Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Arachnophobia Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Creepy/clever creature feature with touches of humor.
  • PG-13
  • 1990
  • 103 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 10 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 19 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Though the superficial message is Dr. Jennings facing his worst phobia and triumphing, some might detect a sub-theme: a sardonic portrayal of "peaceful" small-town USA as more treacherous, small-minded, and mean-spirited than the major metropolitan communities.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Dr. Jennings has a supportive wife and family and manages to pull himself together and fight the spider menace despite paralyzing fear. There are less flattering portrayals of the provincial California townsfolk; they seem suspicious and small-minded.


Spider bites, a few in closeup, resulting in seizures and death. A sight of hideously withered human and animal corpses. Spiders are squashed and burned; human victims include a nice old lady and a high school athlete. Climactic incendiaries and explosions, and even a projectile weapon.


No full toplessness, but female flesh as a spider in a
shower crawls between a girl's exposed cleavage. Science discussion of the sex organs possessed by the species of spider involved. Suggestion that (married) humans and (unmarried) spiders are about to have sex.


"Damn," "hell," the s-word, "SOB," "God-damned."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some social drinking. A luxury wine collection in a cellar ends up being key to the climax.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this horror-comedy features spider-bite-seizure deaths of likeable characters, including grandparent-ish types and imperiled house pets, and there is one particularly hideous corpse. Dialogue includes swearing (at the PG-level), and there is some naked female anatomy strategically revealed in a shower sequence. Needless to say, young (and old) viewers with a morbid fear of spiders may find some of the visuals uncomfortable or nightmare-inducing. There is the use of a nail gun as a weapon that may encourage unwise copycat behavior among kids.

Wondering if Arachnophobia is OK for your kids?

Set preferences and get age-appropriate recommendations with Common Sense Media Plus. Join now

Continue reading Show less

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byPizza G. August 11, 2017

Well-done, convincing natural horror

Arachnophobia isn't a masterpiece, but it is very, very well done. The plot at first seems like something out of a far-fetched B-movie, but everything is p... Continue reading
Parent Written byPlague February 25, 2010


Arachnophobics beware.
Kid, 12 years old July 3, 2018

Great Spider Horror/Comedy

ARACHNOPHOBIA is a freaky spider film containing some drinking and fairly mild language. Parents should know about the violence (not gory) and scariness.
Kid, 12 years old December 9, 2017

Good Starter Horror Movie

This is a great movie to watch with your kids to introduce them into the horror genre of movies without scaring them to death! I'm not going to give away t... Continue reading

What's the story?

On a scientific expedition in the jungles of Venezuela, a luckless young photographer is fatally bitten by a nasty, fist-sized spider, unknown to modern science, dwelling in the rainforest canopy. When the dead man's body is shipped back to his small Californian hometown, the spider goes with it, mates with a common North American spider, and ends up siring a whole colony of killer arachnids, centered in the barn of a newly arrived family in town headed by young Dr. Ross Jennings (Jeff Daniels). Soon townsfolk around Dr. Jennings start mysteriously dropping dead -- felled by the venom of the growing army of spiders. As Dr. Jennings searches frantically for a cause, a major complication is that he happens to have longstanding arachnophobia, a crippling fear of spiders.

Is it any good?

Hailing from Steven Spielberg's production company, with a touch of the Gremlins vibe of little monsters doing big damage, ARACHNOPHOBIA is an undeniably fun ride. It actually plays on a number of fears, spiders being only the most obvious and marketable to the thrill-hungry audience. For grownups there's the additional angst of the phobic hero (a very nice everyman role for Jeff Daniels), a transplant from the big city who finds his new job opportunity evaporating, his new house purchase a wreck, and his new neighbors turning against him. That's a very Hitchcockian touch, and a lot of critics did compare Arachnophobia to The Birds, though this movie is much more comical in its characterizations and mayhem.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about spiders in real life, including the bird-eating spiders of the tropics (that obviously inspired the fictional species here). Why are spiders so creepy? Ask children if they fear spiders or can tolerate them.

  • For responsible opposing viewpoints, study up on the beneficial aspects of spiders, or read pro-spider storybooks such as Charlotte's Web.

  • Discuss how this movie doesn't go the giant-mutant-bug route of sci-fi thrillers like Tarantula and Eight Legged Freaks; spiders here are realistically sized. Talk about the "inverse square law," a scientific truth oft violated by Hollywood, in which the larger an animal is, the heavier its supporting anatomy has to be. Therefore invertebrates like the ones in giant-insect flicks would be squashed by their own massive exoskeletons.

Movie details

For kids who love thrills and chills

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate