figure as he is, only becomes great in history over time. How timely this message is in the wake of our bruising political season...One of the more surprising elements of Tony Kushner's screenplay is its reclamation of Mary Lincoln's reputation... Vividly portrayed by a truly great Sally Field...Mary is no longer the mad shrew, but a restless force prodding her husband to further greatness...And every moviegoer should be grateful to historian Doris Kearns Goodwin for her source material, and to Daniel Day-Lewis for bringing Lincoln back to life.
A must and please take your young tween!!! by jimmy0601
I don't know were to begin, but Steven Spielberg is brilliant. I just adore him as a director. If Daniel Day Lewis doesn't win and Oscar, then I truly believe hollywood doesn't know true acting. He was brilliant. As I am writing.., I am in tears due to what a great job Mr. Spielberg has done. What a great movie and some of the humor was brilliant. My son loves anything to do with Lincoln. He was very sad and dislikes Booth!!!!!!!!!!!! God bless Mr. President Lincoln. You made history. Thank you Mr. Spielberg for this movie. Should be showed to students at school. My 11-year old said, it was the best movie he ever seen and Spielberg is awesome mom!! He loves Super 8. He can't stop talking about it. Thank!!! you!!!!! He actually wants to see it again!!!!!!:)
Lincoln by movie vixen
Go for the performances. Go for the story. Go for the history lesson. Above all, go for the pleasure of meeting this remarkable man of intellect, honor and conscience. Beautifully done!
I loved everything about LINCOLN. by larethas
Superbly ACTED and DIRECTED. Brilliant cinematography. One or two mentions here by fan reviewers regarding script problems. Not TRUE. The story is beautifully told and the language is rich, dense, intelligent. Sally Field IS Mary Todd and Daniel Day Lewis IS Lincoln. I would like to add that anyone who is interested in our current political impasses will gain great insight into their genesis. I plan to see this movie again.
daniel day lewis by myboychf
daniel day lewis portrayal of abraham lincoln is a tour de force. you actually feel you are in the same room with lincoln. his persona and lincoln mannirisim's are right. the hands down winner for best actor next year. I actfully cried at the conclusion of this movie. Speilberg has directed a masterpiece