Civil War parents guide: Kirsten Dunst’s A24 thriller will divide your family

The new Alex Garland movie is not for the faint of heart.
Civil War from A24
Civil War from A24 /

Alex Garland is a writer/director known for hot-button topics, sci-fi premises, and intense action. So it should be no surprise that Civil War, which is on VOD now, is more of the same. But with Kirsten Dunst back in action, will this appeal to her Spider-Man fans? Or will you need to divide and conquer in the living room?

Here’s the gist of the plot… Dunst is Lee, an award-winning photographer known for covering war zones. Only this time, the war zone is America as a Civil War has broken out between the alliance of California and Texas, and the rest of the United States. In the midst of this, Lee, along with journalist Joel (Wagner Moura) decide they’re going to push past the front in Charlottesville in order to interview the President of the United States (Nick Offerman) before he’s either overthrown and/or killed.

Along for the ride are an aging New York Times reporter played by Stephen McKinley Henderson, and a younger photojournalist played by Cailee Spaeny, who idolizes Lee. They drive from New York to Washington, D.C. over the course of the movie, and slowly reveal just how broken and violent this future America has become.

It’s a hot-button political movie with some stark imagery and big action. But don’t confuse this with Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War… Other than a few moments, this movie is a deadly serious exploration of a war zone that just happens to be in the United States.

To find out if any of this is appropriate for kids, read on.

Civil War Parents Guide: Explaining The R Age Rating

Civil War from A24 /

Civil War is rated R for “strong violent content, bloody/disturbing images, and language throughout,” and it absolutely deserves that rating.

Sex & Nudity: There’s very little in the way of sex or nudity. At one point Joel says the violence is giving him an erection, and there’s some light flirting from Joel towards Spaeny’s character. Kirsten Dunst takes a bath, but unless you consider knees offensive, there’s nothing else here.

Violence: The violence in this movie is non-stop and graphic. There are multiple point-blank executions that are extremely harrowing to watch, dead bodies everywhere, men bloody and hung, gunfire, explosions, and at one point a man gets set on fire as we watch. This is a side to this, but other than a few moments of levity, the grueling violence and tension is non-stop, particularly in a harrowing scene involving Jesse Plemons, and the final push on Washington towards the end.

Language: These are journalists and soldiers in a war situation, they’re cursing non-stop.

Drinking & Drugs: Yes to both. Joel likes to smoke weed, and shares with others. There’s drinking at a bar towards the beginning, and throughout the movie the group shares a bottle of vodka. They drink more, the worse things get. And they get very, very bad.

Overall Verdict: What Age Is Civil War Appropriate For?

The R Rating is deserved here. While older teens who are used to violent movies might be up for this, the subject matter is deadly serious and frankly, you’re not going to learn much about political divides – because the movie fastidiously avoids any sort of specific politics throughout.

If you would watch war footage on the news with your kids after the newscaster says “what you’re about to see might disturb you” and that sounds like an okay time on the couch for two hours, maybe? But otherwise, Civil War is tense and upsetting, and 17 and older is a good guideline here.

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