Do You Allow Your MilKids to Watch War Movies?


I live in a wonderful neighborhood. It’s packed with both military and non-military families, most with children around my own kids’ ages. On the weekends, it’s the norm to see all of our kids meeting up outside to ride bikes, build tree forts, play on swing sets, and jump on trampolines. As parents, we all seem to share similar values, and we’ve gotten to know each other well enough to feel comfortable entrusting our children in each other’s supervision.

That’s why I was so shocked when last weekend I wandered over to a neighbors’ house and found my son watching “Black Hawk Down,” a movie that comes nowhere close to making the cut on my list of appropriate movies for an 8-year-old. Ignoring the smaller issue of the father neglecting to ask my permission to show my child an R-rated movie, I focused on the bigger issue: what made him think that this particular film was suitable for young children to watch?

My son has a vague concept of war and the fact that our country has been at war for his entire lifetime. He knows that wars are fought by men and women in the military. He knows that his father is in the military. He knows that his father has gone on “trips” to faraway places where the bad guys are. And he knows that even though his dad returned home safely, some people die and some people come back hurt. Those are facts I’m comfortable with him knowing, facts I feel he’s capable of processing both intellectually and emotionally.

War movies like “Black Hawk Down,” on the other hand, are not something I feel he’s old enough to handle on any level. I’m an adult, and I have a hard time wrapping my own head around war movies. All I have to do is think about certain scenes from “Saving Private Ryan” or “We Were Soldiers” or “Act of Valor” and I get choked up. I can’t help it. It hits too close to home.

That’s why I worry about my military brats watching these movies before they’re emotionally ready. As I explained to my neighbor, I don’t want my son having “Black Hawk Down” flashbacks if and when his father comes home one day and announces he’s deploying again. My son is well aware that, unlike other movies like “Harry Potter,” this one is based on reality. The scary parts can’t be explained away by calling it make-believe. War isn’t make-believe. And I don’t think he needs that kind of reality at 8-years-old.

I’m not trying to shelter my children from war and pretend it doesn’t exist. I’m just waiting until I feel they’re mature enough to handle the content portrayed in these movies. And when they are, my husband and I (not my neighbor) will be the ones sitting next to them, ready to answer their questions and allay their fears.

Do you allow your military brats to watch war movies? If so, what are their reactions? At what age do you think kids can handle war movies like “Black Hawk Down?”

About the Author

Heather Sweeney
Heather Sweeney is an Associate Editor at, former Navy wife, mother of two, blogger, and avid runner. She’s the blogger formerly known as Wife on the Roller Coaster and still checks in every now and then at her blog Riding the Roller Coaster.

17 Comments on "Do You Allow Your MilKids to Watch War Movies?"

  1. I can barely handle war movies! I I had kids who expressed an interest in watching them
    I’d at least go by the rating. No 8 year old should be watching any R rated movie. They have that rating system here for a reason. Yes it can be bent a bit, but for certain scenarios like gore and violence I think it’s worth following.

  2. You are exactly right, movies based on reality, with very realistic scenes, cannot be explained away the way an imaginary scene in Harry Potter can. That is the reason our 8 year old has seen the Transformers Trilogy, but not Act of Valor. I'm also not going to let him see GI Joe this summer either, because although it's make believe, it mirrors too closely with real life. I think this applies regardless of being a milbrat or not. BTW, our household is a duo military household. But that aside, I still wouldn't let my child watch that movie, the same way I won't let him play Medal of Honor on PS2. He argues that he's just "killing the Germans, the bad guys." But there's a difference between shooting someone in the face and shooting other WW2 planes with a plane. A child's mind is NOT developed enough to understand this, and I don't want mine to become desensitized before they are capable of understanding. I think you have the right idea on who/when & how. Keep up the great parenting!

  3. Doesn't happen in our home either, I rarely watch war movies myself. My children have been exposed to a lot of things that children their ages haven't just due to the nature of my husband's injuries, and the lifestyle we have because of that, but my children do not watch war movies, or play war video games. We do not pretend to kill people, or blow people up. These things are in part due to some of my husbands triggers, but also just because it does hit so close to home.

  4. jacey_eckhart | June 27, 2012 at 10:47 am |

    We watch a lot of military movies in our family–12 O'Clock High. In Harm's Way. The Long Gray Line. But the new kind of war movie is so graphic–and now so real–that I don't watch those. I can't. And I don't let my ten year old watch either. My teenagers make their own choices about movies, but still…

  5. Shelter your children as long as possible. Heaven forbid they learn about the harsh realities of life and death before the age of 18. You're right it is your decision but they will mature intellectually and emotionally only as fast as you allow them.

    • There is a difference between sheltering your child and setting them up to be emotional basketcases. Do you even have kids? No 2 kids are alike and as parents we adjust our parenting methods according to the needs of our kids. People learn about the harsh realities of life early enough, especially now with the social media's barrage of public humiliation and cruelties.

  6. Stephanie | June 27, 2012 at 1:42 pm |

    Well said. No war movies in our house either. Besides, I would then have to explain why mommy cries through each and every one of them!

  7. I think it's also prudent to mention that there are different types of war movies. A John Wayne film like "Flying Leatthernecks" or even Henry Fonda's "Battle of the Bulge" is notably different in content from "Private Ryan" or "Blackhawk Down". In the first group, you'll hear bullets ricochet and see someone crumple to the ground. But the second group will show bloody stumps, bodies blown apart, etcetera.

    I was about 8 or 9 when my parents let me see the tamer movies, the first one being "Memphis Belle" which, except for a single bullet wound, didn't have much blood or gore in it. I didn't see the more visually violent (and, honestly, more realistic-looking) ones until High School. Of course, there's the issue that they didn't start coming out until I was IN High School.

  8. I honestly think that children should be allowed to watch war movies at any age. However, it's important for them to understand that war is the consequence of man failure to deal with one another fairly. Wars are symptomatic of a larger weakness. I think that it is also important for them to understand that defending one's country is a solemn obligation no differently than defending family. It's important for them not to be desensitized with war's horror so that they develop a respect for life and an appreciation and love for peace.
    In an age where war is glamorized through the game station, it important for kids to learn that "Modern Warfare" is no more than entertainment and as far from the reality of war than anything could be.

  9. I believe that it is the parent's call on when a child is old enough for the current war movies. I have an 11 yr old daughter who likes to watch movies that involve paranormal events and we haven't had issues with nightmares or anxiety. I would not allow her to watch a war movie since it would create too much anxiety. She was overwrought with worry about her dad after she saw a poster of a serviceman with a prosthetic arm. She was so worried that her dad would not come home or that he would be missing things when he came home. It was a consuming worry and it would do her more harm than good if she saw the horrors of war in a movie and connected those images to her dad's deployment.

    In response to Sal Palma's comment, I find it hard to believe that we need to worry about military kids becoming desensitized to war since the multi-faceted impact of war is in their homes and in their neighborhoods. Military kids, better than most, have a great understanding of the sacrifices that occur when our men and women are sent to fight.

  10. It's a parents decission when THEIR child can and should watch war movies. I've watch war movies all my life with my dad all and so has my son without any negative affects. My dad served in WWII, Korea and during Vietnam. Besides the movies I watched the Vietnam war every night on the news and it didn't keep me from serving in the military. Decide for your child but don't for other parents. Also be careful what alot of liberal mental heath dr's opine. Also kids need to be ready to face life sooner or later.

    • I agree. We let our sons watch SPR and Gladiator when they were 8 &10 yrs old. We watched it with them. It has to be a parental decision. I cannot fault anyone for not allowing their kids to watch these kind of movies but it's up to the parents.

  11. I can't even get my parents to watch war movies. Mom refuses so long as any of us are in uniform.

  12. I grew up watching war movies like full metal jacket at a young age. I always knew the dangers of war since my grandfather was injured twice in WWII and his whole tank crew were killed. That said I watch war movies with my kids and let them know that’s what daddy did. I let them know that the bad guys get punished but sometimes the good guy has to die to make that happen. They are perfectly fine.

  13. My parents never let me watch war movies or rated r movies. I always thought it was ridiculous as I got older. Once when I was twelve a friends father took us to see we were soldiers. I had no clue about war or anything and was laughing during the movie. Now that I look back I was just a stupid ignorant little kid p who thought it was funny make believe. That's because I was never taught about war. It was always hide everything from the child. My dad even cursed out my friends father for taking us and our friendship was strained ever since. I feel children should be taught about war and watch these movies with adults and have the adults discuss and explain things to them. I don't think it desensitizes them it just makes them realize things earlier instead of all at once later on.

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