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Red Tails Review Critics


Dave White Profile

Heroism trumping history. Read full review


Grae Drake Profile

Never takes off. Read full review

Other Critics provided by

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

  • 3.0

    out of 100

    Mixed or average reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 40

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    One could argue that the target audience - black teenagers, Mr. Lucas has said - might be most receptive to a film that conveys history through contemporary entertainment. But this isn't contemporary entertainment, it's antiquated kitsch reprocessed by the producer's nostalgia for the movies of his boyhood. The story has been stripped of historical context - don't black teenagers and everyone else deserve hard facts? - and internal logic.

    Read Full Review

  • 50

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter Todd McCarthy

    Every character here is so squeaky-clean, and the prejudice as depicted is so toothless and easily overcome, that the film feels like a gingerly fantasy version of what, in real life, was an exceptional example of resilient trail-blazing.

    Read Full Review

  • 63

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    David Oyelowo stands out as the daredevil Joe "Lightning" Little, the unit's best flier. With his bravery and bravado, he's the film's most complex character.

    Read Full Review

  • 67

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    As long as it stays in the air, Red Tails is a compelling sky-war pageant of a movie. On the ground, it's a far shakier experience: dutiful and prosaic, with thinly scripted episodes that don't add up to a satisfying story.

    Read Full Review

  • See all Red Tails reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 13+

Wartime drama mixes aerial combat, worthy messages, cliches.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Red Tails is a World War II action-drama inspired by the real-life Tuskegee Airmen, an all-black fighter pilot squadron. Executive produced by George Lucas, the film has several intense aerial combat sequences (including loud gunfire, fiery explosions, bloody injuries, crashes, and deaths) and shows the racism the aviators encountered every day. It's stirring (if not exactly unpredictable) and patriotic and tells an important story with messages about bravery, duty, loyalty, and friendship. In addition to the many battle sequences, there's some swearing (including "s--t" and the "N" word) and drinking (one character battles a dependence on alcohol), as well as a relationship between one of the pilots and a local Italian girl.

  • Families can talk about the movie's messages. What do the characters learn about duty and confidence? Why is their story an important one? Are they all positive role models?
  • Talk about the film's historical context. Why were the pilots treated like inferiors? Why were so many people resistant to changing their minds about the pilots' abilities? How could you find out more about the Tuskegee Airmen?
  • Do you think the movie is historically accurate? Why might filmmakers choose to change details of the past when telling their story?

The good stuff
  • message true4

    Messages: The story has strong messages about equality, duty, loyalty, and friendship. The African-American pilots face prejudice at almost every level of the military, but those attitudes are shown to be small-minded and wrong, as the pilots' skill, bravery, teamwork, and dedication to duty finally win over even some of their most bitter detractors. Through sometimes-painful consequences, characters also learn lessons about following orders, believing in themselves, and putting honor above glory.

  • rolemodels true4

    Role models: The Red Tails are daring and brave and eager to fight to defend their country, even though the military (and many Americans in general) see them as second-class citizens. Most of them suffer from some kind of flaw (lack of confidence, overconfidence, bad attitude, etc.), but their relationships with each other and their unit -- and their ability to finally prove themselves in battle -- help them learn from their mistakes. Some of the characters feel a bit stereotypical, but that's largely due to script weaknesses.

What to watch for
  • violence false4

    Violence: Many intense aerial combat sequences as the pilots tangle with German fighters in the air and/or strafe targets on the ground (including trains, trucks, an airfield, and more). Lots of loud gunfire and big explosions, and several scenes feature injured pilots who are struggling to return to their base despite serious, often bloody injuries. Major characters are hurt in battle, and one is captured. Planes catch on fire and crash; early sequences show bomber crews taking severe losses (including close-ups of some dead soldiers' faces). The pilots also occasionally get into fistfights on the ground with each other or with other members of the military.

  • sex false2

    Sex: A pilot courts an Italian woman who lives near their base; they exchange a few kisses, and one scene shows them waking up together (he's shirtless, and she's in lingerie).

  • language false3

    Language: Language includes "s--t," "ass," "damn," "bitch," "bastard," "hell," "goddamn," and "crap." A white soldier insults a black pilot using the "N" word. "Negro" is used frequently, as it was a common way of referring to African Americans in the 1940s; "colored" is also used often but is seen as a more derogatory term.

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false3

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: One character has a drinking problem that grows more serious throughout the film; he frequently sips out of a flask, often seeming desperate for a drink. One of the unit's commanding officers likes to smoke a pipe; cigars are also seen and smoked. Some scenes take place in bars where the soldiers drink to blow off steam.