A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The story is historically inaccurate, so many of the "facts" gleaned here will be incorrect, such as Pocahontas' age and name and John Smith's sympathy for Indigenous people. Moreover, the fact that the characters' language barrier is a flimsy, quickly forgotten non-issue is unrealistic and reinforces the "magical Native" stereotype.
Pocahontas makes a point to educate John Smith about his prejudiced ideas about Native people and the benefits of colonization. He assumes that because her people live differently that they aren't sophisticated, when, in fact, her people use their communication skills in a far more advanced way than Smith's colleagues do. Some messages might confuse young viewers, such as Governor Ratcliff's assertion that "a man is not a man unless he knows how to shoot" and songs about how Indigenous people are "savages" who should be killed.
Positive Role Models
Pocahontas is a brave woman with a strong moral code who fights for peace. Pocahontas' father, Chief Powhatan, is a caring father: Although he ignores her opinions at first, he takes her words very seriously when making an important decision. The leadership shown in the British camp isn't as thoughtful or kind, and John Smith is initially focused on "claiming" the "wild" land and "civilizing" Indigenous people.
Shows the harm that colonization has on Indigenous people and land but treats it as fixable through communication. Several important elders and women characters, such as Grandmother Willow. But Governor Ratcliff and Wiggins are jokes because they aren't ruggedly masculine (hair bows, gardening). Main character Pocahontas is a brave woman with a strong moral compass. She's portrayed as an adult whose love for John Smith leads to peace; in reality, she was an 11- or 12-year-old child. Many main and background characters are Indigenous people, and they are voiced by Indigenous actors. Shows important parts of Powhatan culture, such as the Algonquian language, but also significant inaccuracies, such as lighter skin tones and "sexy" clothing fits. The movie can also be seen as reinforcing harmful cinematic clichés such as the "magical Native" and "Indian giver" tropes. Anti-Native terminology -- "savages," "filthy heathens" -- and comments about killing Indigenous people are supposed to reflect prejudices or lack of knowledge, but they occur so frequently (especially in the song "Savages") that it may upset watchers.
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Violence & Scariness
Three people are shot, one fatally, although no blood or wounds are shown. John Smith is imprisoned and nearly executed during a climactic scene. Much of the plot revolves around two warring factions: the British colonizers and the Powhatan people. Expect to see casual talk of violence, knives being sharpened and brandished, swords, muskets, and shoot-outs where men die from bullet wounds. A perilous scene on a ship in the ocean where a man nearly drowns.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Pocahontas and John Smith share two kisses and have close body language (holding hands, hugging). Although Pocahontas was historically an 11- or 12-year-old child, she is portrayed in the film as an adult woman in "sexy" fitting clothing.
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One use of "crazy." Indigenous people are referred to as uncivilized and vermin, and called "injun," "dirty savages," and "filthy heathens." The frequent use of these terms (including in songs) may upset watchers.
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Products & Purchases
Pocahontas has become a popular Disney "princess" whose branding reaches far and wide on consumer merchandise, food products, etc. as well as in books, websites, and other media.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
In a scene onboard the ship, a keg of wine is uncorked, and men fill their mugs.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Pocahontas is a music-laden love story that might be engaging to certain fans of the mid-'90s Disney character (voiced by Irene Bedard), but keep an eye out for the movie's violence and anti-Native language. Much of the plot revolves around two warring factions, so expect to see sharpening and brandishing weapons, fighting, and shoot-outs as well as frequent anti-Native terminology like "dirty savages" and "filthy heathens." This film is a love story, so main characters share kisses and close body language. This historical inaccuracy might leave viewers believing that the historical figure Pocahontas fell in love with John Smith in real life. She did not: She was an 11- or 12-year-old child named Matoaka when John Smith's ship landed. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Children may lean toward The Lion King's menagerie of cute talking animals before embracing this history-based tale from Disney, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have its own lures. A frisky raccoon and a scene-stealing hummingbird contribute nothing of import to the story but succeed in livening up what might otherwise have been a fairly somber tale.
This is a movie less concerned with booing the bad guys than with cheering on the heroes. The villain isn't a single entity; Ratcliffe embodies the type of greed, ignorance, and hostility that still hurts people today. The film's message is that peace and tolerance are goals well worth striving for, but its historical inaccuracies, anti-Native language, and use of clichés like the "magical Native" trope make for less-than-ideal representation.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.