During World War II, the US Army had at their disposal an elite team of fighter pilots but they were not allowed to engage in combat. The reason? They were all African-Americans, doomed to be deemed inferior, less intelligent and more cowardly than their white counterparts by the institutional racism of the upper ranks. However, when given an opportunity to fight the enemy, they prove their worth and become more respected by almost everyone. Will their excellence be recognised or are they doomed to be forgotten by history?

Red Tails (2012) – Director: Anthony Hemingway

Is Red Tails appropriate for kids

“Red Tails Poster” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Red_Tails_Poster.jpg#/media/File:Red_Tails_Poster.jpg

Rating: 12

Running Length: 125 mins

Starring: Nate Parker, David Oyelowo, Cuba Gooding Jr.

Genre: War


Set in the last year of World War II and focusing on a small fictional group of Tuskagee Airmen – Capt. Martin ‘Easy’ Julian, Joe ‘Lightning’ Little, Ray ‘Junior’ Gannon and Andrew ‘Smokey’ Salem (played respectively by Nate Parker, David Oyelowo, Tristan Wilds and Ne-Yo) ‘Red Tails’ takes the best route with a historical film which is to only introduce a few complex characters so that the story of what happened can be fully told. These four characters are very well written, they are incredibly brave but they have their flaws, making them human rather than twee shining beacons of heroism which is where many similar movies go wrong.

Where this movie falls down is characters’ actions not always matching the direction of the movie. Poor judgements are blamed on the wrong things and the prejudice they experience is comparatively mild to the real plight of Black people at the time; the segregation seems to merely go away once they have their first success. However, the scenes of the pilots flying are dangerously exhilarating and the much-needed chemistry between the characters manages to be both light-hearted and believable.

As a movie about historical racial prejudices, the subject matter here is relatively tame, however it does get its point across with a likeable plot and realistic characters for the audience to feel emotionally connected to. With the story being mostly true (with a few embellishments) it is a wonderfully engaging film which teaches the world about a group of incredibly brave men who could otherwise have been all but forgotten about.


The beginning of the movie has a real quote from the 1925 US Army War College Study which says ‘Blacks are mentally inferior, by nature subservient, and cowards in the face of danger. They are therefore unfit for combat’.

Most of the action sequences involving aerial combat are quite graphic. The first one which is the first scene of the film is probably the strongest. There is a three to five second close up of a dead man’s face, his eyes are open and blood trickles down from his hairline down onto his cheek. One of the planes catches fire and there is a brief scream as the plane is completely engulfed. There is a lot of death, several men get shot and they cry out in pain plus one plane falls from the sky and the men inside are shown to be scared as they fall to their deaths.

There are several scenes where the enemy are killed and the heroes of the movie are happy about it, cheering and celebrating about their successes. This is realistic and in context but some parents may not be happy with children who do not understand seeing people going out of their way to kill others and being joyful about it.

One scene involves a train which is believed to carry livestock, however the leader believes this to be a decoy and orders his team to destroy the train. While this order is believable and understandable, some kids may be upset by this casual attitude towards potentially killing animals.

One of the characters, ‘Lightning’, has a reputation as a womaniser. He goes into a local village with the sole intention of seducing a young woman that he has recently seen. He has a very casual attitude towards sex although this develops throughout the film. At one point, Lightning is seen standing by a window and is topless, a woman is in the room with him and is only wearing a nightdress so it is clear that they have slept together, however the dialogue does not say anything to explicitly imply this.

During a battle, one of the pilots gets covered in fuel and their plane is badly damaged. Having to make a dangerous emergency landing they are terrified that this will cause the plane to set fire and burn them. They say to another character, ‘I don’t wanna die, I’m not ready’.

A major character is hurt badly during a fight and, due to having just delivered a deadly blow to the enemy, doesn’t realise at first, however soon after they cough up blood and gasp in pain.



‘Red Tails’ is movie which manages to finely balance an important historical story with an interesting and entertaining plot. With realistic war violence, some suffering and racism, we feel that this movie is most appropriate for kids aged 11 and over.

  • Violence: 4/5 (people are killed and injured during aerial combat scenes, this includes close-ups of bodies, some bloody wounds and burns as well as the associated fear)
  • Emotional Distress: 3/5 (several major characters are injured badly and often seemed to be killed. One character dies on-screen and their friend is distraught and begs him to save himself, not knowing that they are already dead)
  • Fear Factor: 2/5 (it is often unclear who will survive the battles, especially when certain planes are hit or characters are injured)
  • Sexual Content: 3/5 (women are treated respectfully but the male characters often speak about their enjoyment of casual intimacy. There is a painted picture on the side of a plane of a woman in a provocative pose, wearing a revealing dress)
  • Bad Language: 3/5 (some mild to moderate cursing and blasphemy. A strong racial term is used once in an aggressive way)
  • Dialogue: 3/5 (a lot of racist dialogue which the major characters have to accept but fight against. Some sexual dialogue)
  • One character is a heavy drinker, however a friend of theirs lets them know that it is unacceptable.
  • A religious character often prays to ‘Black Jesus’ and clutches a picture of Jesus with dark skin. This is not meant to be blasphemous and is a genuine comfort to this character.
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of war, institutionalised racism, the plight of fighter pilots, courage, fighting against oppression, friendship, love and dealing with personal weaknesses.

Words by Laura Record

Red Tails [Blu-ray]

New From: £4.95 GBP In Stock

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