The Big Country

| 12+
Cautions: violence, some language and mild slang, some sensuality, brief immodesty, and some ethical controversy

The Big Country is an epic story of a war to the death between two tenacious ranchers, and a fish-out-of-water stranger from Baltimore caught right in the middle, who gradually discerns that neither side is in the right.  Featuring exceptional acting, directing and film score, The Big Country is a near-ideal blend of serious, humorous and gripping, set in the larger-than-life landscape of the American west.

1958 | William Wyler | 165 min

The violence is sporadic rather than constant, and intense rather than gory.

A young bad guy dies in pain and horror after being shot.  One character is strangled almost to death.  A minor battle is started between two factions, and men are shot down.

A villain attempts to rape one of the female characters, but is stopped.  Another man grabs a woman and violently forces a kiss on her as she fights him.  A woman is struck by a bad guy.

There are a few fist fights and roughing-up scenes.

Characters swap stories about people being tortured by the Indians or half-eaten by sharks.

Some Language and Mild Slang
D-mn your soul!
For heaven’s sakes
For heaven’s sakes

Some Sensuality
An engaged couple kisses and embraces several times throughout the movie.

An unmarried bad guy is shown climbing out of a window with his shirt unbuttoned, and a woman apparently in only her underdress leans out of the window.  Other bad guys talk about getting “some girls”.

Negatively-portrayed men force themselves on female characters (see Violence, above).

Brief Immodesty
At a party scene, women are shown with bare shoulders and somewhat low necklines.  A female character is very briefly seen undressing down to modest undergarments, but this is not played sensually.

A man is seen shirtless in nothing but his long underwear.

Some Ethical Controversy
The two living father figures in the story are negatively-portrayed examples of hyperpatriarchy, with their grown children either hating or fawning over them.  One of the men is shown manipulating people through a form of hero worship, while the other grinds people down by belittling and threatening them.1  They are not presented as examples of normal fatherhood, however, and two of the main characters speak fondly and respectfully of their own now-dead father figures.

The main character, Jim, appears to some of the other characters to be something akin to a pacifist, but as the movie progresses it becomes clear that he is quite willing to fight for the things he considers worth fighting for, including demonstrating the futility of fighting without just reason.

One side character’s strong loyalty to his boss, despite his obvious wrongness, is not necessarily portrayed positively, but it is not portrayed distinctly negatively, either.

A man tells Jim that, because official law enforcement is so far away from the town and the two major ranches, they have to be their own law.  Jim tentatively agrees with the theory, although he does not support vigilante justice.

Characters smoke cigars and cigarettes.  A negatively-portrayed female character experiments with cigarettes.

Drinks, punch and champagne are served, but the only characters to appear drunk are low-brow villains.

A negatively-portrayed character intends it as an insult when he says that a neighboring clan are “as prolific as animals”.

A negatively-portrayed character references “the stone age”.

One of the principal side characters is a school teacher.

Unmarried couples waltz.

One of the unnamed, negatively-portrayed combatants in the climactic battle is a middle-aged woman.

1 Negative examples of fatherhood are not inherently problematic, considering that scripture is full of negative examples (the book of 1 Samuel, for instance, gives the histories of more bad fathers than good ones), but the representation may be more or less of a problem depending on the cultural context of the audience.

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