The Green Mile parents guide

The Green Mile Parent Guide

One of the rare films that makes you feel as much as it makes you think.

Overall C+

As a guard on death row at the Cold Mountain Penitentiary, Paul Edgecomb has seen some bizarre things- but nothing like John Coffey. A physically huge African-American man, accused of the rape and murder of two white children, Coffey also seems to have miraculous powers- and as Paul gets to know him, he is increasingly convinced of his innocence...

Release date December 10, 1999

Violence D
Sexual Content C
Profanity D
Substance Use A

Why is The Green Mile rated R? The MPAA rated The Green Mile R for violence, language and some sex-related material.

Run Time: 189 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Paul Edgecombe (Tom Hanks) has seen it all in his time as a guard on death row at the Cold Mountain Penitentiary in Louisiana. But things are getting…stranger. A giant black man called John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) is brought in for the rape and murder of two young white girls but seems gentle as a lamb despite his size. He’s even afraid of the dark. He also seems to be able to feel the pain of others and take it away. The longer Paul knows him, the more he begins to suspect that John may be innocent…

There are two Stephen King stories that focus on prison- The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption. Both have been adapted into films directed by Frank Darabont, and both are counted among the best adaptations of King’s work. Their focus on themes of redemption, justice, and mercy make them uniquely touching in that category.

And that’s not to say that this isn’t a sad film: the tragedy of John Coffey is absolutely heartbreaking. Michael Clarke Duncan is perfect casting, giving Coffey both his unusual size and his unbearable kindness. It’s rare to see a movie where someone out-charms Tom Hanks, but Duncan steals every scene he’s in.

Considering the movie’s extreme length, clocking in at over 3 hours, it works remarkably well. Even on repeated viewings, the movie is remarkably consistent in pace and tone. It also manages to keep the content concerns to a minimum, considering the subject matter. I’ve seen movies half the length with ten times the profanity, and with aggressive sexual content to boot. The biggest concern is going to be the violence. Being a movie about death row, a number of people are executed via electric chair, and there’s plenty of detail. The most distressing instance is an execution which goes wrong, resulting in the unfortunate condemned writhing and screaming for minutes, and eventually catching fire.

The Green Mile isn’t suitable for younger audiences, but for older teens and adults who can deal with the content, I highly recommend it. Its merits as a thoughtful and emotional film are more than enough to be worth watching, but beyond that, it also encourages careful consideration about the merits of the death penalty. You’d be hard pressed to find a movie that makes you feel as much as you think, but The Green Mile will make you do both in spades.

Directed by Frank Darabont. Starring Tom Hanks, David Morse, and Michael Clarke Duncan. Running time: 189 minutes. Theatrical release December 10, 1999. Updated

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The Green Mile
Rating & Content Info

Why is The Green Mile rated R? The Green Mile is rated R by the MPAA for violence, language and some sex-related material.

Violence: An individual deliberately breaks another’s fingers. Two dead children are shown. A man is beaten and choked. A man stomps on a mouse, killing it. A man is shot repeatedly and killed. Several people are shown being executed in the electric chair, one going badly awry. Their bodies are shown with severe burns and other injuries associated with this manner of death.
Sexual Content: There is occasional dialogue with sexually suggestive and explicit language. A couple are shown in bed, with implied (but not shown) sexual content.
Profanity: There are 12 uses of extreme profanity, seven uses of scatological profanity, and over a dozen uses of mild profanities and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None.

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The Green Mile Parents' Guide

John Coffey is sentenced to die for a crime he didn’t commit. The National Academy of Sciences reported that just over 4% of inmates on death row are innocent. How does the American justice system currently respond to that problem? How do you feel about the fact that the government frequently executes the innocent? Do you think the death penalty is a good idea?


Loved this movie? Try these books…

The original Stephen King novel, The Green Mile, is an excellent place to start. Other King stories with similarly personal messages include Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption (included in Different Seasons) and The Body (from the same collection).

If you’re looking for more novels about prison, Papillon by Henri Charriere is his autobiographical account of his time in the penal colony of French Guiana.

Another case of a mentally disabled giant who runs into trouble with the law is John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.

Home Video

Related home video titles:

Frank Darabont has worked with Stephen King on other projects- notably his 2007 adaptation of The Mist and 1994’s The Shawshank Redemption. Paul Newman stars in one of the most iconic prison films of all time in Cool Hand Luke.

Just Mercyand Clemency, both released just last year, are excellent films about the death penalty in the United States. Clemency also features a scene of a botched execution.