A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The film is intended to entertain, rather than educate, but kids may learn why physical differences are special and being yourself is a good thing.
Just be yourself, don't worry if you don't fit in, get the support of others and you'll find that there's strength in teamwork. Rudolph and his friends show courage and perseverance, and their differences, which are initially made fun of, become assets. Other characters realize that treating Rudolph and his friends badly is wrong.
Positive Role Models
At first the other reindeer, and even Santa, are rather unkind to Rudolph. But Rudolph and his friends show courage and perseverance, and their differences -- which are initially made fun of -- become assets. Other characters realize that treating Rudolph and his friends badly is wrong.
Outdated gender representations include girl reindeer with bows and long eyelashes, boy reindeer playing games to impress the "does," and soft-spoken Hermey being mocked by his gruff, "manly" elf foreman. Comments about "getting the women" to safety, Donner as "man of the house," and Mrs. Donner not being allowed to search for Rudolph because it's "man's work." Female characters have fewer lines than male characters and are mainly defined as wives, mothers, and girlfriends. Rudolph is initially laughed at, called names, and excluded for his physical difference. Even though the film goes about it in a flawed way, differences are ultimately shown as positives that should be valued and celebrated. Two Indigenous characters are stereotypically depicted as "Eskimos" and briefly shown in an igloo.
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Violence & Scariness
Mild peril, mostly related to the Abominable Snow Monster. He has a scary growl and attempts to eat Rudolph's family. Rudolph and friends fight him by pulling his teeth and pushing him off a cliff. Yukon Cornelius wears an axe, knife, and gun, and brandishes a whip to drive a dog sled.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Rudolph and Fireball flirt with does. Rudolph and Clarice are romantically interested and kiss.
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Mild name calling such as "nitwit."
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Products & Purchases
A whole line of toys and other products based on the characters is available (most came out long after the special originally aired).
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a holiday TV classic based on the popular Christmas song. While it initially treats physical differences as undesirable, it ultimately has a great message about nonconformity: Just be yourself, don't worry if you don't fit in, and there's strength in teamwork. Rudolph and friends show courage and perseverance to defeat the Abominable Snow Monster and save Christmas. Kids will likely get the message, and even for the youngest ones, the cute little reindeer and musical numbers -- as cheesy as they might seem now -- will hold their interest. Even the show's "scary" villain, the Abominable Snow Monster (or "Bumble") becomes a friend in the end. All of that said, the film has outdated gender and race representations and sexist comments that parents should point out to kids. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This beloved holiday TV special seems almost inextricable from the idea of Christmas in the United States. Many parents will have memories of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which first aired in 1964, from their own childhoods. And you can't watch it without appreciating the simplicity of a pre-computer-animation world. Just hearing Ives' voice and songs can transport you back to a time when Christmas didn't have as many viewing options or commercial tie-ins. That said, prejudices of this era appear as well: Casual sexism and stereotypical Indigenous characters can also transport a viewer, but without the rosy glow that comes with nostalgia.
Did we miss something on diversity?
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.