Information for Parents
Common Sense Media says Iffy for 13+
Patriotic thriller is ridiculous, violent, and entertaining.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that White House Down is a patriotic thriller in the vein of Olympus Has Fallen and Independence Day, in which the country is saved by one brave man with a gun -- in this case Channing Tatum. Like Independence Day, which was also directed by Roland Emmerich, there's a lot of violence, but most of it is on a grand scale -- explosions, helicopters/planes crashing, and deaths the audience doesn't see too up close. There are a few hand-to-hand combat scenes and a tense hostage situation in which people (some in high levels of the administration) are executed or wounded. A young girl is frequently in danger and is almost killed on a couple of occasions (which ups the movie's intensity level), and the president seems dead. There's absolutely no sex or romance, but there's some language, including a single "f--k you," plus "s--t," "bitch," and "a--hole." Ultimately it's a crowd-pleasing action movie with a well-intentioned but slightly contradictory message involving both peace and the importance of armed defense.
- Families can talk about the amount of violence in White House Down. Does any of it seem realistic? How does that affect its impact?
- How does seeing the destruction of national landmarks like the White House and the Capitol affect you? Is it more disturbing than when random buildings explode in movies?
- Talk about which historical facts/trivia nuggets you learned about the White House and the presidency. Is the immediate line of presidential secession clearer now that you've seen it played out on screen? What did you think about the jockeying for control between the Secret Service and the military/joint chiefs of staff?
- How does the movie's depiction of domestic terrorists and military mercenaries differ from other threats to the White House in previous movies/TV shows?
The good stuff
Positive messages: The movie has a strong patriotic message, but it's a bit conflicted, as some characters consider it the president's duty to be hawkish and kill all enemies, while others are for diplomacy. Sacrifice is also discussed again and again -- both positively (the importance of saving one person) and negatively (who cares whether we bomb an entire nation if its leaders are a threat to the United States?). Trust is a theme as well, and there's a strong father-daughter relationship in the movie.
Positive role models: John Cale has made mistakes in the past, but now he's committed -- to his daughter, to his country, and to his president (even though it's not his job to protect him). The president is a righteous man who wants to make a difference, not just make a name for himself. Both use violence as a means to solve problems. Emily, who's only 11, is incredibly brave and stands up to the armed hostage-takers on several occasions and even video tapes them and uploads the footage with her smartphone. Various members of the Secret Service and the armed forces do their duty admirably, but the mercenaries and the folks behind the takeover act without honor or care for human life.
What to watch for
Violence: Similarly to movies like Independence Day, there's lots of violence and an extremely high body count (collateral damage), but there are only a few bloody injuries. People die of bullet wounds, explosions, or blunt force. The weapons range from hand and machine guns to grenades and anti-aircraft missiles, military helicopters, and nuclear missiles. There are also a few hand-to-hand battles and various scenes of executions or close-range murders. Civilians, including an 11-year-old girl and a school group, are held hostage and threatened.
Sexy stuff: High-tech thermal equipment briefly reveals (through a building) the outline of two people on top of each other (sex is implied).
Language: One "f--k you," plus "a--hole," "s--t," "bitch" (referring to a little girl), "prick," "hell," "damn," "goddamn," "oh my God" (as an exclamation), and insults including "idiot" and "old man."
Consumerism: Cars in the president's fleet include a Cadillac limousine and several Chevy Suburbans. Other product placements prominently mentioned or shown include Sony VAIO laptop, Nike sneakers, and Nicorette gum. The director's other White House movie, Independence Day, is overtly referenced.
Drinking, drugs and smoking: The president chews Nicorette gum and is obviously a former smoker. A staffer for the vice president drinks on a plane.