I'm afraid the paragraph breaks in this rather long review didn't show up
I grew up watching Anastasia for as long as I can remember. It was one of my absolute favorite movies as a child, and I think one of the wonderful things about it is that it's just as enjoyable for adults as it is for children.
It begins just before the Russian Revolution and shows the Romanov family at a ball. The monk/charlatan Rasputin arrives and places a curse on the family. The revolution then occurs, in which Anastasia is separated from her grandmother. I've seen a couple of reviews saying that it focused too much on the "execution" of the Romanovs. I don't know what that's about. The Russian royal family's deaths are NOT seen onscreen, nor are they really focused on that heavily. They're only mentioned in the voiceover when the dowager empress says "many lives were lost that night." Anyway, following this, we see Anastasia, now known as Anya, leaving an orphanage. She bumped her head when she was separated and now does not remember who she is. After leaving the orphanage, she embarks on a journey to find her family, but Rasputin is determined to stop her.
There are a lot of reviews talking about how terrifying Rasputin is. As a child, I found those scenes vaguely scary, but not to the extent that I had to look away or had nightmares. It was more the kind of nervousness that anyone feels in a movie where a likable character is in danger. That being said, it's important to know your child. I grew up watching this movie, and movies with similar content, so I never found it scary. If your child gets scared very easily, then this may not be the best idea for them. I would say give it about half an hour, and if your child finds it too scary, don't continue.
Furthermore, many have expressed concerns about the possibility of children not understanding the story. That's not an issue. I understood the story just fine as a child. Of course I didn't know the historical background, but that didn't hinder my understanding of the movie at all. My friends, who were introduced to it slightly older (around the ages of 6 and 7) also had no problem understanding.
There is also no sexual content in this movie. Vlad and Sophie (played by the wonderful Bernadette Peters) have a flirty relationship, and Anastasia and Dmitri share one kiss at the end of the movie -- that's it.
The characters are what really makes this movie fantastic. Anastasia is such a strong, positive female role model for children, and she's incredibly likable. She is very honest and refuses to lie or cheat in any way. She is also not afraid to stand up for herself, as we see when Dmitri acts bossy towards her. She certainly doesn't rely on other people to save her. Honestly, she's the perfect role model.
Her interactions with Dimitri are also fantastic. Their relationship is really explored in the movie without being the focal point of it. They start out bickering and generally disliking each other, but the audience can see as they begin to fall in love throughout the movie, and it's really beautiful when they finally end up together. I often find that many romances in children's movies seem forced. Sometimes the characters don't even know each other. This is definitely not the case in Anastasia.
It has a great set of minor characters too. Vlad is very much a kindly father figure for both Anastasia and Dmitri, and his love of the dog, Pooka, is very cute. The side-kick, Bartok, will probably be most appealing to children. He's a bat and also Rasputin's side-kick. He makes a lot of jokes and diffuses a lot of the tension in Rasputin's "scarier" scenes, which is also something to remember -- even in the scenes with Rasputin, there is comic relief to stop your children from becoming too frightened.
Now that I'm older, I find Bartok incredibly annoying. He's kind of like the Jar Jar Binks of the movie, in my opinion, but my mom loves him, and children certainly do. I actually think, again from a more adult perspective, that the movie would have been better if it didn't include Rasputin at all. His motivations were never clear, and the supernatural element didn't really fit in with the overall story, but the rest of the story definitely makes up for it.
Overall, it's a fantastic movie that I have enjoyed for my entire life. After almost 17 years, the scene where Anastasia is finally reunited with her grandmother still moves me to tears. The songs too are fantastic -- some are hauntingly beautiful, whilst others are jaunty and fun. Give it a try, and I've no doubt you'll enjoy it.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence