Information for Parents
Common Sense Media says 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
Positive 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.
Positive 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: 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.
Sexy stuff: 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: 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: Not an issue
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.