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The movie ‘Midway’ (PG-13) opens in theaters this weekend, telling the true story of a pivotal World War II battle that took place merely six months after Pearl Harbor.

Dick Best is a cocky Navy bomber pilot from New Jersey who has never met a challenge in the air he didn’t face with bravado.

As one of his superiors says, Best “doesn’t care” that he might die during training or battle—nor that his recklessness might jeopardize others.

But Dick Best’s gusto just might come in handy if the United States is to win the Pacific against Japan.

The year is 1942, and the American military is still recovering from Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor that killed more than 2,400 and destroyed 18 ships.

The U.S. is planning a major counterattack, and Best and his squadron could play a key role. The goal: lure the Japanese Navy to an area 1,000 miles northwest of Hawaii—known as the Midway Atoll—for an ambush.

There, the U.S. can deliver a crippling blow to Japan’s heretofore superiority in the Pacific and, hopefully, turn the tide. Otherwise, the Japanese will win and use Midway Atoll as a base to eye North America. 

“If we lose, then they own the Pacific,” Best tells his wife. “Then they raid the whole West Coast.”

The movie Midway (PG-13) opens in theaters this weekend, telling the true story of a pivotal World War II battle that took place merely six months after Pearl Harbor and virtually assured Japan would not advance to California.

The Japanese lost four carriers to America’s one at Midway and twice as many aircraft, too—and operated from a defensive position the remainder of the war.

Midway stars Ed Skrein (Alita: Battle Angel) as Best, Woody Harrelson (The Hunger Games series) as Chester W. Nimitz, and Dennis Quaid (I Can Only Imagine) as William ‘Bull’ Halsey.

Despite the name, the movie’s plot involves more than just the famous battle. The film opens in 1937 and then jumps ahead to the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. We then follow Best and his friends as they mourn their friends’ deaths and prepare for a series of counterattacks—including another important battle, Coral Sea—leading up to Midway.

Thanks to spectacular special effects and characters based on real people, Midway is ultra-realistic. By the time the credits roll, you just might want to stand up and cheer for the men and women who were dubbed the “Greatest Generation”—the generation that won a war on multiple continents thanks to courage, hard work and self-sacrifice.

Still, Midway is far from being a family-friendly flick, and is marred with excessive language that might cause many moviegoers to stay away.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)


Moderate/extreme. Midway has multiple battle scenes—of ships sinking, planes exploding and men dying—but it lacks the blood and gore found in many other war movies. Even so, it might trouble those who have served in the military. We see lifeless bodies—a few of them charred—after the attack on Pearl Harbor. We see a room full of body parts that are covered with blankets. A Japanese pilot performs a kamikaze mission as his plane was hit. Japanese planes fire at a field of farmers. The film likely has dozens, if not a few hundred, explosions.   


Minimal. A man makes a joke about “chasing tail.” Men and women dance at a club. We see one or two pinups (in the background) of scantily dressed women.

Coarse Language

Extreme. H-ll (24), d–n (10), GD (7), b—-rd (6), a– (6), s–t (6), SOB (4), misuse of “Christ” (2), misuse of “Jesus” (2), f-word (1). We also hear two or three ethnic slurs about Japanese people.  

Other Positive Elements

Dick Best is married and has a young daughter. Despite his bravado, he is a loving father and husband who cares for his family. (One scene shows him kissing her goodnight.)

An intelligence officer references his workload when he says of his wife, “When the war is over, I plan on spending the rest of my life making it up to her.” 

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

Smoking is prominent. We see men and women drinking alcohol. A man says, “I don’t believe in God.” (Although, later in the film, we hear someone say, “God bless those boys.”) Midway, unfortunately, includes few faith-centric elements.

Life Lessons

Family is essential: Best, despite his brashness, misses his wife and daughter. At one point, he tells a friend he wants to survive the war so he can watch her grow up.

War isn’t glamorous: Too often, we romanticize war. But as Midway shows, war should be avoided at all costs. People die. Children grow up without a parent—and husbands and wives without a spouse.

Courage is a virtue: Wars couldn’t be won without soldiers who are willing to die. At the Battle of Midway, there were thousands of brave men who were ready to put their lives on the line.   


War is horrible. Before the Fall, it didn’t exist.

Sometimes, though, war is necessary. Indeed, World War II is often seen as the best modern example of a just war. Hitler killed 6 million Jews. The Japanese killed between 15 and 20 million Chinese civilians. How far would these two regimes have gone if they weren’t stopped?

In the middle of this, the U.S. was attacked.

Tom Brokaw called this group of men and women the “Greatest Generation.” They defended freedom. They fought the embodiment of evil.

And they did it with traits grounded in Scripture: courage, self-sacrifice, selflessness and perseverance.

Midway largely avoids the topic of faith. But it rightly characterizes these men and women as regular people who put their lives on the line to save a world in peril. 

What Works

The story. The special effects.

What Doesn’t

The film has too much language—and not enough faith.

Discussion Questions

1. What made the Greatest Generation so great?

2. Is war ever necessary? Explain your answer.

3. What are the limits to a just war?

4. How would the world be different today if the U.S. had remained neutral?

5. List five positive character traits of the Americans in Midway.

Entertainment rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG-13 for sequences of war violence and related images, language and smoking.

Photo credit: Lionsgate