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(2011), PG-13 [R-13*] (113.75min)

Final Score
Analysis Date
Date Posted
Influence Density
December 7, 2011
December 8, 2011

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(While the Scriptural references are certainly not subjective, my commentary may be and sometimes is somewhat subjective.)

If Scriptural references appear, the full text appears at the end of the Summary / Commentary.

(2011), PG-13 [R-13*] ... about as "R" as PG-13 can get

Production (US): DreamWorks SKG, Imagine Entertainment, Universal Pictures, Reliance Entertainment, Relativity Media. K/O Paper Products, Fairview Entertainment, Platinum Studios
Distribution (US): Universal Home Entertainment
Director(s): Jon Favreau
Producer(s): Steve Spielberg, Jon Favreau, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Alex Kurtzamn, Robert Orci, Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, Chris Wade, Dan Forcey, Karen Gilchrist, Denis L. Stewart, Bobby Cohen, Randy Greensburg, Ryan Kavanaugh
Based on Platinum Studios' Cowboys and Aliens by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg
Screen Story by: Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Steve Oedekerk
Screenplay by: Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby
Cinematography/Camera: Matthew Libatique
Music: Harry Gregson-Williams
Film Editing: Dan Lebental, Jim May
Casting: Sarah Halley Finn
Production Design: Scott Chambliss
Viewed on Universal Home Entertainment DVD

The MPAA's moral "radar", if they have any, is defective. It is sometimes bewildering how much the MPAA will let slip by under the PG-13 radar. Each of the six CAP content investigation areas found content in Cowboys & Aliens to be equivalent to most R-rated films. This film is about as "R" as PG-13 can get.

The plot and story are simple: aliens come to to Arizona to take over the Earth for its gold. But they come in the 19th century, in 1873.

Wanted man Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the wilderness in an unarmed amnesic daze with a wound in his right side. Though he remembers nothing, not even his name, the caliber of his experience is revealed as three heavily armed scalp-carrying thugs try to haul him in for a possible bounty -- the thugs thought the "iron" on his left wrist was a remnant of shackles. In seconds all three thugs are dead and Jake rides off with whatever he needed from the thugs.

Arriving in a played-out gold mining town, Jake invades a preacher's house to freshen up. At gunpoint, the preacher, Meacham (Clancy Brown) is the one who discovers Jake can't remember anything ... except English. After dressing and stitching Jake's wound, gunfire starts peppering the town. The shooter is Percy Dolarhyde (Paul Dano), the spoiled, rich-kid son of war hero Col. Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), the man who owns the town. In Percy's drunken frenzy while shooting up the town he wounds a deputy so the Sheriff, John Taggart (Keith Carradine) has to arrest him and hold him for the US Marshal.

Outside of town three of Dolarhyde's men, Ed (Gavin Grazer), Mickey (Wyatt Russell) and Murphy (Toby Huss) tending to some cattle have the first encounter with the invading aliens. In a drunken stupor as Murphy tries to relieve himself in the river, explosions blast him into the water. Once the explosions are over Murphy finds his two fellow cowhands gone and the cattle blown up. Murphy has just had a close encounter of the second kind.

From there the story and plot build. But since this DVD was just released I will not spoil any more of the story. Besides, I am not a movie critic and most of our readers visit our pages to learn about the content of films. Let me get into that now.


Following are brief discussions of the content per individual content investigation area. As always the Findings section of this report, the heart of the CAP Analysis Model, is the best source for discovering the full accounting of the content of this film.

Wanton Violence/Crime (W) - Zero out of 100
Violence in this film is brutal at times and consists mainly of action violence, many of them with killings by the aliens ... graphically. But there are many other forms of violence portrayed in this film, far too many to even try to summarize here. Please look to the listing in the Findings section for a complete accounting of the violence content of this film. So many forms of violence begs of God's soldiers being reminded of His Word about violence.

In Proverb 16:29 God warns us that violence is "catching": that violence can lead one "into the way that is not good." Since God "published His findings" man has plagiarized His Word by four professional public health agencies publishing that viewing violence in and as entertainment can, among other things, lead to real life violence and can lead the observer to believe violence is an acceptable way to settle conflict, both especially by the young.

Impudence/Hate (I) - 3 out of 100
Twenty-seven times someone utters some form of profanity [Col. 3:8, Eph. 5:4] Additional matters of impudence are portrayed such as home invasion as a convenience, extortion by firearm, adolescent defiance of adult wisdom, and portrayal of the American Indian as whooping, blood-thirsty savages [Gal. 3:28].

Sexual Immorality (S) - 47 out of 100
Sexually immoral behavior and display in this film includes multiple crotch kicks, dropping pants to defecate with flash nudity, suggestion of intercourse, innuendo about masturbation and oral sex, peeping, brief female rear nudity and a couple additional items noted in the Findings section. All of these items are in defiance of God's will that we remain chaste until marriage and free of crudity. God's verses specifying sexual immorality can be summed up as any sexual contact (including sight and sound), conduct or activity outside of a monogamous heterosexual marriage is immoral. [Col. 3:5] Mortify those desires to have or do or think what is shameful even to mention [Eph. 5:12, Eph. 5:4].

Drugs/Alcohol (D) - 21 out of 100
This film presents that which the American College of Physicians (ACP) warns against: drinking and drunkenness. A 2002 study by the American College of Physicians (ACP) revealed that adolescent exposure to drinking in and as entertainment undeniably leads to abuse of alcohol among underage viewers. The finding entitled Relation Between Parental Restrictions on Movies and Adolescent Use of Tobacco and Alcohol reports that of 4544 youths from grades 5 through 8 of fifteen Vermont and New Hampshire middle schools (90% of the youths were under fourteen years old) only 16% were completely restricted in their entertainment diets. Within the ACP study population, the prevalence of having tried alcohol without parental knowledge was

  • 46% for those with no viewing restrictions
  • 16% for those with partial viewing restrictions
  • four percent for those with complete viewing restrictions. [Eph. 5:18]

    The study also warns against viewing smoking in and as entertainment for the same reason - emboldenment. This film presents some of that, too.

    Offense to God (O) - 47 out of 100
    Four times someone abuses God's name with the four letter expletive and four times without it. I can find nothing in the Scriptures that makes using God's name in vain without the four letter expletive man has attached to it any less a violation that with it. Each time, with or without the expletive is a sin, even the teen-popular three syllable sentence with His name trailing it. [Deut. 5:11]

    Also of great concern is a false statement made by the preacher. He said "Whether you end up in Heaven or Hell, it's not God's plan, it's your own." It appears to be a carefully engineered comment but it confuses what is hopefully the intent of the comment. While it is indeed up to each of us whether we chose to believe that Jesus is Lord and the resurrected Savior (end up in Heaven), it is not God's plan for anyone to perish (be eternally condemned to Hell). [2 Pet. 3:9] "Perish", as used in 2 Pet 3:9, is apollumi and means to lose, to be lost which means eternally separated ... eternally lost, separated, from the Father which means condemned to Hell. So, to say "Whether you end up in Heaven or Hell, it's not God's plan, it's your own" is dangerously misleading. While it is certainly up to you to make the Decision to accept Jesus as Lord and resurrected Savior, it is God's plan that you be saved, not lost.

    Murder/Suicide (M) - 50 out of 100
    There are many killings by aliens that some might consider murder but in the CAP Analysis Model, deaths by acts of self-defense, war or police action are not considered murder. Though the aliens were on our turf, they acted in a way any race would when someone is trying to kill them. Note however, that while many of the killings by the aliens were not considered murder, they were incorporated into the Wanton Violence/Crime content investigation area. Portrayals of killing of defenseless humans by the aliens were considered murder. There were at least six murders by the aliens.



    If needed to focus or fortify, applicable text is underlined or bracketed [ ] or bold. If you wish to have full context available, the Blue Letter Bible is a convenient source. If you use the Blue Letter Bible, a new window will open. Close it to return here or use "Window" in your browser's menu bar to alternate between the CAP page and the Blue Letter Bible page.


  • Prov. 16:29 A violent man enticeth his neighbour, and leadeth him into the way that is not good. [The issue is the violence, the 'way that is not good' no matter how "small" or "fantasy" or "justified" the violence might seem, and its "leading" effect on the observer. "A violent man" can be any character of any age, any gender, human or not in the act of committing (demonstrating in the case of entertainment) violent behavior/action whether for good or evil OR the violent behaviors/actions themselves. Such exposure can and does embolden the viewer into aggression, especially youth. It took years for the American professional health community to finally affirm, probably without knowing it, that which God told us in 1 Cor. 15:33 below. See also Joint Statement on the Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children: Congressional Public Health Summit for more information. Their findings include:
    --> Children who see a lot of violence are more likely to view violence as an effective way of settling conflicts. Children exposed to violence are more likely to assume the acts of violence are acceptable behavior.
    --> Viewing violence can lead to emotional desensitization towards violence in real life. It can decease the likelihood that one will take action on behalf of a victim when violence occurs.
    --> Entertainment violence feeds a perception that the world is a violent and mean place. Viewing violence increases fear of becoming a victim of violence, with a resultant increase in self-protective behavior and a mistrust of others.
    --> Viewing violence may lead to real life violence. Children exposed to violent programming at a young age have a higher tendency for violent and aggressive behavior later in life than children who are not so exposed.
    Further, God speaks darkly of violence 56 times in the Old and New Testament of the KJV.]
  • Col. 3:8 But now ye also put off [rid yourself of] all these; anger, wrath, malice [kakia: ill-will, desire to injure, wickedness, depravity, evil, trouble, not ashamed to break laws, etc.], blasphemy [blasphemia: impious and reproachful speech injurious to divine majesty], filthy communication [aischrologia:foul speaking, low and obscene speech] out of your mouth.
  • Eph. 5:4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.
  • Gal. 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. [When we each stand before Jesus on the Throne of Judgment, there will be no black or white, Jew or gentile, Baptist or Catholic, male or female. We are all equal at the foot of the Cross. the America Indian is just as precious to Jesus as anyone else.]
  • Col 3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: [Mortify: nekroo {nek-ro'-o} - deprive of power, control, be master of rather than slave to. Members: melos {mel'-os} - members of the human body given up to immoral sexual activity. Upon the earth: while living on the Earth. Fornication: porneia {por-ni'-ah} - illicit sexual intercourse. Uncleanness: akatharsia {ak-ath-ar-see'-ah} - in a moral sense, the impurity of lustful living. Inordinate affection: - pathos {path'-os} - lust. Evil concupiscence: epithumia {ep-ee-thoo-mee'-ah} - desire, craving, longing for what is forbidden. Covetousness: pleonexia {pleh-on-ex-ee'-ah} - greedy desire to have more. Idolatry: eidololatreia {i-do-lol-at-ri'-ah}: the worship of false gods, including the "god" of lust and inordinate desire].
  • Eph. 5:12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.
  • Eph. 5:18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. [Since "drunk" is methusko {meth-oos'-ko}: to intoxicate; make drunk; to get drunk; become intoxicated, "wine" can be any intoxicating substance including illegal drugs or abuse of prescription drugs. The issue is do not abuse the body by intoxicating it [1 Cor. 6:19]. Though it is not a sin to drink, it is a sin to get drunk OR to influence to get drunk OR to drink in defiance such as underage drinking.
  • 1 Cor. 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
  • Deut. 5:11 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain. [Vain is shav {shawv}: emptiness, nothingness, vanity, such as in slang or profanity. With or without the four letter expletive, the use of God's name in any way other than respect, reverence or responsible discussion and in praise and prayer is in vain. That includes the popular three syllable sentence with His name trailing it AND the misuse of Jesus' name or title. So, trying to excuse such expressions with "I was talking TO God/Jesus when I said that" or It's just words" or "I was acting" will not work with Him. Nor will "Everybody says that" excuse the sin of using His name in vain. If everyone on the planet who has ever drawn a breath used His name in vain, it would still be a sin to do so. If no one ever did, it would still be a sin to do so. Whether we believe it or not. Whether we like it or not. Whether we care or not. God (as Jesus) spent three days in Hell so you and I would not have to spend one moment there. He is entitled.]
  • 2 Pet. 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

    Selected Scriptures of Armour against the influence of the entertainment industry

  • Jer. 37:9 This is what the LORD says: Do not deceive yourselves, thinking, 'The Babylonians [the destroyers from within] will surely leave us.' They will not!
  • Ps. 12:8 The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men [when enough people continue to defend what is vile, embrace it, enjoy it, want it, submit to it.]
  • Col. 2:8 Beware lest any man [by his influence] spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
  • 1 Cor. 15:33 Be not deceived: evil [kakov: of a bad nature, not such as it ought to be] communications corrupt good manners.
  • Rom. 5:19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
  • Jude 1:4 For there are certain men* crept in unawares [secretly slipped in among us], who were before of old ordained to this condemnation [whose condemnation was written about long ago], ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness [a license for immorality], and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. [*men: anthropos {anth'-ro-pos}, generic, a human being, whether male or female]
  • Matt. 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
  • Luke 17:2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. [Offend: skandalizo {skan-dal-id'-zo} - scandalize; to entice to sin; to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey; to cause to fall away.]
  • Ps. 119:133 Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me [let no sin rule over me].
  • John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
  • 1 Thess. 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil. ["Evil" includes all things that are sinful.]


    As always, it is best to refer to the Findings/Scoring section -- the heart of the CAP analysis model -- for the most complete assessment possible of this movie.
    (The objective heart of the CAP Analysis Model, independent of and insulated from the Summary / Commentary section.)

    Cowboys & Aliens (2011) CAP Thermometers

    Wanton Violence/Crime (W) - Zero out of 100
  • blood from injury, multiple views
  • Indian scalps hanging off cowboys' saddles, multiple with gore
  • defensive killings, repeatedly
  • graphic defensive beating
  • knife impalement, graphic, two views
  • looting of dead bodies
  • firearm to force behavior, repeatedly
  • injury gore, repeatedly
  • tabletop suturing
  • reckless gunfire, many
  • gunfire to intimidate, repeatedly
  • gunfire injury with blood splatter
  • barroom fight to avoid lawful arrest
  • flashes of violence, repeatedly
  • assault, repeatedly
  • animal gore
  • human torture
  • sci-fi action violence, repeatedly of varying intensities, some graphic with graphic killings
  • multiple abductions by aliens
  • assault of woman by a man with threat to kill
  • tale of a boy mercy-killing a man by slicing his throat
  • enticing a young boy with a fancy knife AND to use it
  • holding hostages at gunpoint for robbery
  • beating
  • cremation
  • incineration of a woman
  • alien gore, repeatedly
  • impalement

    Impudence/Hate (I) - 3 out of 100
  • 27 uses of profanity
  • home invasion
  • extortion for money with firearm
  • adolescent defiance of fair authority increasing danger to the youth
  • portrayal of the American Indian as whooping, blood-thirsty marauders

    Sexual Immorality (S) - 47 out of 100
  • crotch kick, repeatedly
  • dropping pants to defecate
  • flash nudity - male
  • suggestion of intercourse by movement of woman's supine body, twice
  • innuendo re: oral sex
  • innuendo re: masturbation
  • peeping
  • woman hitting on man
  • anatomical reference
  • camera angle and/or pose to force viewer on private parts, repeatedly
  • full rear female nudity

    Drugs/Alcohol (D) - 21 out of 100
  • drinking, repeatedly
  • drunkenness
  • alcoholic beverages, repeatedly
  • bar, repeatedly
  • call for whiskey
  • smoking, repeatedly
  • drugging to return memory
  • drunken revelry

    Offense to God (O) - 47 out of 100
  • four abuses of God's name with the four letter expletive and four without it
  • "Whether you end up in Heaven or Hell, it's not God's plan, it's your own"
  • calling another a "fool", twice
  • ill-gotten gain
  • resurrection by fire

    Murder/Suicide (M) - 50 out of 100
  • multiple explosions by alien attack, killing two humans and several cattle
  • alien assault of man and boy with murder of man
  • alien murder of human with blood splatter on window
  • alien attack with many deaths of defenseless humans

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    There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts." And "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." I applaud these associations for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33. Read the rest of the story. From our years of study, I contend that other aberrant behaviors, attitudes, and expressions can be inserted in place of "violence" in that statement. Our Director - Child Psychology Support, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist concurs. For example, "Viewing arrogance against fair authority may lead to your kids defying you in real life." Or "Viewing sex may lead to sex in real life." Likewise and especially with impudence, hate and foul language. I further contend that any positive behavior can be inserted in place of "violence" with the same chance or likelihood of being a behavior template for the observer; of being incorporated into the behavior mechanics and/or coping skills of the observer. In choosing your entertainment, please consider carefully the "rest of the story" and our findings.

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    * CAP Equivalence to MPAA Rating Scale:
    Please note our new manner of indicating a film's Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating in comparison with the CAP equivalence such as "PG-13 [R-13]." The first term is the Motion Picture Association of America's (MPAA) rating. The second term [in brackets] indicates that which the film earned under the CAP analysis model. In the example, "PG-13 [R-13]" indicates the MPAA rated the film PG-13 but the film earned a CAP final score in the scoring range earned by R-rated movies in the comparative baseline database. Other comparative terms used might be "PG [13-PG]", "G [PG-G] or even 'PG-13 [PG]" as was the case for Alien vs Predator. I doubt there will ever be a "G [R]" used, but only time will tell. The CAP analysis model is Rock-solid. The MPAA is not.

    The current CAP to MPAA** nomenclature is:

    For G rated Films with
    G equivalence: G
    PG equivalence: PG-G
    PG-13 equivalence: 13-G
    R equivalence: R-G<
    For PG rated Films with
    G equivalence: G-PG
    PG equivalence: PG
    PG-13 equivalence: 13-PG
    R equivalence: R-PG
    For PG-13 rated Films with
    G equivalence: G-13
    PG equivalence: PG(13)
    PG-13 equivalence: PG-13
    R equivalence: R-13
    For R rated Films with
    G equivalence: G-R
    PG equivalence: PG-R
    PG-13 equivalence: 13-R
    R equivalence: R
    For NR rated Films with
    G equivalence: G-NR
    PG equivalence: PG-NR
    PG-13 equivalence: 13-NR
    R equivalence: R-NR
    ** G, PG, PG-13 and R are registered trademarks of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

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