Captain Phillips parents guide

Captain Phillips Parent Guide

Director Paul Greengrass has a talent for building tension, and it is evident in "Captain Phillips"

Overall B+

In 2009, pirates on the high seas seemed a romanticized thing of the past -- until a US cargo ship was hijacked by a group of armed men from Somali. This movie dramatized the real life events that Captain Richard Phillips (played by Tom Hanks) and his crew endured during the hostile takeover.

Release date October 11, 2013

Violence C-
Sexual Content A
Profanity C
Substance Use D+

Why is Captain Phillips rated PG-13? The MPAA rated Captain Phillips PG-13 for sustained intense sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance use

Run Time: 134 minutes

Official Movie Site

Parent Movie Review

It begins like a schoolyard game of baseball—two captains picking players for their teams. But instead of bats, these kids carry guns. Their teams are made up of young Somali pirates and their game is hijacking cargo ships to be held for huge ransoms. However these impoverished youth won’t see a fraction of the ransom money. They are merely the expendable pawns used by Somali warlords who wage war from a safe distance while taking the payoff.

The events portrayed in this movie took place in 2009 when the American-flagged cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama, set sail with Captain Richard Phillips at the helm. Tom Hanks plays the 53-year-old captain who leaves his wife and two college-aged children in Vermont. His boat is alone in the ocean, 240 nautical miles from the Somali shore, when a group of four armed pirates approach the vessel in a fast-moving skiff. The unarmed sailors turn on the fire hoses to ward off the pirates, but the attackers still manage to board.

Under orders from the captain, most of the crew hides in the engine room, shutting down the ship’s power and leaving the boat dead in the water. Up on deck, the pirates shoot through the locks on the pirate gates and make their way to the bridge where they hold the captain and two of his crewmen at gunpoint. Unable to navigate the ship, the captors begin a deck-by-deck search for the missing crew. But in the darkened engine room, the hiding mariners capture one of the pirates.

While trying to arrange an exchange of captains, Phillips agrees to give the pirates $30,000 from the ship’s safe and access to a lifeboat. However the pirates renege on the swap and take Phillips as a hostage in the lifeboat. Tensions build as the crew of the Maersk Alabama follows the lifeboat from a safe distance until a naval destroyer, the USS Bainbridge, arrives and begins negotiations with the pirates.

Director Paul Greengrass has a talent for building tension (The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum and United 93). And his skills are no less evident in this movie. Employing some handheld camera work and emphasizing the claustrophobic atmosphere of the enclosed lifeboat, he turns up the heat as the Somali pirates repeatedly send out calls to their mother ship. But when their pleas for help remain unanswered and supplies begin to run low, the dire situation takes a toll on the young captors who become increasingly agitated.

Infrequent profanities and the Somali’s use of the stimulant called khat provide some of the film’s content concerns, along with beatings and bloody injuries. However the biggest issue for viewers will be the intensity of the plot, particularly as the Navy Seals are deployed to take down the hijackers.

While controversy swirls around the decisions that put the crew of the Maersk Alabama in harm’s way, the heroic efforts of Captain Phillips are what the filmmakers focus on—that and the men and women on the warships who put an end to the terrifying standoff.

Directed by Paul Greengrass. Starring Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener, Max Martini, John Magaro. Running time: 134 minutes. Theatrical release October 11, 2013. Updated

Captain Phillips
Rating & Content Info

Why is Captain Phillips rated PG-13? Captain Phillips is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for sustained intense sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance use

Violence: Armed hijackers attack and board a ship, firing guns and holding hostages at gunpoint. Men with guns arrive in a village and demand the locals head out to sea to capture cargo ships. Characters argue frequently and loudly. Pushing, shoving and beatings are portrayed. A man is hit several times with the butt of a gun. A character is injured by broken glass and one man has his hand slashed with a knife. Characters are repeatedly threatened with guns. A man is repeatedly shot at after he tries to escape from his captors. Blood splatters cover a man after a shooting.

Sexual Content: A married couple kisses before he leaves for work.

Language: The script contains infrequent scatological slang, mild profanities, terms of Deity and some cursing.

Alcohol / Drug Use: Characters smoke cigarettes and use an illegal stimulant known as khat.

Page last updated

Captain Phillips Parents' Guide

Learn more about the 2009 pirate attack on the US cargo ship Maersk Alabama here:

What is the duty of a captain when it comes to his responsibility to his crew and cargo? Does Captain Phillips fulfill that duty? As a hostage how does he interact with his captors? What challenges does the negotiator face when dealing with the young and scared hijackers? Why are the Navy personnel eager to keep the Somalis talking?

What signs of shock does Captain Phillips exhibit after he is rescued? Here are some symptoms and first aid treatments for shock.

The US Maritime Administration had issued pirate warnings for the Somalia Gulf of Aden advising ships to stay at least 600 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia before the attack on the Maersk Alabama. At the time it was boarded, the Maersk Alabama was only 240 nautical miles off the coast. As a result of the events some of the crew have filed a lawsuit against the company. Should someone be held responsible for disregarding the pirate advisory? Who has the final say as to where the ship will sail, the captain or the company who owns the ship? Is it fair to put resources and the lives of others at risk to rescue someone who has disregarded a warning such as severe weather or backcountry advisories? What about skiers who intentionally go into out of bounds areas?

The Maersk Alabama was attacked by Somali pirates again seven months later in November 2009. But a security team on board was able to repel the attack. How can companies protect their ships and cargo? Why do you think pirates have become more aggressive in their attacks?

Home Video

The most recent home video release of Captain Phillips movie is January 21, 2014. Here are some details…

Home Video Notes: Captain Phillips

Release Date: 21 January 2014

Captain Phillips releases to home video (Blu-ray and DVD) with the following extras:

- “Capturing Captain Phillips” Documentary– Three in-depth, behind-the-scenes featurettes on making the film.

- Commentary with Director Paul Greengrass

Related home video titles:

Paul Greengrass brought another dramatization of a real-life terrorist attack to the big screen with the film United 93. He also directed the action movies The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Supremacy.

Related news about Captain Phillips

Christmas Comes Early With Critics Choice Nominations

Christmas Comes Early With Critics Choice Nominations


20 Best (Almost) Family Movies From 2013


10+ Swashbuckling Pirate Movies to Bring Home to Your Hearties

10+ Swashbuckling Pirate Movies to Bring Home to Your Hearties


What Movie Ratings Pay Off for Studios?

What Movie Ratings Pay Off for Studios?