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Movie Review

Cowboys and Aliens also known as “Cowboys & Aliens,” “Cowboys et envahisseurs,” “Cowboyok és űrlények”

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of western and sci-fi action and violence, some partial nudity and a brief crude reference.

Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan

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Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Sci-Fi Western Action Fantasy War
1 hr. 58 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
July 29, 2011 (wide—3,700+ theaters)
DVD: December 6, 2011
Copyright, Universal Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Universal Pictures

bravery, courage, heroism

FEAR, Anxiety and Worry—What does the Bible say? Answer

Aliens (extraterrestrials)

What does the Bible say about intelligent life on other planets? Answer

Are we alone in the universe? Answer

Does Scripture refer to life in space? Answer

questions and answers about the origin of life

FILM VIOLENCE—How does viewing violence in movies affect families? Answer

Featuring: Olivia WildeElla
Harrison FordCol. Woodrow Dolarhyde
Daniel CraigJake Lonergan
Sam RockwellDoc
Paul DanoPercy
Clancy BrownMeacham
Keith Carradine … Sheriff Taggart
more »
Director: Jon Favreau
Producer: Universal Pictures
DreamWorks SKG
Reliance Big Entertainment
Relativity Media
Imagine Entertainment
Fairview Entertainment
Platinum Studios
Steven Spielberg … executive producer
Jon Favreauexecutive producer
Ron Howardproducer
more »
Distributor: Universal Pictures

“First contact. Last stand.”

DVD coverI wasn’t quite sure what I to expect when deciding to review “Cowboys and Aliens.” I had, unfortunately, read other reviews online from other critics who had not spoken highly of this movie. However, I did not let that stop me from going to see it and decide for myself whether or not this movie good.

Cinematically speaking, “Cowboys and Aliens” is average for its genre. The performances are excellent, by both Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford. Olivia Wilde also puts in a good appearance, as well. The camera work is good. The orchestration is just right. The weakest aspect is the film’s plot. Parts of this movie are just not developed well. However, despite plot weaknesses, the film is reasonably enjoyable.

Violence: Heavy. There are multiple scenes of gunshots, beatings, aliens being stabbed, towns people being abducted by aliens, explosions, incisions, blood, blood spurts and spray, violent talk, etc. There are two scenes where men are kicked in the groin. There are also scenes where some of the aliens can be seen eating townspeople.

Profanity: Moderate. Four uses of d**n, several instances of h*ll, two instances of the word b**ch, sh*t (2), S.O.B. (4). Other profanity includes a scene in which one of the marshals says something about “slapping your balls around”. One of the characters mentions someone “killing a prostitute”. A character uses the word whore, and the Lord’s name is taken in vain (G**d***n (4), J*sus (1), plus “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,” and “Oh G*d” (1).

Sex/Nudity: Moderate. There is a scene where a man pulls down his pants to bathe in a lake. There is also a scene of a completely nude female (shot from behind and very briefly showing back and partial buttocks). There are also a couple mild, but brief scenes of sexuality, as well.

At the beginning of the movie, the town’s preacher speaks to one of the characters about how important it is to have faith, and the importance of acting on our faith when God’s presence is among us. The Bible has a lot to say about faith and how important it’s not only to have it, but to act on it, as well. It’s not just enough to believe in Jesus Christ. If we love Him we need to serve Him, as well.

“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.” —James 2:26 (NIV)

In short, “Cowboys and Aliens” is somewhat interesting and entertaining, but not above average, in my opinion. Viewers should beware of its heavy violence (sometimes brutal and bloody), profanity, vulgarity, and the nudity. It is not suitable for youngsters.

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—While this movie won’t win Best Picture honors at the Oscars, my wife and I enjoyed it. It was kind of fun watching for all the Western cliches—gunfight in the street, saloon confrontation, hostile Indians, etc. The plot was certainly different. Matt Dillon never had to deal with ugly space creatures. As far the moral values presented, the bad language was not overwhelming, and the issues of self-examination and defending your family were definitely there. It’s a movie a Christian family can enjoy watching.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Tom, age 60 (USA)
Positive—I went to see this movie today, and this is my perspective: I have been waiting for this eagerly since I saw the first trailer last summer. Jon Favreau did a much better job on the first “Iron Man” than he did on this one, but C&A was still an enjoyable ride. The two leading actors, Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, played their parts very well. But Olivia Wilde simply did not pull it off for me… her acting was not bad, but she just could’ve been better in her role.

Speaking of this woman, there is a scene in which she is implied to be naked, but only her back and legs are shown. Really, if you have seen the trailer, or even TV spots, this scene will not surprise you. It is not explicit. But no child should watch this film. The PG-13 rating needs to be taken very seriously by parents, because almost from start to finish, the movie is full of violence.

From the beginning, when Craig plays an amnesiac who stabs and shoots a group of men to death, to the climactic battle portraying cowboys and Apaches fighting monstrous, creepy-looking aliens to sometimes quite graphic deaths (the aliens bite people’s throats and rip out their hearts). None of the violence strays from PG-13 territory, but the other caution is profanity. It is quite prevalent, the worst of it is a couple of Sh*ts and a few G*Dd**ns.

This may or may not be as great as you were expecting, but this movie does have lots of great effects, characters, action, and even a Christian preacher thrown in to boot.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Josh, age 20 (USA)
Positive—There is a scene in C and A where Olivia Wilde’s character says to Daniel Craig’s character “try not to think,” and it is only on that level that this kind of movie can be enjoyed. And enjoyed it was. I just returned home from seeing it and have to say that I enjoyed it quite a bit—I just tried not to think. There are a few words scattered about and, of course, plenty of PG-13 violence, but overall not too bad. It was full of action, explosions, intense moments and an occasional humorous scene thrown in to help break the tension. If you like Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Westerns, and Aliens you will probably like this movie—if not you most likely won’t.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Mike, age 48 (USA)
Positive—…LOOKIN FOR A GOOD WESTERN? LOOKING FOR A SCI-FI? LOOKIN FOR A DRAMA? LOOKIN TO LAUGH and evan a tear up a time or 2? this movie has it all. I was totally entertained from start to finish. I want to say this is my favorite movie this year, but still have a couple of minor issues. The violence is a little too much, especially if you are thinking of bringing young ones to see it. The verbals need trimming. So again this movie is not for children. I do say this movie was well done from its stars like Harrison Ford to its special effects.

One of the characters in movie by the way lets us know that we have to earn our way to be in the LORD’S presence. Sorry folks, I could never earn my way there. I choose to be in his presence. IT was a free GIFT FROM GOD TO US. We choose each day if we want to walk in his presence. So somebody set that pastor straight. Didn’t like that line, but I liked the movie. I was entertained.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Rockinron, age 48 (USA)
Positive—With respect to the reviewer, the point of this movie was totally missed. I am no expert on movie-making, so the quality looked excellent to me. As for the moral rating, depending on one’s point of view, the Bible could be rated Extremely Offensive or Excellent, because it is both. The reviewer looked at the surface of the movie and its plot and saw little of value. The Lord judges by what is in our hearts.

Considering the times in which we, this nation and our families, find ourselves, this movie may be one of the most important of the past ten years. The nation, the Church, and our families are being torn apart by enemies inside and out. Whether we perceive the enemy to be Al Q'aida, illegal aliens, multinational corporations, our spouses or our children, the real cause of our problems is not out there. It is what is in our own hearts.

I could write a book on the messages this movie has about Biblical principles for the family, the Church, and the individual. The Apostle Paul makes many statements about maintaining unity in the body of Christ. Also, there is hardly a character in this movie which does not demonstrate some aspect of our evil nature. I am saddened by reviews that somehow expect evil people to never say bad words, or never act out the evil nature which is in all of our flesh. If you will be honest, you will see yourself, your family, and our country in this movie.

The reviewer got at least one thing right: “The Bible has a lot to say about faith and how important it’s not only to have it, but to act on it, as well.” My hope is that this movie will convict each and every one of us to stop blaming everyone else in our lives for our problems and, instead, to put our attention on removing the plank from our own eyes. It is not too late for our families, our church or our nation, unless we choose to do nothing. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” John 15:13-14
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Henry Skinner-larsen, age 59 (USA)
Positive—This was a pretty good movie. Very entertaining, interesting characters. The aliens grossed me out a little, but it could have been much worse. You wouldn’t want to bring small children to this film: while there are no f-words and maybe one s-word, there are several s.o.b.’s and many uses of the word “whore”. The only sensuality comes from one scene where a woman unintentionally ends up naked in front of a group of men, but someone quickly offers her a blanket to cover up with. And, of course, there is much stabbing, shooting, and blowing up of slimy fanged aliens. But I really liked it for the most part.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Kiara Westford, age 19 (USA)
Positive—My wife and I saw this movie and both absolutely loved it. Somehow it reminds me of the fun action movies I used to watch before everyone started taking movies so seriously, nit picking every little aspect to determine just how offended they were while watching it. This is a movie about cowboys taking on an advanced alien race… I really wasn’t expecting reality. What I was surprised about was the preacher character and the great wisdom in the advice he gave. This is a fun, enjoyable movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I recommend this film as an escape from reality. Watch this for the entertainment it is and nothing else.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Paul, age 30 (USA)
Positive—We enjoyed this movie. It does contain a lot of violence, but it is not gory. Older teens and adults would find the action acceptable. There is a preacher in the film, and he is portrayed positively, as is Christianity, overall. I found the depiction of faith realistic for a dusty mining town. There were several instances of self sacrifice and redemption. If you want to see a decent western with a sci-fi twist, this is the movie for you.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—C. Nelson, age 51 (USA)
Positive—My husband and I loved this movie. He loves westerns, and I love sci-fi, so it was a good fit. We both wondered how in the world a film could blend these two genre’s and make any sense, but this film succeeded and then some. Yes, it was violent, as any battle is, and there was some language, but there was no gratuitous language that was just thrown in for a rating.

The acting was solid. Harrison Ford played a really mean, hardened, and bitter man, and he played it well. I’ve never seen him in a part like this before. Daniel Craig played a man who had forgotten everything about himself except how to be brutal. There was a minister in this movie who was portrayed in a very positive way. He was portrayed as a real person who reflected the patience and love of God… not some stiff, religious, individual that you often see in a western.

I can’t say too much about the end without spoiling it, so I’ll just say that people who work together against a common enemy often find that they are more alike than they think. It also brings out the best in people when they are protecting common ground. Challenges cause growth in people, especially when the challenges center around life and death issues. There was a lot of growth and change in these people. There was even a small fearful boy who finally found his courage and became a young man. There is a lot of virtue in this movie and that is what makes a good movie to me.

It’s not always about how good the special effects are… although the special effects in this movie are excellent. I would recommend this to anyone although it is far too scary for younger children. Please don’t bring your kids until you’ve seen it yourself first. I sat on the edge of my seat for most of it and it took me awhile to unwind when I got home. We are going to go see it again and taking my 18 year old son. He will love it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Shelley P., age 54 (USA)
Positive—This movie is freaking awesome! At first I thought this was going to be another Hollywood blunders. But it turned out great. The part that shocked me the most was when the preacher actually told the gospel. This movie is not for children. The violence is too great. The aliens were extremely scary. I jumped out of my seat a couple of times. Literally. Because you never expect it to happen. What I found objectionable was when the girl was naked. But I liked that the main character covered her, without it taking forever. On yeah, and they could have left out the language. But, all in all, it was a great movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Joanna Childress, age 21 (USA)
Positive—My wife and I found this movie to be very entertaining. I had to see it, just because of the title alone; “Cowboys and Aliens” has instant resonance. The moviemaking didn’t disappoint: solid Spielberg-esque action and fx. Good fun, and reasonably clean, considering the PG-13 rating. While it thankfully avoided an overtly anti-Christian stance, indeed the only “preacher” is a sympathetic character, it did strike a false note “theologically.” Most of the characters seemed vaguely agnostic (probably quite rare in those days in the West), and woefully ignorant of a “small “o’ orthodox Christian worldview. Also, I suspect it would have been difficult to find a Christian preacher who claimed that one had to “earn God’s attention.”

But, like I said, it could have been worse; at least it avoided the standard-issue “devout Christian as bigoted idiot” meme.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Jeremy Klein, age 56 (USA)
Neutral—Quite a let down, since after viewing the trailers, I was so ready to see this movie. I wanted it to be good, but found that it was rather slow moving, long, and predictable. On the same level as a made-for-TV movie. My advice, wait until it comes out on DVD. Swear words—what you would expect from a movie these days. Not too over the top, but not for young kids either. I don’t recall any nudity.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Frank, age 42 (USA)
Neutral—…The movie satisfies what it intends to accomplish, and, although it will not be a blockbuster, you won’t miss anything if you wait for it to come out on DVD. I was excited to see it, but after watching, it probably fits as a very good TV mini-series. The preacher’s character was a breath of fresh air, and, while he helps out unconditionally, his role also goes undeveloped and limited. This reminds us that it is still possible for somebody to be selfless, just like what Jesus did for us on the cross, even to the point of self-sacrifice.

The language is tame compared to what Hollywood makes nowadays. There’s nothing special about this movie, but it catches a person’s curiosity, and I’m definitely one of them, just good old action and suspenseful fun. I agree that the weakest part is the plot. Ella’s character is the most questionable on the list, and it seems that she was just thrown there to balance the story.

The effects are well done, but once you connect the dots, you’d be longing for more. If you have extra cash and not doing anything, then you probably want to see it, if you run out of options.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Tades, age 43 (USA)
Neutral—So this movie actually looked like it could have potential. The truth is that it did. If only they had no ruined it with loads of foul language and a cussing pastor of all things. The movies plot was interesting enough to keep me happy. They just turned what could have been a okay movie into a foul thing. It had good points, and there was not a lot of sexual content, but that does not make up for its poor use of words.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Austin Ziegenfuss, age 22 (USA)
Negative—This was one really bad movie. The acting was poor, the plot was weak, the casting was bad (Harrison Ford as a bad guy does not work), and the CGI was less than stellar. Spielberg must’ve gotten some appearance money to be listed as an executive producer. This was very sub-par for a Spielberg film. Avoid this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Rixter, age 49 (Canada)
Negative—…I’ll just ditto the other negative comment. “She’s gone to a better place,” she wasn’t even human. Oh, it’s painful to even try to remember how bad this movie is.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Kathleen, age 47 (USA)
Comments from non-viewers
Negative—First, how can we that call ourselves Christians say that some thing that uses the LORD’S name in vain is good? I truly believe that we are calling evil good these days! And then because our morals have decayed, we say to others don’t be so righteous, it is not that bad. Really, last I checked, Christian meant some one who was Christ LIKE. I can’t see Jesus saying this is ok.
—Michael, age 52 (USA)
Neutral—My comment has more to do with other’s comments than with this movie itself (which I have not seen). I agree that the Bible could be rated “morally offensive,” etc. For the very violent parts, immorality, graphic sexuality (as in Song of Solomon), etc. I think, however, that our society is so overwhelmingly bombarded with images of violence and sexual immorality, because of the media exposure we all live with on a daily basis (multiple times a day for many/most). Our ears as well are bombarded with profanity including our Lord’s name taken in vain. These images/audio are uncut and offered without apology or commentary. There is no “and the Lord was displeased,” etc. These things are offered for our enjoyment and entertainment.

While we can certainly learn something from other’s mistakes, I think it’s rather silly to purposely watch a sin-laden movie, particularly one in which sin is made to look comedic, in order to learn a valuable life-lesson. We have enough around us already to learn from. That’s just my opinion for what it’s worth-maybe not much.
—Laurie D., age 45
Negative—I came here to see if this movie was worth seeing. After reading that the Lord’s name is taken in vain, I surely will not see it. Jesus has been through enough, I’m not taking Him to a movie in which they will take His name in vain for “my” entertainment!
—Jacques, age 59 (Canada)