The Great Locomotive Chase

| 10+ 
Cautions: some violence and emotional intensity, brief mild language, and historical controversy

The Great Locomotive Chase is the low-intensity version of gut-wrenching, the story of real-life Yankee civilian spy James Andrews and his attempt to cut a long, bloody war short by destroying the Confederate supply lines during the American Civil War. More a tribute to personal courage and conviction than to any particular political views, The Great Locomotive Chase addresses the tragedy of civil war from a very personal angle, with the unspoken message that something worth killing for has to be worth dying for, too.

1956 | Francis Lyon | 85 min

Some Violence and Emotional Intensity

The Great Locomotive Chase does not show any death or blood, only fistfights, although these are fairly desperate. Captured soldiers are condemned to death by hanging, and some scenes involve the emotional intensity of men preparing to face death. Some executions do take place offscreen.

A battle description includes “bodies like stepping stones.”

Brief Mild Language

d-mn Yankee
by George!
I’ll be dogged

One character tells another to shut up and listen.

Historical Controversy

The Great Locomotive Chase follows and favors Union soldiers, but the bias is relatively mild, and the Civil War is not portrayed as a cut-and-dried, good-versus-evil war. Both sides of the conflict are shown to have garnered the enthusiasm of righteous and unrighteous alike. When asked how he could stand the life of a spy, the protagonist replies, “I believe in a Federal Union.”


A few characters on both sides are predisposed toward violence, but are not portrayed as wise or likable.

The heroes are all spies, and view their deceit as despicable but necessary.

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