A Christmas Story

  • Review Date: May 19, 2003
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1983

Common Sense Media says

Wonderful antidote to cutesy holiday tales; some swearing.
  • Review Date: May 19, 2003
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1983

Age(i)

2
3
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5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Underneath some ironic and satirical humor this is a warm story about a 1930s/'40s family. It is a refreshing look at a less-than-perfect holiday experience and the unexpected joy that can be found when things don't go as planned.

Positive role models

Ralphie engages in some questionable behavior, especially when it comes to lying in order to stay out of trouble. But he is a tame child by today's standards. And while Ralphie's dad seems like the disciplinarian, it's his mom who hands out the soap when he's caught swearing.

Violence & scariness

It's mostly yelling and arm-twisting when two bullies harass kids daily, though Ralphie's friend does come to class with a black eye after one altercation. Ralphie punches one bully until he gets a bloody nose. A dream sequence shows Ralphie with his prized BB gun shooting and killing four comical bandits. A kid touches an icy metal pole with his tongue on a dare and it freezes to the pole.

Sexy stuff

Ralphie's dad wins a lamp shaped like a woman's leg. Ralphie calls it the "soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window" and continues to run his hand up the leg when his mother's not watching.

Language

Some language said by both adults and children, including "ass," "son of a bitch," "hell," "hot damn," and insults like "idiot," "dumb," etc. Lots of discussion about the use of profanity, by Ralphie's father who constantly swears while fixing the heater, but especially when Ralphie lets slip the "F" word in front of his dad, which is heard by the audience as "fudge." He's punished with a mouthful of soap.

Consumerism

Main character is obsessed with getting a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Mentions of other brands, some still available (Ovaltine) some not (Look magazine). And the infamous leg lamp is now a hot item at Christmastime.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Ralphie's parents drink wine after opening presents and his dad offers him a sip -- mom turns it down for him.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that both kids and adults use and discuss strong language ("ass," "son of a bitch"), and one famous scene involves young Ralphie using the "F" word (though movie viewers hear the word "fudge"). In one scene, the main character is punished for swearing by having his mouth washed out with soap. He's also bullied and beats up his nemesis, then cries afterward. One child sticks his tongue on a flagpole on a dare and needs the fire department to unstick him.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) is a 9-year-old boy in 1930s/'40s Indiana, whose entire life is consumed with his one wish: to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. He also has to deal with a seemingly endless wait for his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring, a nasty bully, and an overworked department-store Santa. His father (Darren McGavin) seems preoccupied with the neighbors' dogs (he hates them), a huge lamp in the shape of a lady's fishnet-stocking-clad leg that he won, the family's furnace, and the Christmas turkey. His mother seems preoccupied with getting his brother to eat and getting the leg-lamp out of the house, but both parents manage to come through for a chaotic but very merry Christmas.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Part of the appeal of this movie, based on the memoirs of humorist Jean Shepard (who narrates), is the authenticity of the period detail, much of which will seem bizarre to kids today. But what is really engaging is his feel for the timeless details of childhood. Today's kids may not have Ralphie's exquisitely calibrated system of dares and double-dog dares, but they will have some equivalent that is just as thoroughly understood and immutable in their own schoolyard community. And they will have a bully to deal with, something sent away for with box-tops to haunt the mailbox for, a sibling to be annoyed by, an essay to dream of impressing the teacher with, the adult world to try to figure out, and, most of all, some magic dream of the ultimate Christmas present to hope for beyond all reason.

This is a nice antidote to all those Christmas television specials with perfectly harmonized carols and perfectly wrapped gifts. Because people tend to get so obsessive about every single detail at Christmas, the last scene of this movie, when the family's Christmas dinner is exactly the opposite of what they had planned, is especially sweet. Their reaction, seeing it not as a disappointment but as a delightful and funny adventure to enjoy remembering in future Christmases, is a lesson for all families.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about bullies: What makes people act like bullies? What makes people befriend bullies? How will the bully's life change after Ralphie fights him?

  • Why is it hard for Ralphie to talk to his parents about what he wants for Christmas?

  • Why is Ralphie so disappointed by the decoder? Do products get advertised during your favorite shows? Does it sometimes catch you by surprise like it did Ralphie?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 18, 1983
DVD release date:October 7, 2009
Cast:Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon, Peter Billingsley
Director:Bob Clark
Studio:Warner Bros.
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Holidays
Run time:98 minutes
MPAA rating:PG

This review of A Christmas Story was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 7 and 9 year old Written byJazzerGyrl December 16, 2009
AGE
10
QUALITY
 

Screen it before your kids do

I know my husband loves this movie, but I can't stand it at all. As a parent, I like it even less. The language is terrible for kids to see, it makes children think Santa does not get you what you want-and he is portrayed as being really nasty in this movie at the mall.
The father feeling up a sexy leg lamp is something little ones just simply would not get.
All in all, I think that you have to decide on how mature your child is before you watch this movie. It also is really watered down when they run it on television, so if you buy it on DVD, make sure you screen it before showing your kids, I think you will be shocked at the content the networks leave out.

What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 12 years old Written bysunnytwo22 December 25, 2010
AGE
10
QUALITY
 

Great Movie For 10 and Up

This is such a great movie and for my family it is a classic. We are watching right now on Christmas. It is not ok for younger kids because they say bad words and there is the leg lamp of course.

What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Teen, 13 years old Written bymusicgirl1797 December 31, 2009
AGE
10
QUALITY
 

good movie, but some stuff maybe to inappropriate for younger kids

i think this movie is really hilarious, but i think that the language is too strong for elementery school kids. even though a bunch of the language was hard to make out, some words were clear to me. it also references the f words, even though it is not described.

What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing

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