An American Tail

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
An American Tail Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Heartwarming tale of immigrant mouse has some peril.
  • G
  • 1986
  • 81 minutes

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 5+
Based on 15 reviews

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Introduces the U.S. immigration experience of the late 1800s.

Positive Messages

Don't lose hope or faith; keep trying, and believe in happy endings. Family is the most important thing, and friends can help you when you need it. Sheds a light on some of the dire circumstances that emigres experienced in the late 19th century.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Fievel is hopeful and determined; he perseveres and never gives up. H meets many characters from different ethnic backgrounds who help him find his family. The bad guy is deceitful and manipulative, but he's clearly not a role model.

Violence & Scariness

A village is burned, and cats attack mice (sometimes narrowly avoiding being eaten). Peril on a ship's deck results in a mouse being lost at sea and separated from his parents -- this scene could be very upsetting for young/sensitive kids. More close calls in the city, and Fievel is caught in a fire. Song lyrics mention mice being killed by cats. Funeral shows a dead mouse; Fievel's family believes he is dead (sad). The bad guy and his giant mechanical mouse could be scary to very little kids.

Sexy Stuff

Young mice share a kiss. Buxom pigeons represent the French bird female population.


"Shut up," "pipe down," "runt," "Geez, Louise."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Honest John drinks to excess at a wake. A mouse hiccups after drinking sparkling wine. Characters smoke cigars.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that An American Tail is a great introduction to the 19th-century U.S. immigration experience for young children. Although it's ultimately a feel-good story, the main character -- a young mouse named Fievel -- spends much of the film trying to find his family, whom he was separated from during a scary storm at sea. He faces many perils, including a fire, a near-drowning, and attacks from monstrous cats, during his journey, which may prove too much for the youngest viewers. Scenes of his family mourning his presumed death could also be upsetting for sensitive viewers, and there's a frightening mechanical mouse. Expect cigar smoking and a little bit of drinking; young mice share a kiss, and there are a couple of uses of "shut up," "runt," and the like. Messages focus on perseverance and the importance of family, and Fievel is a brave, optimistic character.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 1, 3, and 5-year-old Written byNoeckerFamily August 28, 2017

A Gem But Intense

A gem from my childhood that I remembered fondly. But an hour in, my kids 3 & 5 were in tears. I forgot how sad & scary this is, and it's t... Continue reading
Adult Written byAllishinca August 28, 2011

Enjoyable Movie with many Cultural Influences

An American Tail provides an educational and interesting view on immigration in the late 1800s. However, many parts in the movie and even the first song in the... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byMovieManiac3005 August 30, 2015

It's not as good as The Secret of NIMH. Watch that instead.

I personally never really liked this film. It's boring, over the top, features way too many songs and will bore the hell out of older kids. Parents won... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bybubbo April 9, 2008

Uh....Little Kids Only!

This movie will bore anyone over the age of 7 to death! It's annoying and completely pointless...even the awful sequel was better!

What's the story?

In AN AMERICAN TAIL, Fievel Mousekewitz (voiced by Phillip Glasser) is a little Russian mouse who emigrates to the United States with his family after they're told that "there are no cats in America, and the streets are paved with cheese." But Fievel gets separated from his parents and sister and is forced to work in a sweatshop by the evil Warren T. Rat (a cat in disguise!). Fievel is resilient and courageous and finds friends (including a kind cat) who help him until he finds his family.

Is it any good?

This is a heartwarming animated tale about the experience of immigrants coming to America. Told from the perspective of an adorable young mouse, An American Tail should engage kids in an important part of U.S. history. The voice performances are charming, and the songs -- particularly the mega-hit "Somewhere Out There" -- are catchy.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the scary parts of An American Tail. What exactly makes a movie scary -- music, images, your own imagination? What makes some movies thrilling, and others too frightening? How much scary stuff can young kids handle?

  • How does Fievel demonstrate perseverance and courage? Why are those important character strengths?

  • Has your family -- recently or in past generations -- had any experience with immigration? Is there anything in the movie that you can relate to?

Movie details

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