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Silkwood 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.

  • 100

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    That could have been a good movie, but predictable. Mike Nichols' Silkwood is not predictable.... We realize this is a lot more movie than perhaps we were expecting.

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  • 20

    out of 100

    Time Richard Schickel

    There is none of the affectionate respect for working-class life and values that marked the similar, and far superior, "Norma Rae," nor any of that film's sense of felt reality either.

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  • 70

    out of 100

    The New York Times Vincent Canby

    Silkwood is a very moving work about the raising of the consciousness of one woman of independence, guts and sensitivity.

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  • 80

    out of 100


    A very fine biographical drama.

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 15+

Disturbing tale of corporate greed, nuclear danger, courage.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that, above all, this is a very sad and disturbing movie about corporate greed and class difference that tells an inspirational story. There is occasional profanity: "f--k," "s--t," "asshole," "bitch," and more, as well as a few slurs: "dyke," "gook." Sexual scenes are presented as loving expressions of feeling and include kissing, embracing, and, except for one brief flash of breast, no nudity. Smoking and beer drinking are continuous and there is one scene in which characters share a marijuana cigarette.

  • Families can talk about the fact that this film is based on a true story. What resources are available that might help you learn more about Karen Silkwood's life and might verify the facts as they've been presented?
  • The filmmakers made an effort to show many sides of Karen Silkwood. When a character is portrayed as imperfect, does that heighten his or her believability? Why?
  • Some movies have a definite political point-of-view. Talk about the several issues of concern to the filmmakers in Silkwood. Which of these issues might be relevant today?

The good stuff
  • message true1

    Messages: Though the outcome is not a happy one, this film proves that one individual speaking out and acting on behalf of a larger group is necessary, admirable, and may require great courage. High on the list of desirable traits portrayed are: taking risks for the safety of others, questioning authority, and providing unconditional love and support for people who are doing the right thing. On the negative side, corporate interests are not to be trusted, depicted as callous, unethical, and perhaps criminal.

  • rolemodels true1

    Role models: Karen Silkwood, though unconventional and flawed, proves to be a newly enlightened woman who battles ignorance, corruption, exploitation of the work force, and the ruthlessness of the powerful. She is able to influence only a very few of her fearful, complacent, or unwilling co-workers, but she refuses to give up even when faced with great bodily harm. Karen is a stellar example of someone who has few resources at hand, but uses her intelligence, tenacity, and sense of justice to shake up an unfair, dangerous system. Union representatives are shown as cautious, patronizing, but finally helpful. Not a single member of the corporate hierarchy displays any positive behavior.

What to watch for
  • violence false2

    Violence: Four separate sequences show women being "decontaminated" by undergoing painful, dehumanizing cleansing treatments: scouring, scrubbing, high pressure hosing. One unanswered punch is thrown. There are two car accidents: in one, a deer is hit and the occupant of the car is slightly injured; in the second, the tragic aftermath is shown briefly.

  • sex false2

    Sex: In several romantic scenes, a man and woman in love engage in kissing, embracing, some foreplay, with one off-camera suggestion of oral sex. A teasing flash of female breast is played as humor. One leading character is involved in a lesbian relationship, but none of the couple's sexual activity is shown.

  • language false2

    Language: Occasional language includes: "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "bulls--t," "motherf--ker," "Goddamn," "asshole," "pecker." Slurs used are: "dyke," "gook," and a negative reference to a "colored person."

  • consumerism false2

    Consumerism: Coca Cola and Coors beer are frequently consumed to indicate lifestyle choices. Other brands mentioned or seen: ex-lax, Wonder Bread, Lone Star beer, Rice-a-Roni, American Airlines.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false2

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Set in the early 1970s multiple characters drink beer in scene after scene and smoke throughout. Three characters share a marijuana cigarette, and availability of pot is discussed.