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‘Napoleon’ Parents Guide: Is ‘Napoleon’ Appropriate for Kids?

Napoleon (Jaoquin Phoenix) glares at someone while wearing his iconic bicorne hat.

Napoleon, Ridley Scott’s sprawling biopic starring Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon Bonaparte, might seem like a great way to teach your teen or tween some history. After all, the movie includes some seminal moments in the history of France, like Napoleon’s siege of Toulon and the infamous Battle of Waterloo. But is Napoleon appropriate for kids? Here’s what you need to know.

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Napoleon tells the story of Napoleon’s rise to power, from an ambitious young captain in the French army to the Emperor of the French. The movie depicts Napoleon’s megalomaniacal rise by examining his tumultuous lifelong relationship with Empress Josephine (Vanessa Kirby), with whom he tried and failed to produce an heir to the French throne. Napoleon also explores the numerous military exploits that led to Napoleon’s rise and downfall, with meticulous recreations of famous battles. Finally, Phoenix brings Napoleon himself to life, infusing him with eccentricity and a weirdly endearing petulance.

What kind of content does Napoleon contain?

Simply put, Napoleon doesn’t pull any punches. The battle scenes are grisly, depicting graphic violence against humans and animals. Soldiers and their mounts are shot with cannons, hacked with swords, and maimed by explosives. Wounds and gore are clearly visible. The film is brutal at times.

Napoleon also contains some unvarnished sex scenes. Keep in mind that Phoenix’s Napoleon is a pretty weird guy, so his intimate life is correspondingly weird. There’s nothing bizarre or appalling in the film, but if your kids see this movie, you might find yourself on the hook for some uncomfortable explanations.

What is Napoleon’s rating, and should kids see it?

Napoleon is rated R, which means that moviegoers under 17 need to be accompanied by a parent. With Napoleon coming out soon on Apple TV+ (an exact release date hasn’t been announced yet), you may be wondering if you can put the movie on over the holidays.

To be honest, though, even if you’ve got a 16 or 17 year old interested in French history, you’ll want to carefully consider how comfortable you are showing them depictions of sex and violence. And if you’ve got a precocious 12 or 13 year old who wants to see it? Maybe tell them to wait a few years.

(featured image: Columbia Pictures / Apple Original Films)

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Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href=""></a>

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