Movie Ratings, Family Movie Reviews & More!

Still shot from the movie: The Great Debaters.

The Great Debaters

The Great Debaters is based on a true story of Mel Tolson (Denzel Washington), a Texas professor who encourages his African-American students to believe they can take on the world. In 1935, he puts together and coaches a debate team, hoping they can compete against Harvard University in an upcoming championship. Get the movie review and more. »


Overall: B+
Violence: C-
Sexual Content: C
Language: B
Drugs/Alcohol: C
Run Time: 126
Theater Release: 24 Dec 2007
Video Release: 11 Jan 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13
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How We Determine Our Grades

After watching a movie with your children or students, we encourage parents and teachers to look for education opportunities to teach with movies. Here are a few discussion topics that can help with lesson plans or teaching in the home.

The issue of learning how to fight using non-violent methods is one of the themes raised in this film. How did debating help these students to value themselves?

This movie is based on a true story, but features a mix of historical and fictional characters (research indicates there was no woman on the initial 1935 team). What are the “tradeoffs” between historical accuracy and dramatic license? Do you think fictionalizing historical events might risk creating “urban legends” or altering people’s perceptions of historical fact? Would sticking to just the facts make for a boring movie?

For more information on the James Farmer and the Wiley College debate team, check these links from AfricanAmericans.com and The United Methodist Church.

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About the Reviewer: Rod Gustafson

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