Hamilton Parent Guide
With its accessible, multiracial cast and infectious music, "Hamilton" is an unbeatable way to get teenagers engaged in American history.
Parent Movie Review
From his birth on the Caribbean island of Nevis, Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda) has been determined to make a name for himself. Moving to America in the 1770s, he finds himself in New York in 1776, surrounded by revolutionaries with big ideas and bigger opportunities for a smart, ambitious young man. Lest his ambition run unchecked, Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr.) warns him that pushing his ideas so publicly exposes him to a lot of risk – not that Hamilton listens. Amidst the political turmoil of the times, life goes on for Hamilton. He marries Elizabeth Schuyler (Phillipa Soo), is promoted to aide-de-camp for George Washington (Christopher Jackson), and leads the siege of Yorktown. But he soon finds that building a new country is going to be more complicated than fighting the British Empire for it. Opposed by the Democratic-Republicans James Madison (Okieriete Onaodowan) and Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Diggs), Hamilton has to fight, barter, and work for every ideal he holds.
To begin with, I should clarify that this is not a film adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name – this is a recording of a live performance of Hamilton in New York City in 2016. Don’t go into this expecting a movie. This is a stage show, and with that comes its 2 hour and 40-minute runtime. There is a one-minute interval at the halfway point, which marks a good spot to take a break if you aren’t prepared to sit still for another hour and a bit.
As a theatrical production, Hamilton is hugely impressive. The set design is quite minimal, consisting of a revolving lower stage and a staircase to a stationary upper stage. Small props are brought in and out to indicate setting. This understated approach really allows the choreography to shine. The distinct style and smart writing make the musical numbers catchy and memorable – even if you aren’t a big fan of rap or hip-hop. If you’re aggressively not a fan of those genres, you can take a deep breath - not all of the numbers are in that style.
Hamilton is almost completely devoid of negative content issues but it’s probably too long and complex for most kids to follow. For teenagers, this musical is a slam dunk. It features accessible, multiracial characters in a fascinating historical setting, buoyed up by catchy music and dancing. It isn’t a perfect historical resource (to be fair, it is a Broadway show and doesn’t pretend to be a documentary), but it is a hugely engaging way to make history more accessible to younger audiences. Hopefully, it will serve as a hook to draw these viewers into taking a deeper look at American history. As the old saying goes, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Here’s hoping that productions like this play a part in helping us learn from our turbulent past to create a peaceful, just, democratic future.Directed by Thomas Kail. Starring Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., and Phillipa Soo. Running time: 160 minutes. Theatrical release July 3, 2020. Updated July 3, 2020
Watch the trailer for Hamilton
Rating & Content Info
Why is Hamilton rated PG-13? Hamilton is rated PG-13 by the MPAA
Violence: There are scenes pantomiming war in which individuals are killed. There are three duels, two of which end fatally.
Sexual Content: There are several mild sexual jokes. There is reference to an extramarital affair, which results in severe consequences. There is a brief reference to prostitution.
Profanity: There are seven scatological profanities and occasional use of terms of deity and mild profanity. There are 3 abortive extreme profanities, either cut-off mid-word or bleeped.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Individuals are shown drinking socially.
Page last updated July 3, 2020
Hamilton Parents' Guide
Depictions of history are never perfect representations of the past. What has Hamilton altered? How do those changes affect the story? Do you think there are any unintended consequences of those changes? What are some of the problems with adapting historical material?
The New York Times: “Hamilton” and History: Are They in Sync?
The American Revolutionary War is a central element of Hamilton. How did the war begin? What were the grievances of the Patriots? Why were these grievances not shared by the nearly 20% of the population who remained loyal to the crown? Why did the British resist American calls for independence from the Empire? What benefit was America to Britain?
Revolutionary-War.net: Causes of the American Revolution
USHistory.org: The Loyalists
The Canadian Encyclopedia: Loyalists in Canada
History.com: Revolutionary War
Smithsonian Magazine: The American Revolution Was Just One Battlefront in a Huge World War
The Washington post: The unexpected answer to the biggest mystery of the American Revolution
The New Yorker: We Could Have Been Canada
Race is an integral part of both the history of the United States and of the personal lives of Hamilton and his associates. How did Hamilton’s origins affect his public image among the landed gentry who formed much of the new US government?
The Spectator: The passionate patriot
Although Hamilton opposed slavery, espousing emancipation without removal, many of his contemporaries did not. George Washington not only owned hundreds of enslaved persons, but his dental appliance was made with the teeth of the people he owned. Thomas Jefferson not only owned many slaves but fathered six children with then 14-year-old Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman who was also his wife’s half-sister: the children he had with her were the only enslaved family freed by Jefferson. Sally is even briefly mentioned by name in Hamilton, but the issue is not further addressed. How did these Founding Fathers reconcile the difference between their beliefs in liberty and justice for all with these practices? How does this hypocrisy reflect on their legacy? Why do you think these issues are not discussed in the musical? Do you think it’s odd to have a predominantly black cast playing historical figures who owned slaves?
Smithsonian Magazine: Founding Fathers and Slaveholders
Revolutionary-war.net: Slavery and the Founding Fathers
Varsity Tutors: Hamilton and Slavery
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the musical after reading Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. If you’re interested in encountering Hamilton’s thoughts more directly, The Essential Hamilton: Letters and Other Writings provides access to Hamilton’s own version of himself. Another resource is The Federalist Papers, a collection of 85 essays written primarily by Hamilton, with some contributed by James Madison and John Jay. A contemporary source about the patriot cause is Thomas Paine’s Common Sense.
Those looking to read more about the Revolution Hamilton so thoroughly endorsed and participated in have no shortage of literary resources. David McCullough’s 1776 studies the military history of the war. The Radicalism of the American Revolution by Gordon S. Wood explores the ideological aspects of the revolutionaries. Liberty’s Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800 by Mary Beth Norton focuses, as the title suggests, on the way the war affected women in what was to become the United States. The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution by William Cooper Nell studies black Americans who fought for the rebels, and the aftereffects of the war in which they fought. Alan Taylor’s American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804 sets the Revolution within a historical and social context and is replete with first person accounts.
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Those interested in the American Revolutionary War might enjoy The Battle of Bunker Hill, which details one of the earliest fights in a long war. Those more broadly interested in the development of the American government should enjoy Lincoln, which shows Abraham Lincoln’s struggle to pass the Emancipation Proclamation through a resistant Congress during the Civil War.