First Man

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Short takes

Not recommended under 13; parental guidance 13 to 15 (intense and disturbing scenes, and lack of interest for younger viewers)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for First Man
  • a review of First Man completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 16 October 2018.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended due to intense and disturbing scenes, and lack of interest
Children 13 to 15 Parental guidance recommended due to intense and disturbing scenes
Viewers 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: First Man
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Occasional coarse language
Length: 141 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

First Man is the story of Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) and his rise from being a test pilot for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics to being the first man to walk on the moon. Armstrong was recruited by NASA in 1962 and moved to Houston, Texas with his wife Janet (Claire Foy) and son Mike (Connor Blodgett). Neil and Janet had recently lost their young daughter Karen (Lucy Stafford) to cancer, and Neil had great difficulty in coming to terms with her death. They soon have another son, Rick (Gavin Warren and Luke Winters).

Armstrong’s first spaceflight is as commander of Gemini 8, a 2-man ship, which he flew with David Scott (Christopher Abbott). Their mission was to dock with an unmanned vehicle which all went smoothly. On returning however, the spaceship developed a fault, which sent it out of control. Armstrong had to release the vehicle to save their own. Though some criticised his decision, it was his quick thinking that took him to be in command of Apollo 11 and the successful moon landing in 1969 with Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll).


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Space travel; death of a child; separation from family

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Neil squeezes a wine glass so hard that it shatters in his hand, causing it to bleed profusely.
  • Neil has to bail out of a lunar landing research vehicle, which bursts into flames. He lands heavily in his parachute and is left with damage to his face.
  • Janet loses her temper with Neil because he doesn’t want to say goodbye to the boys when he leaves for his mission to the moon, knowing he might not return.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

There are a lot of loud explosions and frightening scenes involving fire in this movie that would scare young children. Scenes include:

  • Several scenes of spaceships taking off, during which the astronauts are visibly shaken in their seats.
  • Spaceships spinning out of control and men having to desperately bring them back under control.
  • Spaceships are seen with steam blowing out of them and at times, breaking up.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • The movie begins with Neil bringing a test machine in to land. The machine is shaking and seemingly out of control. It appears as if it will crash to Earth.
  • Karen Armstrong is seen on an operating table underneath scanning machines.
  • A funeral is held for Karen during which her small coffin is lowered into the ground. Neil is visibly upset.
  • During training, the astronauts have to undertake vigorous tests including multiple gyrations in a machine. The aim is to get the machine under control before passing out. Neil appears to pass out before coming round again. Both Neil and Ed White immediately vomit afterwards.
  • The take-off scenes could be quite frightening for this age group – the men are strapped into their seats and vigorously shaken for several minutes. The engines are very loud and the whole scene, probably quite realistic, looks terrifying.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Ed White dies in a rocket crash. This isn’t shown but a funeral is held for him and his wife is obviously very upset.
  • Neil sees an image of Karen
  • During the Gemini mission, the control system malfunctions and the spaceship spins out of control. Scott loses consciousness and Armstrong only just manages to bring it under control before he also passes out.
  • Three astronauts are seen waiting for take-off in Apollo 1 when a fire breaks out. The scene then moves to outside the spaceship and an explosion is seen and heard in the cockpit. All three men were killed.
  • When Neil leaves for his moon mission he tells his boys that he can’t guarantee that he will return. This is very sad and his boys, particularly Mike, are very upset by this.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Some children in this age group could be upset by the above mentioned scenes.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Campbell’s soup
  • Budweiser and Busch beer


Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

Neil and Janet kiss on one occasion

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Several main characters smoke
  • There is quite a bit of social drinking at different places - at  home, at parties and conferences, etc.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • go screw
  • damn
  • holy shit
  • fucking

In a nutshell

First Man is a biographical drama about Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, which displays the harsh realities of being an astronaut. The physical and emotional toll on the astronauts is quite clear. It appears to be quite realistic and most intense in several scenes. The film is therefore not recommended for children under 13, and is more suited to older teens and adults.

The main messages from this movie are that it takes great determination and resolve to make pioneering achievements and that many sacrifices are made to achieve greatness.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • bravery
  • selflessness
  • humility
  • hard work
  • patience and endurance

Parents may also wish to discuss with their children what it would mean to them if one of their parents had to abandon them for the ‘greater good’?