The Bridge on the River Kwai parents guide

The Bridge on the River Kwai Parent Guide

Overall B+

During WWII, the Japanese forced Allied POWs to build a railroad, which included constructing a bridge on the River Kwai. This movie focuses on the clash between the military ethics of a British Colonel, the cultural expectations of a Japanese commander, and a plot to sabotage the structure.

Release date December 18, 1957

Violence C+
Sexual Content B+
Profanity A
Substance Use B

Why is The Bridge on the River Kwai rated PG? The MPAA rated The Bridge on the River Kwai PG

Run Time: 161 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Winner of seven Oscars and numerous other awards, The Bridge on the River Kwai is based on the true story of the Thai/Burma "Death Railroad." During the Second World War, many Allied prisoners were forced by their Japanese captors to toil in the sweltering jungle constructing a 415-kilometer (260 mile) line of track between Bangkok and Rangoon. In order to complete the task, several bridges had to be built, including one spanning the River Kwai.

When a group of British soldiers are marched into a detention camp, they continue to loyally follow the strict military instructions of Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness)—much to the chagrin of the enemy’s leader Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa). A dictator with no sympathy for the Geneva Convention’s code of conduct, Saito’s main objective is to have his charges meet the bridge erection deadline. But his hard-nose tactics are about to come face-to-face with Nicholson’s stiff upper lip.

As the ensuing power struggle heats up, it appears that nothing can cool the stubborn commanders’ tempers, until ironically, the bridge project itself begins to close the gap between them. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to either party, a group of tactical officers is being assembled with their own explosive plans for the structure’s future.

Violence is inevitable in this genre, and this 1957 epic does contain depictions of death and injuries (with minimal gore), as well as gaunt bodies of underfeed and wounded labors. Inappropriate moral behavior that often accompanies stories of servicemen is limited to mild implications and some bare male chests and female shoulders. And although it doesn’t rely on heavy action sequences, The Bridge On the River Kwai still manages to achieve considerable suspense. The real conflict here is caused by the individual motives and personal agendas of the various characters—even though they are all enlisted in the same war.

Starring Alec Guinness, Sessue Hayakawa. Running time: 161 minutes. Theatrical release December 18, 1957. Updated

The Bridge on the River Kwai
Rating & Content Info

Why is The Bridge on the River Kwai rated PG? The Bridge on the River Kwai is rated PG by the MPAA

Overall: B+

During WWII, the Japanese force Allied POWs to build a railroad, which includes constructing a bridge on the River Kwai. The movie focuses on the clash between the military ethics of a British Colonel, the cultural expectations of a Japanese commander, and a plot to sabotage the structure. Mild violence and moderate suspense are featured in this 1957 classic film.

Violence: C+

Numerous graves shown, indicating many deaths. Prisoner of war camp depicted; some prisoners are shown as starving and injured. Implied beating of a soldier. Prisoners are locked in a tin hut and suffer from heat exhaustion. Characters are threatened with physical harm and execution. Many characters die or are injured from gunshots, strangulation, stabbings, and accidents: some blood and corpses shown. Lethal pills to be used if captured are mentioned. Soldiers discuss the need to kill without hesitation. Several explosions are depicted. A train accident is shown.

Sexual Content: B+

Many male characters have bare chests due to climate and/or scarcity of clothing. Pin-up girl on a calendar is shown. A bathing suit clad couple kisses; a sexual relationship is subtly implied. Women in native dress have bare shoulders. Performers at a festive celebration cross-dress.

Language: A

None noted.

Alcohol / Drug Use: B

Prisoners bribe guard for a cigarette butt. Some officers drink alcohol and offer it to others. A cigar is offered. Social drinking is portrayed.

Miscellaneous Concerns:

Lying and bribe accepting behaviors are shown. Men dieing from various diseases are mentioned. Leeches and bats are shown.

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The Bridge on the River Kwai Parents' Guide

Even though Colonel Nicholson and Colonel Saito are military leaders from opposing sides, what traits do they have in common? How do their characters illustrate the effectiveness of using force or persuasion?

Can you identify some of the personal agendas of the various characters? How did perusing those motivations prevent them from seeing the situation as a whole? What techniques did the moviemakers use that allowed you to feel sympathy sometimes, and abhorrence at other times, for each of their causes?

For more information about the POW’s, the railway, and the bridge, check out:

Home Video

The most recent home video release of The Bridge on the River Kwai movie is November 2, 2010. Here are some details…

Blu-ray Notes: The Bridge on the River Kwai

Release Date: 2 November 2010

The Bridge on the River Kwai releases to Blu-ray with the following bonus extras:

- DVD and Blu-ray copies of the film.

- William Holden and Alec Guinness on The Steve Allen Show

- The Bridge on the River Kwai Premiere, Narrated by William Holden

- Crossing the Bridge:Picture-in-Graphics Track

- Four Featurettes: Making of The Bridge on the River Kwai, USC short film introduced by William Holden, An Appreciation by Filmmaker John Milius and Rise and Fall of a Jungle Giant.

- Photo Gallery

- Replicas of the original theatrical lobby cards

- 35 page book with stories and photos from the production

DVD Notes:The Bridge on the River Kwai

Release Date: November 21, 2000

If you don’t yet appreciate the differences between the “aspect ratios” of a typical VHS tape and a DVD, then check this classic out on the shiny disc. The film was shot in a super-wide 1:2.55 ratio (most movies are 1:1.85 or 1:2.35). Unfortunately, we could only get our hands on the standard release which features a 1:2.35 “crop” of the original. Still, it was wonderful to see this award winning work of art in its widescreen splendor.

For the absolute purist, look for the Limited Edition release which features a two disc set and the movie in it’s complete 1:2.55 ratio. Amazingly, it sells on Amazon at this moment (June 2002) for only 3 cents more than the standard edition!
DVD notes by Rod Gustafson

DVD Release Information (Limited Edition):
  • Studio: Columbia Tri-Star
  • Theatrical release date: December 18, 1957
  • DVD release date: November 21, 2000
  • Runtime: 162 minutes
  • Production company: Columbia Tri-Star
  • Package type: Keep Case
  • Aspect ratio: Widescreen anamorphic - 2.55:1
  • DVD encoding: Region 1
  • Available audio tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono).
  • Available subtitles: English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Thai
DVD Extras:
  • Theatrical trailer(s)
  • Two-discs
  • Exclusive Documentary: “The Making of the Bridge on the River Kwai”
  • Original Featurette: “The Rise and Fall of a Jungle Giant”
  • USC Short Film Narrated by William Holden
  • An Appreciation and Discussion by Filmmaker John Milius
  • Talent files for David Lean, Alec Guiness, William Holden, Jack Hawkins and Sessue Hayakawa
  • Photo Montage (International Posters and Lobby Cards)
  • Behind the Scenes Footage

Related home video titles:

For other films about World War Two, try Tora, Tora, Tora, or South Pacific. Alec Guinness can also be seen in Star Wars, as Obi-Wan Kenobi.

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