Schindler’s List Parent Guide
One of the most important films ever made about the Holocaust...
Parent Movie Review
When the Second World War broke out in September of 1939, Poland was the first country to fall to the advancing Nazi hordes. Under the German occupation, Polish citizens of Jewish descent find themselves living in a world where their lives are worth nothing – unless they can work in one of the big factories producing war materiel for the Reich. Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), has just moved to Krakow to take advantage of the new source of cheap labor. But running a factory takes a lot of busy work and attention, things which Schindler does not enjoy. To get his factory up and running, Schindler turns to Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley), a Jewish official with good community contacts and a steady head for business. Schindler handles the contracts and keeps the Nazi officials and military leaders happy – but he’s beginning to realize just how terrible things are going to get. With Stern’s help, Schindler starts to shelter Jewish families in his factory, insisting that he needs specific laborers to keep up with his contracts. Now he just needs to protect them through the most dangerous stretch of the war, and keep the psychotic local Commandant Amon Göth (Ralph Fiennes) from discovering what he’s really doing.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: This is not in any sense a movie for young children. It is full of appalling violence, graphic nudity, and some of the most depressing and horrifying imagery in human history. It’s also over three hours long, which means there’s lots of time to fill with upsetting content. This isn’t an easy watch for a long list of reasons, and if you’re already feeling stressed or depressed, I’d recommend waiting before you press “play”. The movie (and the history) will still be there when you’re mentally ready to handle it.
The problem is that you can’t make this movie without most of that content. This is about the Holocaust, and the Holocaust is a monstrous part of modern history. Movies which try and shy away from that tend to feel disingenuous – take The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, which plays an aggravating game of make-believe by acting like anyone living near a concentration camp could be ignorant of what was going on. Schindler’s List, while not historically flawless, forces its audience to confront some of the atrocities which typified Nazi rule. Ghettoes, massacres, random executions, torture, and discrimination are all integral parts of how the fascist regime sought to control and ultimately eliminate the global Jewish population.
This is one of the most important films I’ve ever reviewed. By the time I learned about the holocaust in school, Schindler’s List was mentioned with some reverence as one of the most complex and compelling films about the subject that had ever been made. That’s not really an exaggeration, either as the movie is an incredible achievement. I would call Schindler’s List mandatory viewing for anyone who can cope with the most horrifying fact of all: that reality is worse than the film.Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, and Ralph Fiennes. Running time: 195 minutes. Theatrical release February 4, 1994. Updated February 5, 2021
Watch the trailer for Schindler’s List
Rating & Content Info
Why is Schindler’s List rated R? Schindler’s List is rated R by the MPAA for language, some sexuality and actuality violence
Violence: There are frequent depictions of brutal murders and executions, typically shown with blood. People are struck and beaten repeatedly. There are frequent depictions of genocide.
Sexual Content: There are a number of scenes featuring female nudity in a sexual (and frequently adulterous) context. There are also several scenes depicting full frontal male and female nudity in a completely non-sexual context, during the medical examinations at a concentration camp and in public showers. A woman is repeatedly sexually harassed and, in one scene, assaulted.
Profanity: There are multiple uses of profanity from all categories, as well as frequent anti-Semitic language and slurs.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Individuals are frequently seen drinking and smoking tobacco. Several individuals are depicted as drunken, and some are implied to be alcoholics.
Page last updated February 5, 2021
Schindler’s List Parents' Guide
Oskar Schindler is a complex figure. How much do his actions offset his vices? What are the consequences of his failures, and what are the results of his successes?
For more about Oskar Schindler check out these links:
Holocaust Encyclopedia: Oskar Schindler
Jewish Virtual Library: Oskar Schindler
How has this film been received? What are some of the academic objections? How do survivors feel about the film? What is your opinion?
The Guardian: Biographer takes shine off Spielberg’s Schindler
Amon Göth is a repellent figure. What social and political changes allowed him this degree of power? How was the Nazi regime able to come to power in the first place? How culpable are those who knew of the holocaust but did nothing to prevent it? What is your responsibility in the genocides and ethnic cleansings which are happening right now?
Wikipedia: Amon Goth
The Holocaust Encyclopedia: The Nazi Rise to Power
Genocide Watch: Current Alerts
Loved this movie? Try these books…
I think perhaps one of the most familiar books for introducing people to the holocaust is The Diary of Anne Frank. An Unbroken Chain: My Journey Through the Nazi Holocaust by Henry A. Oertelt is a first-hand account of the holocaust from a survivor, and one which was assigned reading when I learned about it in school. For a more adult audience, Survival in Auschwitz and The Drowned and the Saved by survivor Primo Levi are phenomenal works.
The most recent home video release of Schindler’s List movie is March 4, 2004. Here are some details…
Related home video titles:
There are a number of excellent films about the holocaust and its consequences. Recent options include The Song of Names, which explores the story of a Jewish refugee from Poland who became a musician in England during the war…and then disappeared. Labyrinth of Lies confronts the culpability of German citizens in the genocide. In Denial, a history professor and published author is forced to try and prove that the holocaust happened when she is sued by a holocaust denier. While not directly about the holocaust, A Hidden Life follows a conscientious objector from Austria as he struggles to avoid participation in the war. In Swing Kids, a group of jazz-loving youth are encouraged to join the Hitler Youth auxiliary. Jojo Rabbit, directed by Taika Waititi, follows Jojo, a young boy in the Hitler Youth who feels decidedly out of place – until he finds out that his mother is hiding a young Jewish girl in their home. Set during Hitler’s rise to power, The Book Thief sees Liesel, a young German girl, struggle with the changing world and with Max, a Jewish man on the run who hides in their basement. I would also recommend Conspiracy, which depicts the Wannsee Conference at which the so-called “Final Solution” was decided, and stars Kenneth Branagh, Colin Firth, and Stanley Tucci.