Arabian Nights Movie Poster Image

Arabian Nights



A fresh, but long, take on the classic stories.
  • Review Date: April 14, 2005
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2000
  • Running Time: 176 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Aladdin and his mother are accomplished thieves, stealing even from each other. Viewers benefit from exposure to classic tales of ancient cultures. The story follows a plucky heroine.


The heroine faces death almost continually from an abusive, deranged spouse. A giant demon at the beginning, two fearsome dragons (whose barks, apparently, are worse than their bites), spooky clay warriors, and other ghoulish creatures of fantasy populate this video -- although it's made clear that these horrors exist only in fiction.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this isn't a typically sweet fairy tale; this movie has mature content, including abusive husbands, adultery and revenge. Scheherazade inspires creativity and resourcefulness as she spins her magical tales, and helps her husband overcome his mistrust. Children are likely to be turned off by the nearly three hour length of this story, and it's best reserved for older kids and teens who will appreciate the mature themes, and root for the brilliant heroine.

What's the story?

In ARABIAN NIGHTS, Schahriar (Dougray Scott), Sultan of Baghdad, suffers torment and paranoia after a failed assassination attempt masterminded by his late wife and her secret lover -- his own power-hungry brother. Scheherazade (Milli Avital), daughter of the Sultan's chief advisor, puts herself at grave risk to cure the monarch's madness. She willingly marries him, even though Schahriar has vowed to execute his second wife on their wedding night, to foil any further treachery. Scheherazade has a plan, however. She has mastered the art of storytelling, and every time unstable Schahriar threatens her life, she relates another tale of magic or irony that diverts him from carrying out the death sentence. Embedded within the stories (tales of Ali Baba, Aladdin and the lamp, Bacbac the hunchback, and others) are lessons that help Schahriar overcome his violent mistrust and triumph over his returning brother in battle.

Is it any good?


Just when you think you know a fairy tale inside and out ... wow! Along comes something like Arabian Nights, (from the creators of the Gulliver's Travels miniseries) which makes the world's oldest stories seem fresh and exciting. Arabian Nights succeeds, primarily, because of the framing story, the gripping drama of Scheherazade using her wits to save her life.

By focusing on Scheherazade's compelling plight, characters such as Ja-Far, Ali Baba, and Aladdin (depicted by actor Jason Scott Lee as Chinese, as some traditions have held) remain in their proper perspective as backdrops to the main narrative. Despite the sorcery, stunts, and wonders that abound in the tales, there's nothing childish about Scheherazade's dilemma and ordeal at the hands of Schahriar, which the filmmakers play as straight as any drama about mental illness.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how Scheherazade uses words and stories to protect herself, instead of the violence advocated by her husband. What's the advantage of her approach? Where could you apply that in your daily life?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 18, 2000
DVD release date:July 18, 2000
Cast:Alan Bates, Jason Scott Lee, Mili Avital
Director:Steve Barron
Studio:Hallmark Entertainment
Run time:176 minutes
MPAA rating:NR
MPAA explanation:Not Rated

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Kid, 1 years old July 18, 2011

What are you People at Common Sense Media Thinking of?

The opening scene is a buxom woman extorting a man to make love to her while her husband is sleeping, otherwise she will wake her husband and have the other man killed. The man's response is to wrap his fingers around the woman's neck and violently strangle her. My confidence in Common Sense media is seriously challenged for them to rate this as appropriate for 9 year olds let alone give it 5 stars.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Adult Written byPRMan April 9, 2008

A great take on the Arabian Nights stories

From a parents' perspective, there is no way I would let my kids watch this until at least 11 or 12. I came here and signed up from Netflix because of all the negative reviews on this parental score over there. It's way too low. Good movie, though, especially if you aren't that familiar with the real stories of Scherezade, Sinbad and Aladdin.
Teen, 13 years old Written byXreviewer April 9, 2008

Better than you might think

Before you watch this movie, you might want to read the book that it's based on: The Shadow Spinner. When I first saw it, I was a little let down on how little it actually follows the story. That really doesn't matter however, as you may see. As for any sexual content in this movie, well let's just say there's some passionate kissing, and a couple taking a bath in a bathhouse (no nudity). Other than that, it's not terribly inappropriate. A woman is married to a Sultan of Iraq in this movie who has gone mad. As a result, there are some voilent scenes with him slightly abusing her, and in Sharazad's (book name) stories. As for language, you'll find a few odd minor disruptions in there, but nothing too extreme. When it comes to alchohol, there's a man drunk in the story BacBac the Hunchback, but other than that, not too bad. Overall, this is a very long movie, but quite worth it. Although it may look a little cheesy at times, it teaches good morals, and shows how a madman can be turned sane again by a lttle comfort.


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