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The Longest Day Review

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 12+

Authentic 3-hour WWII D-Day drama; no graphic violence.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Longest Day, a black-and-white docu-drama released in 1962, is a predominantly accurate depiction of D-Day, June 6, 1944, when Allied troops invaded German-occupied Europe via the western coast of France. The film, which takes place over one 24-hour period, uses three distinct points of view -- American, English, and German (with subtitles) -- to tell the story. The first two hours reveal the preparations and initial skirmishes that set up the final hour -- a depiction of the massive air and sea battles that launched the Allies' assault on Omaha Beach in Normandy. Combat is almost continuous. Men are gunned down; lifeless bodies are seen on the beach; some dead hang from trees. Despite that, both graphic violence and brutality are kept to a minimum; the camera does not dwell on the human destruction. An effort is made to show German officers in a balanced way, though some are buffoonish and wrongheaded to the extreme. A momentous achievement when it was released (filmmakers didn't have special effects and computers to rely on), the film retains the historical and emotional impact that was intended. Some smoking, drinking, and a few "hells" and "damns" are heard.

  • Families can talk about how the portrayal of war has evolved since this movie was made in 1962. Considered violent and realistic when it was made, how does The Longest Day compare, in terms of both tone and on-screen brutality, to more recent combat films (Saving Private Ryan, Lone Survivor)?
  • Why do you think filmmakers sometimes choose to make black-and-white films? Do you see the artistry in the many shades and shadows revealed using this technique? Does the absence of color make it seem more or less real?
  • Why is it important to know how truthful a historical film actually is? How would you find out about the film's accuracy? Do you favor more authenticity or a "better" story?

The good stuff
  • educationalvalue true5

    Educational value: Vivid portrayal of D-Day, June 6, 1944, which marked a major turn in the Allied armies' assault on the Germans' European stronghold.

  • message true4

    Messages: Uses three points of view (American, English, and German) in an attempt to create an even-handed, humanizing approach to the events of D-Day. Without extended graphic depiction of the war's most heinous injuries and brutalities, confirms that "war is hell." Confined in scope to a single day, the film cannot comment upon the long-term effects of such life-changing experiences and the inevitable scars, but it is sincere in its effort to deliver a complex picture of the realities of battle.

  • rolemodels true4

    Role models: All American and British commanders, officers, and troops are portrayed as brave, loyal, trustworthy, and insightful. Despite the film's attempts to balance the characterizations, some of their German counterparts are depicted as hotheaded, stubborn, and ignorant, though others are thoughtful and courageous. Though one African-American barrage balloon battalion was involved, and a very small percentage of African-Americans were on the beach at Normandy, no men of color are shown. With the exception of one female French resistance worker, women have only minor roles.

What to watch for
  • violence false4

    Violence: The full final hour of the film, as well as some earlier scenes, show men engaged in battle. Men on both sides of the conflict die from gunfire, explosions, and accidents. Dead bodies strewn across a beach are seen in the background of numerous sequences. Dead paratroopers hang from trees. Many scenes show hand-to-hand combat, and characters fight for their lives. A train blows up; a solider tries to drown a woman; a fleeing partisan is shot in the back. Despite all of the above, this film was made in the early 1960s and, as was the case at that time, there are no graphically violent visuals or stomach-turning injuries shown.

  • sex false0

    Sex: A woman flashes some dcolletage to distract German soldiers.

  • language false1

    Language: A few "damns" and "hells."

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not applicable

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false1

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Set in wartime 1944, characters smoke; one general chews and smokes a cigar throughout. Champagne, beer, and whiskey are consumed moderately in a few scenes.