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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Explores themes such as the afterlife, the mental and emotional strain of trying to cope with the loss of loved ones, and eternal love.
Positive Role Models
Story too rooted in fantasy and speculation to have characters who could be considered positive role models.
Violence & Scariness
The lead character is killed by getting struck by an out-of-control car that flies airborne straight at him as he's trying to assist an injured motorist trapped in a car that has flipped over. Kids killed in a car accident; while not shown, the funeral is shown, and indicative of the emotionally-intense scenes to come. A woman commits suicide -- not shown, but she has visible scars on her wrist from a prior attempt. Demonic imagery while the lead character journeys through hell to rescue his wife; undead characters scream and wail while buried in mud or trapped in a lake.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
From afar, a woman jumps into a lake naked, brief shot of buttocks. Kissing. Husband tells his wife how much he loves her breasts.
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Occasional profanity, including "f--k." "Goddamn." "Hell."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that What Dreams May Come is a 1998 movie in which Robin Williams plays a man killed in a car crash who must leave heaven to rescue his wife from hell after she commits suicide. The movie doesn't shy away from emotional intensity, especially with parents trying to cope with the tragic deaths of their children, as well as the wife later trying to cope with the untimely death of her husband. As if the deaths of children and a father weren't enough, there's also talk in the movie of a father with his kids about how it's time to put their dog to sleep. The demonic imagery of hell will be too intense for younger and more sensitive viewers -- evocations of wailing and screaming damned souls trapped in lakes and buried up to their necks in mud (featuring a cameo from the director Werner Herzog). Talk of suicide -- a woman has visible scars from trying to slit her wrist. Talk of divorce. Talk of mental and emotional instability. Some profanity, including use of "f--k." Cigarette smoking. A bird defecates paint on the lead character; the colors splatter off his shoulder. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The lush visual beauty of this movie and the interesting issues it raises make it worthwhile for thoughtful teens who are drawn to questions about death and meaning and making profound connections. Those who have endured their own real losses may find it superficial, and some may be disturbed to find the concepts of heaven and hell inconsistent with their own notions. They are not even consistent within their own assumptions. But some teens will appreciate the chance to use this movie to talk about what their heaven would look like and how the characters' struggle makes them think differently about their relationships and priorities.
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.
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Our Editors Recommend
Drama Movies That Tug at the Heartstrings
Romantic Fantasy Books for Teens
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate