101 Dalmatians

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
101 Dalmatians Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Lovable cartoon classic with cute dogs and a mean villain.
  • G
  • 1961
  • 79 minutes

Parents say

age 5+
Based on 26 reviews

Kids say

age 5+
Based on 28 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Meant to entertain rather than educate.

Positive Messages

Story shows how evil greed and animal cruelty are and why it's important to treat pets well. The dogs are also an example of cooperation and teamwork to save the defenseless puppies.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The dalmatian parents, as well as the human "pets," are fiercely protective of their puppies, and they open their home to 84 extra puppies that have been displaced because of Cruella's evil scheme. The many English dogs in the bark network all put themselves at risk to help their fellow canines. Cruella is clearly evil, and she's soundly defeated.

Violence & Scariness

Cruella can be quite frightening. Puppies/dogs are in peril, and there's a fair bit of suspense. Horace and Jasper make threatening comments to the puppies and dogs. They kidnap the puppies and are prepared to "skin" them to make Cruella a fur coat. A couple of high-speed chases, as well as close calls with the puppies as they attempt to get away from Cruella and her goons. Two cars crash and plummet off a cliff, but we don't see what happens to the villains.

Sexy Stuff

Roger and Anita flirt, as do Pongo and Perdita (they rub noses). Both couples get married and are shown embracing and kissing chastely.


Cruella says "idiot," "imbecile," "fools." Horace and Jasper use threats and insults, including "shut up," "twerps," "clumsy clod," and "bumbling blockheads." Other insults include "witch," "scoundrels," "inhuman beast," and "rascals."


While there are no product placements in the film, Disney movies always generate merchandise and sequels, and in this case even a live-action adaptation.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cruella smokes cigarettes (that emit a foul green smoke) in nearly every scene. She often spreads the ashes and puts them out all over the place. Roger smokes a pipe. Horace and Jasper drink wine straight from the bottle.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Disney's classic puppy tale 101 Dalmatians is rated G but may contain a few disturbing scenes featuring one the studio's vilest villains, Cruella de Vil. As the song goes, "if she doesn't scare you, no evil thing will." For an animated movie, there's a considerable amount of smoking and drinking (Roger smokes a pipe; Cruella is always shown with her long-stemmed cigarettes; and her two henchman drink wine straight out of the bottle). Language is limited to several insults like "idiot," "imbecile," "fools," mostly said by Cruella. On the bright side, the dog parents and their human pets are relentless in their goal to save the puppies -- all of them, not just their own.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 5-year-old Written byBunglecat December 9, 2018

Great fun, funny and touching

My five-year old loved this film! We're dog owners, but it was more popular than I'd expected. Yes, Cruella is a little scary - especially watch out f... Continue reading
Adult Written byannaj77 February 15, 2016

Poor role models but can create a conversation for older kids

I'm surprised no-one brought up the fact that it is set in modern day, yet the woman stops working when she gets married. This totally out-dated way of liv... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byLoranikas303 July 25, 2020

One of the best Disney classics but I have a problem!

I love this movie too! I like dogs because they always wag their tails and they barks. I like more cats than dogs because they're more cuter than dogs. The... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byreviewqueenie July 19, 2021


this movie has given me nightmares. i’m not sure why it is marketed as a cute dog movie when it is truly traumatizing. I watched it when I was younger and I am... Continue reading

What's the story?

Like Lady and the Tramp, 101 DALMATIANS is told from the perspective of dogs, this time two dalmatians, Pongo and Perdita, the cherished pets of Roger and Anita. Anita's old friend, one of the most notorious villains in movie history, is the aptly named Cruella De Vil. Her henchmen kidnap Perdita's puppies and 84 others so she can make them into a dalmatian fur coat. Pongo and Perdita, with the help of their animal friends, undertake a daring rescue.

Is it any good?

The puppies are adorable, and the movie is exciting, funny (with a sly poke at television and the kids who watch it), and fun. Cruella is still one of the most memorable villains in the history of the movies -- for good reason. She's loud and mean, and she's willing to wear a coat made of 101 puppies -- what could be worse? 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the responsibilities of raising a pet, as Roger and Anita do in 101 Dalmatians. Do kids think they would be able to maintain enthusiasm for their pet? Would they be responsible for feeding, brushing, playing, and walking it? What kind of commitment is it to raise a pet, particularly a dog?

  • What makes Cruella scary? Can you think of any other villians as scary as her? What similarities do all villains share?

  • How do the dogs in 101 Dalmatians demonstrate teamwork? Why is this an important character strength?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animals

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate