Ruby Bridges Movie Review (2024)

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

  • Positive Messages

    a lot

    Spiritual faith and strong family ties can provide people with confidence, emotional strength, and a sense of purpose. Don't judge people by the color of their skin. Everyone deserves equal education and fair treatment, no matter their race or social standing. Fighting for change can be difficult but can also bring great rewards. Forgive your enemies because anger can be futile and self-defeating.

  • Positive Role Models

    a lot

    Ruby's parents make personal sacrifices so their daughter can pursue a better education. Mrs. Henry treats Ruby and her mother with respect and kindness, standing up to the principal and other teachers on Ruby's behalf. U.S. Marshals protect Ruby with care and dedication. A psychiatrist, moved by Ruby's fortitude in face of protestors -- as well as the potential of doing "important" work in his career -- offers to counsel her free of charge, while his wife encourages him to treat Ruby's family as people, not patients.

  • Diverse Representations

    a lot

    The movie explores a key moment in U.S. history in the fight for racial equality and brings attention to an important Black figure. Ruby is strong and determined but also given nuance and shown to have moments of fear and confusion. A scene in a bar involves White and Black characters discussing race with warmth, intelligence, and openness. Female characters are portrayed as strong, though still with some element of traditional gender roles (as was more typical for the time period). Ruby's father takes a commanding tone toward her mother on occasion but also shows great vulnerability, crying and being comforted by her, which counters male, and particularly Black male, stereotypes. Some elements do lean a little into the "White savior" cliche, with Mrs. Henry delivering a grandstanding diatribe about ignorance and hate toward the end of the movie. A Jewish shop owner shows kindness but also bends to White pressure not to allow the Bridges into her shop, though there's a sense of understanding based on shared experiences of bigotry. Many Black neighbors show support for Ruby's family, but there's also some resentment, leading to a few local people breaking ties.

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  • Violence & Scariness

    some

    Ruby has to be escorted to school and protected by armed U.S. Marshals. Protestors outside school, who carry signs like "Whites only" and "No coloreds here," spit on Ruby and shout threats like "I'm gonna hang you 'til you choke to death" and "I'm gonna poison you." One protestor holds up a small coffin with a doll in it. Another throws a tomato at a wall, scaring Ruby. Ruby reenacts some of these threats, including appearing to choke her own doll with a ribbon. Enslavement is explained by a teacher in very basic terms.

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  • Sex, Romance & Nudity

    none

    Ruby's parents show affection with hugs and kisses, placing hands on each other's hips and shoulders.

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  • Language

    some

    Racial taunts include "jigaboo," "pickaninny," "cracker," and "Black trash"; terms such as “colored” and “negro” are also used frequently. "KKK" and the "N" word are scrawled on a column outside the school. Protestors chant "2, 4, 6, 8, we don't want to integrate." One child tells another she's going to "whip her butt" in a game.

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  • Parents Need to Know

    Parents need to know that the true story behind Ruby Bridges is historically important and inspiring but emotionally intense. Ruby was only 6 years old when she became the first Black child to attend an all-White school in New Orleans in 1960, yet she withstood daily threats and insults as she entered the grounds and had to be escorted by armed guards. Most viewers will find the scenes of adults aggressively threatening and name-calling a first-grader disturbing. They use racist insults like the "N" word, among other slurs. Enslavement is also mentioned and explained in very basic terms by a teacher. Depending on the viewer and their personal experience with racism, the film could incur a variety of reactions, ranging from recognition and anger to surprise and sadness. But it's important for kids to gain a wide understanding of U.S. history, particularly the uglier aspects that are often glossed over, in order to offer context for some issues that endure today. At one point, Ruby refuses to eat and hides her lunches due to a fear of poisoning, which could be difficult for children who have a tricky relationship with food. The film also has a strong Christian message of the power of faith and belief in Jesus, although characters also question the portrayal of Jesus as a White man. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.

What's the Story?

RUBY BRIDGES is based on the real-life story of a 6-year-old Black girl (Chaz Monet) selected by the NAACP due to her high test scores to attend an all-White school in New Orleans in 1960. Although desegregation of schools was national law, many areas in the South were slow or resistant to carry out the policy. In the film, Ruby's parents (Michael Beach and Lela Rochon) agree to send her to the school, even though she has to be protected by U.S. Marshals due to increasingly violent protests outside. Other parents pull their White children out of classes, and Ruby's presence causes resentment among the all-White staff. Mrs. Henry (Penelope Ann Miller), a recent transplant from Boston, is assigned as Ruby's teacher and advocates on behalf of her student's rights and integration. Ruby's family also receives support from the NAACP, their local community, and a White psychiatrist (Kevin Pollak) who volunteers his services. Thanks to this support, along with the love and strong faith instilled by her family, Ruby is able to weather the experience and make an important impact.

Talk to Your Kids About ...

  • Families can talk about the history of desegregating schools in the United States, as well as the life story of the real Ruby Bridges. Where could you learn more?

  • Why do you think Ruby was so brave? Can you imagine living an experience like hers? How would you get through it?

  • Do you think Ruby's parents made the right decision to send her to the all-White school? Why or why not?

  • Why do you think the protestors were so hateful toward Ruby? How do you feel about the other children's reactions to Ruby?

  • Did you find Mrs. Henry's explanation of slavery appropriate for a first-grader? Do you know anything about the history of the KKK?

Movie Details

  • In theaters: May 8, 1998
  • On DVD or streaming: January 18, 1998
  • Cast: Penelope Ann Miller, Kevin Pollak, Michael Beach, Chaz Monet
  • Director: Euzhan Palcy
  • Inclusion Information: Black directors, Female actors, Black actors
  • Studio: Disney
  • Genre: Drama
  • Topics: Activism, Great Girl Role Models, History
  • Character Strengths: Courage
  • Run time: 96 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG
  • Last updated: February 27, 2022

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Ruby Bridges Movie Review (2024)

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