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A More Complete Description

Additional Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)

Bridges to Reading

Links to the Internet

CCSS Anchor Standards
Selected Awards & Cast


Go to the Learning Guide for this film.

A More Complete Description

As the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran is being overrun by revolutionaries in 1979, six members of the American diplomatic force escape to the Canadian Ambassador's residence. In a courageous act of international friendship and compassion, the Canadian ambassador, Ken Taylor and his wife, with the support of his government, shelters the "houseguests" as they are called, for 79 days. In January of 1980, amid increasing fears that the houseguests will be discovered by Iranian militants, with possibly deadly consequences for the Americans and their Canadian hosts, a CIA operative concocts a plan to rescue the Americans by creating a phony film production complete with script, film crew, publicity, and an office in Hollywood. The Canadians help with fake passports, false identities, and a diplomatic pouch filled with disguise kits and paraphernalia supporting the cover. The story works and all six hostages are rescued in a high-tension race against time.


Additional Discussion Questions

5. Who acted more heroically, the Taylors or Antonio Mendez? Suggested Response: There is no one correct answer. TWM views the Taylors as the most heroic. Ambassador Taylor, with the support of his wife, went far beyond his obligations and job description to help people of another country, putting his life and that of his wife in danger in order to protect the Americans. Mendez deserves praise as well, and earned all the awards he received from the CIA. He put his life in danger, too. However, Mendez was just doing his job. By the way, Jimmy Carter, who was President during this period and gave the final go-ahead for the operation, agrees. He gives the Canadians 90% of the credit for saving the hostages.

6. The voice-over at the beginning of the film, which outlines the nature of the U.S./Iran conflict, serves to provide background information for the story. In what way did this information influence your attitude toward both the revolutionaries and the diplomats? Suggested Response: All opinions are acceptable. Some students will decide that the historical overview lends support to the Iranian revolution; others will feel that it explains but does not excuse or lend support to the violent overthrow of the Shaw.

See questions on the Film Study Worksheet for a Work of Historical Fiction (discussion questions #s 1 & 2 are derived from this worksheet). See also Discussion Questions for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.

Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions


See Discussion Question #5, above.

Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)

Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.


(Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)

See Discussion Question #5, above.


(Do your share to make your school and community better; Cooperate; Stay informed; vote; Be a good neighbor; Obey laws and rules; Respect authority; Protect the environment)

See Discussion Question #5, above.

Bridges to Reading

Argo – How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History, by Antonio Mendez and Matt Baglio, Viking, 2012.

Links to the Internet

Common Core State Standards that can be Served by this Learning Guide
(Anchor Standards only)

Multimedia: Anchor Standard #7 for Reading (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). (The three Anchor Standards read: "Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media, including visually and quantitatively as well as in words.") CCSS pp. 35 & 60. See also Anchor Standard # 2 for ELA Speaking and Listening, CCSS pg. 48.

Reading: Anchor Standards #s 1, 2, 7 and 8 for Reading and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 35 & 60.

Writing: Anchor Standards #s 1 - 5 and 7- 10 for Writing and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 41 & 63.

Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards #s 1 - 3 (for ELA classes). CCSS pg. 48.

Not all assignments reach all Anchor Standards. Teachers are encouraged to review the specific standards to make sure that over the term all standards are met.

Selected Awards, Cast and Director

Selected Awards: 2012 Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Editing, Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published; 2012 American Film Institute Awards: Movie of the Year; 2012 Academy Awards Nominations: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score; Best Achievement in Sound Editing; Best Achievement in Sound Mixing; Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Alan Arkin);

Featured Actors: Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez; Bryan Cranston as Jack O'Donnell; Alan Arkin as Lester Siegel; John Goodman as John Chambers; Victor Garber as Ken Taylor; Tate Donovan as Bob Anders Clea DuVall as Cora Lijek; Scoot McNairy as Joe Stafford; Rory Cochrane as Lee Schatz; Christopher Denham as Mark Lijek; Kerry Bishé as Kathy Stafford

Director: Ben Affleck.


In addition to websites which may be linked in the Guide and selected film reviews listed on the Movie Review Query Engine, the following resources were consulted in the preparation of this Learning Guide:

  • Argo – How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History, by Antonio Mendez and Matt Baglio, Viking, 2012.

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