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How family-friendly are the 2021 Oscar contenders?

This year’s Best Picture nominees touch on prescient topics and significant historical events, but will they work for family movie night?

In this Feb. 21, 2015 file photo, an Oscar statue appears outside the Dolby Theatre for the 87th Academy Awards in Los Angeles. Some people watch awards shows out of love, others because they love to hate. But this year, as ratings have taken a dive, will anybody tune in to the Oscars?
In this Feb. 21, 2015 file photo, an Oscar statue appears outside the Dolby Theatre for the 87th Academy Awards in Los Angeles. Some people watch awards shows out of love, others because they love to hate. But this year, as ratings have taken a dive, will anybody tune in to the Oscars?
Associated Press

The 93rd annual Academy Awards ceremony is on Sunday and this year’s Best Picture nominees span various genres and touch on several prescient topics and significant historical events. But are they family-friendly?

I’m sure we’ve all suffered through the immensely uncomfortable experience of watching an off-color movie scene while sitting next to our parents or kids.

To spare you from having to endure that experience again, here’s a breakdown of this year’s eight Best Picture nominees designed to help you decide which movies you’d feel comfortable watching (and, perhaps more importantly, who you’d feel comfortable watching them with):


‘The Father’ — PG-13

What it’s about

This screen adaptation of a play by the same name tells the story of an elderly man (Anthony Hopkins) who refuses assistance from his daughter (Olivia Colman) as he battles with advancing Alzheimer’s symptoms. As the man struggles to make sense of his daily routines, he begins to doubt his loved ones, his memories and the world around him.

How family-friendly is “The Father”?

The MPAA rated “The Father” PG-13 for “for some strong language and thematic material.” PG-13 films are generally allotted two uses of the f-bomb before being elevated to an R rating, and “The Father” makes use of them both. F-bombs aside, there are a few scattered uses of other profanity as well. The film includes two particularly powerful scenes that depict domestic violence, one where a person imagines they’re strangling someone, and another where a man slaps another person in the face.

“The Father” paints a harrowing portrait of the difficulties that come with Alzheimer’s disease and, while its contents aren’t appropriate for kids, teenagers and adults will be moved by it.

Where it’s available

As of April 14, “The Father” is available to rent for $19.99 on major platforms like Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, Redbox and others according to JustWatch.com.


‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ — R

What is “Judas and the Black Messiah” about?

“Judas and the Black Messiah” tells the true story of a man named Bill O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) who infiltrated the Black Panther Party in Chicago in the 1960s under the direction of the FBI. While filling his duties as an informant, O’Neal befriends the party’s local leader, a young ambitious man named Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya). As O’Neal’s relationship with Hampton grows, he struggles to sort out where his allegiances truly lie.

How family-friendly is “Judas and the Black Messiah”?

“Judas and the Black Messiah” was given an R rating by the MPAA for “violence and pervasive language.” The violence includes bloody shootouts between Black Panthers and police officers, as well as characters describing violent acts of oppression in graphic detail. KidsInMind.com gave the film’s foul language rating the highest score it offers for its inclusion of nearly 100 F-words and its derivatives, as well as several other obscenities and derogatory terms.

“Judas and the Black Messiah” is far from family-friendly. To learn much of the same story without watching the film, you can watch Howard Alk’s documentary “The Murder of Fred Hampton” or read Jeffrey Haas’s 2011 book “The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther.”

Where it’s available

JustWatch.com reports that “Judas and the Black Messiah” is available to rent on major platforms like Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, Redbox for $19.99.


‘Mank’ — R

What is “Mank” about?

This biopic directed by David Fincher takes viewers on a trip back to the golden age of Hollywood as Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) — a bedridden screenwriter — races to finish his script for a provocative new movie called “Citizen Kane.” “Mank” spends the majority of its runtime in flashback, visiting the moments and figures from Mankiewicz’s life that inspired him to write the famous script.

How family-friendly is “Mank”?

“Mank” was assigned an R rating from the MPAA for “some language.” As mentioned earlier, PG-13 movies are allowed two uses of the F-bomb. In “Mank,” this writer counted five uses of the word — the majority of which came within seconds of each other amid a tirade at the end of the film.

In addition to language, this movie explores subjects like alcoholism, extramarital affairs, and suicide. There’s also a brief scene where a woman in the background is wearing pasties. While “Mank” certainly is not for children and young teenagers, it is one of the more tame R-rated movies of this year’s slate. Adults who are interested in the life of Herman Mankiewicz and the story behind “the greatest movie of all time” — and can handle an R rating — will enjoy “Mank.”

Where it’s available

“Mank” is currently available to stream exclusively on Netflix.


‘Minari’ — PG-13

What is “Minari” about?

Directed by University of Utah alum Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari” takes viewers to a plot of land in rural Arkansas in the 1980s, where a Korean family immigrated to build a farm and begin a new life. The film is a semi-autobiographical take on its director’s upbringing and it won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. According to KidsinMind.com, one of the central messages of “Minari” is, “sticking with something through difficult times can pay off.”

How family-friendly is “Minari”?

“Minari” is the second of two PG-13 films nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. The MPAA gave the film its rating for “for some thematic elements and a rude gesture.” The rude gesture in question is a middle finger that a teenage boy flashes at a man carrying a cross down a dirt road. The film features scattered mild obscenities, name-calling and a few racially insensitive remarks. “Minari” is a movie about a family and it was made for families. It navigates unpredictable highs and lows of family life in a truly heartfelt way.

Where it’s available

“Minari” available to rent on major platforms like Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, Redbox for $19.99, according to JustWatch.com.


‘Nomadland’ — R

What is “Nomadland” about?

“What is home?” That’s the question at the center of “Nomadland” as it follows Fern (Frances McDormand), a widow who travels the American West as a modern-day nomad who lives in her van.

How family-friendly is “Nomadland”?

The MPAA gave the film an R rating for “some full nudity.” There is no violence in this film and minimal foul language. The movie earned its rating for a brief scene where the protagonist is pictured bathing naked in a river. IMDb states, “If it wasn’t for the one shot of Fern swimming nude, this film would’ve received a PG-13 rating.” Commonsensemedia.org states that the film “has mature themes about loneliness, financial instability, and restlessness, but it’s also uplifting and hopeful.” It’d be best if you watch this one after you put the kids to bed.

Where it’s available

“Nomadland” is streaming on Hulu and is available to rent on major platforms like Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, Redbox for $14.99, JustWatch.com reports.


‘Promising Young Woman’ — R

What is “Promising Young Woman” about?

“Promising Young Woman” follows Cassie (Carey Mulligan), a college dropout who plots and executes a plan to deliver justice to the people who played roles in the death of her best friend, who was a victim of rape.

How family-friendly is “Promising Young Woman”?

The MPAA gave “ Promising Young Woman” an R rating for “strong violence including sexual assault, language throughout, some sexual material and drug use.” KidsInMind.com gave the film’s foul language rating the highest score it offers for 55 used of the F-words, and a high tally of other obscenities. The film includes several harrowing on-screen sexual assault attempts as well as a traumatic murder. While “Promising Young Woman” touches on vital subjects like consent, rape culture and abuse, there are more effective and approachable resources out there that explore those topics. This is definitely not a movie for families.

Where it’s available

“Promising Young Woman” is available to rent on Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, Redbox and other major platforms for $5.99, JustWatch.com reports.


‘Sound of Metal’ — R

What is “Sound of Metal” about?

When Ruben — a drummer in a traveling heavy metal duo — begins experiencing sudden sensorineural hearing loss, his hopes and plans for the future are thrown into question. The drummer passes through the five stages of grief as he learns to accept his new life with the help of his loved ones.

How family-friendly is “Sound of Metal”?

The MPAA assigned “Sound of Metal” an R rating for “language throughout and brief nude images.” According to KidsInMind.com, the film is teeming with profanities (including more than 40 uses of the F-word, and several other more mild obscenities). The movie features a scene where the protagonist draws a crude image of a naked woman and another scene that displays graphic operation footage. “Sound of Metal” explores several heavy and important topics and themes like loneliness, substance abuse and suicide ideation but, similar to “Promising Young Woman,” there are other avenues out there that address such themes in a more approachable and effective way. You can skip this one on family movie night.

Where it’s available

“Sound of Metal” is available to stream exclusively on Amazon Prime.


‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’ — R

What is “The Trial of the Chicago 7” about?

Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing,” “The Social Network”), “The Trial of the Chicago 7” tells the story of seven political activists who were put on trial after riots broke out at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois. The courtroom drama unfolds to reveal that the seven defendants were wrongly accused and the trial was really a political move orchestrated by John Mitchell, the attorney general at the time.

How family-friendly is “The Trial of the Chicago 7”

The MPAA rating of R has been assigned for “language throughout, some violence, bloody images and drug use.” Like the bulk of this year’s Oscar contenders, KidsInMind.com gave “The Trial of the Chicago 7” a high score for its frequent inclusion of profanity including north of 40 uses of the F-bomb, several sexual references as well as racially insensitive and homophobic slurs. The film includes violent scenes of police officers bludgeoning civilians with batons and an on-screen sexual assault attempt. The film shines a light on a significant moment in U.S. history that isn’t often discussed in classrooms, but it’s packaged in a way that’s really only suitable for adult audiences.

Where it’s available

“The Trial of the Chicago 7” is available to stream exclusively on Netflix.