Antarctica: A Year on Ice

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Antarctica: A Year on Ice Movie Poster Image
Incredible docu captures human details of remote existence.
  • PG
  • 2014
  • 91 minutes

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

All different countries and cultures come together at the research stations. Participants use teamwork to achieve common goals; they seem to transcend any typical prejudice, jealousy, or greed. Brief reference to climate change and melting ice.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Interviewees aren't painted as heroes but rather normal humans who choose to endure challenging conditions. Focuses on the day-to-day workers who make everything possible, making their choice and experience look appealing and adventurous.


Dead, injured, and lost animals (seals) are shown; heartbreakingly, the researchers aren't allowed to interfere with the environment in any way, which prevents them from helping. Woman is buzzed by a bird. "T3" syndrome causes people to become agitated; one man says he "wanted to stab someone with a fork."


A couple gets married on the base and kisses during the ceremony.


A use of "hell." References to vomit, urine, and other human waste.


Disney World is mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Brief background drinking. Some brief comical drinking shown in "home movies."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Antarctica: A Year on Ice is a documentary about workers at research stations who spend the winter months keeping things operational. It doesn't discuss exactly what the facilities do, focusing instead on regular workers, administrators, maintenance people, clerks, etc., and their physical and emotional experiences in a very remote place. Ultimately the movie celebrates teamwork and people from all different cultures coming together and cooperating. There's mention of urine and human waste, and dead and lost animals are shown; the humans aren't allowed to interfere with nature in any way, which includes helping the animals (seeing animals suffer without intervention may be upsetting for sensitive viewers). Language is limited to one use of "hell." A couple falls in love and marries; they kiss. Some brief comical drinking is shown.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMs. Raney April 4, 2016

Slow pace, interesting facts

My class watched this documentary during our lunchtime "documentary club". It related to a unit about the Arctic and Antarctic ecosystems. It was very... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old July 22, 2015

My favorite documentary

I think that most kids my age would not like it so much, though I really enjoyed it. The worst part (in my opinion) is when they show helpless animals that they... Continue reading

What's the story?

At several Antarctic research stations, many scientists, engineers, technicians, and other experts live and work during the summer months, when the sun can be seen in the sky (and during one period, never completely sets) in ANTARCTICA: A YEAR ON THE ICE. During the winter months, a handful of brave souls stays behind to endure storms, isolation, disorientation, and a brutal number of weeks when the sun completely disappears. Filmmaker Anthony Powell keeps his cameras rolling in the bitter cold, picking up incredible time-lapse images, interviews with workers, and moments of jubilance, heartbreak, and truly astounding confrontations between man and nature at its most intense.

Is it any good?

Though life in Antarctica is challenging, this absorbing movie makes it look incredibly rewarding. Powell apparently spent 10 years making Antarctica: A Year on Ice, suffering frozen camera equipment and other setbacks. He doesn't focus on what the stations actually research, he rarely interviews scientists, and the climate crisis is only briefly alluded to. Rather, he focuses on everyday workers, mechanics, clerks, and administrators who help run things. The summer season then sharply clashes with the intense physical and emotional experience of a few dozen souls braving the winter months.

Powell doesn't let tiny details slip by -- like frozen bathroom pipes, 200-mile-an-hour winds, cravings for fresh vegetables, missing out on family events back home, and the very odd "T3 Syndrome," wherein workers very simply forget things they were doing just moments before. Workers aren't allowed to interfere with nature, so they can't rescue a lost baby seal, but they are allowed to fall in love, and Powell gets his own happy ending.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether spending a year in Antarctica seems enticing or frightening. What do the people in Antarctica: A Year on Ice experience? What do they have to do without?

  • What kinds of things can be learned from Antarctica?

  • Why aren't the humans allowed to interfere with nature in any way?

  • Why do you think people work together so well in this remote place?

  • How does Antarctica: A Year on Ice promote teamwork? Why is this an important character strength?

Movie details

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