Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
Alpha Movie Poster Image
 Popular with kidsParents recommend
Boy, wolf face intense peril in epic prehistoric adventure.
  • PG-13
  • 2018
  • 96 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 35 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 14 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Courage and belief in yourself are core messages. Perseverance, cooperation, resourcefulness, and love of family are all present as well. One key to both the main character and the story is empathy. Animals are hunted out of necessity, not for pleasure.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main character has many positive qualities, including courage, perseverance, empathy. His parents are loving, teach him well. 


It's a survival story, so main character and his wolf ally face significant, intense peril, including cliff falls, animal attacks, exposure to the elements, hunger and thirst, lingering injuries, illness. Animals are killed out of necessity. In one scene, teens are briefly beaten by adults as part of a rite of passage, but it's not done viciously and not shown closely (it's out of focus in the frame).


None; the dialogue is in an invented prehistoric language with English subtitles.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Alpha is an intense survival adventure about a prehistoric teen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who forms the first human-canine bond with a wolf while trying to make it home. Expect significant, frequent peril to both the boy and the wolf, including cliff falls, animal attacks, lingering injuries, exposure, deprivation, and illness. Animals are killed out of necessity. Teens are beaten by adults as part of a rite of passage, but briefly and not viciously (the scene is actually out of focus). But there's no sex, language, or substance use, and the film has strong themes of courage, perseverance, and empathy. Note: The film's dialogue is subtitled.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10-year-old Written bywielandteam2008 August 19, 2018

Great movie highlighting the importance of independence

My 10 year old daughter enjoyed this movie very much. She gave it a 9/10.

If your kid can watch The Lion King; your kid can watch The Alpha.

We had lots t... Continue reading
Adult Written byschoogarok August 18, 2018

Good, but dark

The most violence that may bother younger kids is all in the first 4 minutes (not for those who "love" pets or who get scared easily). If your kid pl... Continue reading
Written byAnonymous April 25, 2021

Really good

So I love this movie.
This movie is a different language so it would be hard for little kids to understand, because you have to read the subtitles, but that... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bymoviemaniac21 April 4, 2021

good movie but could probably be better

They don't even talk, well they do but in a different language so you have to read what they're saying at the bottom of the screen. So I would say 8 u... Continue reading

What's the story?

About 20,000 years ago in what is now Europe, young Cro-Magnon Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee) goes on his first epic hunt with his chieftain father (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson). After a terrible mishap forces the hunting party to leave the boy for dead, Keda must undertake the long, treacherous journey home alone. Along the way, he's first attacked by -- and then forms an alliance with -- a wolf he names Alpha. Keda and Alpha must overcome the elements, and other predators, to survive.

Is it any good?

This is a ripping good adventure yarn with memorable visuals and an original premise and feel. Alpha presents a plausible take on the origins of the human-canine bond -- but more importantly, it's an absorbing survival tale with an appealing main character and a wolf that everyone will root for. Albert Hughes, directing without his brother Allen for the first time, uses extensive CGI to create a prehistoric setting that's simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar, primal and fantastic. And McPhee is a remarkably sympathetic actor. As Keda, his courage and drive are entirely believable. Perhaps more importantly, so is his empathy -- you sees how this particular Cro-Magnon teen might have mercy on a wounded predator, then be receptive to allying with it. His performance is simple and grounded. You completely buy him speaking the film's invented language and enduring all the trials he faces with his wolf friend.

That said, authenticity isn't the key here. It's not a documentary; it's a boy-and-his-dog survival adventure, and it's plenty involving on that score. Jóhannesson, as the father, is also quite good. So are all the other humans, really. But Alpha is ultimately all about Keda and Alpha. Dog lovers will be all over this movie, and as long as younger viewers can handle the intensity of the peril, families will enjoy it too.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in Alpha. Most of it involves survival-style peril and danger, rather than human-on-human violence. How does that affect its impact?

  • How does the story show the importance of courage, perseverance, and empathy? Why are those important character strengths?

  • Do you think the movie's idea of how humans and dogs formed their relationship is believable? Had you ever wondered about that?

  • The film takes place 20,000 years ago in Europe. Do the humans look as you'd expected? How accurate do you think that is?

Movie details

For kids who love action and thrills

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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