Life Is Beautiful

  • Review Date: May 4, 2003
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1998

Common Sense Media says

Wrenching Holocaust fable with bittersweet humor.
  • Review Date: May 4, 2003
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1998

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Love for family, country, and above all, the bond between father and son, are major themes here. Fascism is discussed, and the horror of the holocaust is also underscored.

Positive role models

Guido is a doting husband and father, and uses humor to overcome the incredible obstacles that stand in his way.

Violence

Threats of torture, hangings, and being murdered in gas chambers are discussed, and those who understand the Holocaust will get the gravity of these threats. Occasional bloody images are visible. Guns (rifles, pistols, machine guns) are visible; gunshots are audible. Tanks are visible. A major character dies.

Sex

Some mild flirtations between Guido and Dora.

Language

A few words like "ass" are visible in the subtitles.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Champagne, hard liquor is visible at restaurants and social functions. Cigarette smoking is occasionally visible.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the award-winning Italian import Life Is Beautiful is set during the Holocaust, and features some very difficult themes, including war, fear, and the loss of a parent. There are clear references to the atrocities being committed, but most of the focus is on the humorous efforts of a father to shelter his son from them. Drinking (wine, champagne) is visible in social settings; references are made to drunkenness.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

This Oscar-winner for Best Actor and Best Foreign Film is a fable is about a father's love for his wife and son in the midst of the Holocaust. Writer/director Roberto Benigni stars as a Chaplinesque character who charms a beautiful teacher by creating a world of gentle magic around them. But then Benigni and his wife and child are sent to a concentration camp. To protect his son's life, he teaches him to hide from the guards during the day. To protect his son's heart, he constructs an elaborate fantasy that they are participating in a very difficult contest to win the ultimate prize, a real tank. And his son finds that this make sense, and he goes along with it.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL inspired a lot of controversy from people who said that it was an inaccurate portrayal of the Holocaust, and that it was wrong to set a comedy, even a gentle bittersweet one, in a concentration camp. But the movie is never less than respectful of the suffering during the Holocaust, and of the impossibility of any kind of real portrayal of that experience. Even Schindler's List is not a portrayal of the Holocaust. That experience is fundamentally incomprehensible. The best we can hope for from art is that it gives us glimpses. This movie gives us such a glimpse, but it is really about love, and the indomitability of humanity even in the midst of inhumanity.

We often see in life and in movies that people react to extreme adversity by magnifying whatever sense of control they have left -- think of Mrs. Van Dam's focus on her coat in The Diary of Anne Frank, absurd in light of the fact that they never go outside, so she has no real need for a coat, but important because somehow she has chosen the coat as a place to locate her sense of herself as not having lost everything. In Life is Beautiful, the father focuses on his special talent for creating a feeling of magic to protect his son from the worst reality of the Holocaust, the sense of utter betrayal. Very importantly, he gives his son a sense of control, by letting him think that he has made the choice to participate in the contest. And knowing that he has kept his child's faith intact gives him a sense of control, and purpose, that keeps him going.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the historical framework of the movie. Does the movie teach us anything? How have other movies dealth with the same subject?

  • Why do you think this movie was received so warmly? What makes it special?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 23, 1998
DVD release date:November 9, 1999
Cast:Giorgio Cantarini, Nicoletta Braschi, Roberto Benigni
Director:Roberto Benigni
Studio:Miramax
Genre:Drama
Run time:116 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13

This review of Life Is Beautiful 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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Kid, 12 years old Written byangel6757 March 14, 2010
AGE
12
QUALITY
 

wonderful, heartbreaking holocaust story is excellent!

I love this movie!!!!! Although the begining was a bit boring the ending was really unexspected and wonderful!

What other families should know
Too much violence
Adult Written byCSM Screen Name... April 9, 2008
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

A great movie and profound comedy set in a concentration camp.

A brilliant film, which shows how art can triumph and flourish despite the most horrible of settings.

Teen, 13 years old Written bysavvyanna13 April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
QUALITY
 

Life really is Beautiful!!!

A heartwarming movie!!!

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