Parents Guide: 'Dunkirk' is PG-13 but not for the reasons you would expect

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THE MOVIE THEATER — There are some movies for which the traditional movie ratings do not apply. "Dunkirk" is a beautiful and intense war movie that shifts graphic content from a visual experience to an emotional experience, leaving us with a film that is arguably more intense than if we were to merely witness these events.

“Dunkirk,” despite its subject matter, is very much appropriate for young teens. I would contend it is probably the most tame in terms of content for war a movie I have ever seen with a PG-13 rating.

The difference comes when we talk about the intangibles of the film. By intangibles, I mean the tone, feeling, atmosphere and emotion of the movie. With these things in mind, I will list the technical and intangible attributes that contribute to the appropriateness or inappropriateness of the film for younger teens.



Despite the fact that this is a movie based on a particularly troublesome moment of WWII, there is surprisingly little shown in way of intense violence and it never lingers on any death or injury. The violence in the film includes shooting, bombings, fist fighting, drownings and one possible suicide, but with very little blood and no gore to speak of.

Nudity/sexual content

Though the first 10 minutes of the film have to do with a young soldier looking for a place to go to the bathroom, there is really no nudity or sexuality in this film.


Again, this movie is extremely tame in its language, despite the subject matter. There are couple instances of the “F-word,” and not much more.



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"Dunkirk" is extremely intense with a sustained feeling of uneasiness throughout the entire film. This effect is created through the use of sound, music and cinematography. There is no relief to be had throughout the film in terms of taking an emotional break. You may walk out of the film feeling on edge and antsy, which is an intended part of the overall experience of the movie.


The cinematography in “Dunkirk” goes back to creating a visual feeling and emotion that goes hand-in-hand with sound and music. At times, it can be very discordant and uneasy to experience. The intended effect here is to cause the viewers to feel ill at ease as they watch film and the experiences of the main characters unfold.


“Dunkirk” is a beautiful movie which should be experienced by anyone who watches it. In terms of technical content, I would be comfortable recommending it for children 13 years old and even slightly younger, depending on their sensibilities. As far as intangible content, it is more difficult for me to recommend the film as something your children will enjoy experiencing.

The closest thing I can compare this movie to is “The Thin Red Line” by Terrence Malick.

In the end, this film is a breathtaking and completely unique experience but does not come without emotional effort.

For a full review of the film, read John Clyde’s article on

![Grant Olsen](\.jpg?filter=ksl/65x65)
About the Author: David Clyde \-----------------------------

David comes from a family of "movie people" of which there are actors, screenwriters, a set designer, a director and yes, a couple of movie reviewers. When David isn't busy living in the real world, he is busy living in someone else's version of it on a movie screen. David is a regular on the KSL Popcorn Report podcast. Contact him at and on Twitter at @DC_Reviews.

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