Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Bears Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Some tense moments in Disney's nature documentary.
  • G
  • 2014
  • 86 minutes

Parents say

age 5+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 5+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids will learn lots of things about brown bears, like how they live in the Alaskan peninsula, travel great lengths to find spawning salmon every year after hibernation, and nurse and care for their cubs for two years -- as well as how male bears don't participate in child-rearing and may even cannibalize the cubs of other males. But there's not a lot of in-depth discussion about the bears, what threatens their habitats, and how they interact with one another in bear society.

Positive Messages

Family oriented messages about sticking together to overcome obstacles, protecting one another from threats, and caring for your young. This is also, in a way, a tribute to single parenting, since in bear society, only mothers raise their offspring.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The narration ascribes human characteristics to the animals, so it's easy to see the mother bear in "human" terms. She takes her job to protect and provide for her offspring seriously. She cares for cubs when it would be easier to flee and get to the salmon faster; she faces alpha bears and a hungry wolf in order to keep her cubs safe. And she doesn't leave her cub behind, even when it seems like he's been killed.

Violence & Scariness

The mother bear and her cubs must overcome various obstacles -- nature, a hungry wolf, and fellow bears. Although they all survive, there are several tense, perilous moments when it seems like one or both of the cubs might die. In one scene, a hungry male searches for a cub, and then the cub doesn't emerge, making viewers think he's been eaten.

Sexy Stuff

When Magnus the alpha bear spots a she-bear, the music changes, and the narrator says he has "game" as Magnus tries to flirt with this potential mate. But she seems to shun him, so the narrator says "that's Bear for 'no.'"

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that wildlife documentary Bears is family friendly overall, but a few moments/scenes might be too tense and potentially scary for preschool-aged viewers. None of the animals die, but there are several scenes in which the lives of the mother bear and her cubs are in danger, and in one it seems like a cub has been eaten by an adult male bear. Other threats include predator males, a gray wolf, and the environment itself -- all providing for dramatic sequences. Children who can get past that part of the movie will learn a good bit about the brown bears of Alaska and get a close-up look at how mama bears treat their cubs.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byDude's Mom April 23, 2014

Bears- The first movie we got through without tears

My son is nearly 6, and has generally found all movies scary, all the time. He saw his first in-theatre movie a few months ago (at his request) and he stated h... Continue reading
Adult Written byRyan H. June 7, 2020

Great for kids!

My 5 year old son loved it. He learned a lot, though he also knew a bit about bears already; seeing the actual behaviors was the real lesson here. Fair warning:... Continue reading
Kid, 7 years old October 26, 2020

Amazing wildlife movie

Amazing photography in this movie, and some amazing views from places that wildlife animals travel to, Including a whole year with some amazing wildlife animals... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byFoxyRoxyGirl March 14, 2016


I loved this movie. The filming is amazing. There are just a few tense moments when cubs get lost of chased and there are bear fights. A great family movie.... Continue reading

What's the story?

BEARS follows an Alaskan brown bear named Sky and her two nurslings, Amber and Scout. Sky and the cubs, who were born during hibernation, must leave their winter den in search of food, or else Sky won't be able to produce enough milk to feed the cubs during the next winter. The three bears embark on a dangerous journey across the Alaskan peninsula to reach the spawning salmon that make up the bulk of a bear's diet. John C. Reilly narrates the "true-life adventure" as Sky, Amber, and Scout face everything from threatening alpha bears to natural disasters in order to make it to the fish that will nourish and sustain them for another year.

Is it any good?

Veteran Disneynature filmmakers Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey know what they're doing with nature documentaries. They have an amazing team of cinematographers who can take incredible shots that are either so close that you can see individual strands of wet fur on the bears' bodies or so large-scale that you get a breathtaking view of Alaska. The Bears footage took a year to complete, and like all of the pair's documentaries, the cinematography is unforgettably beautiful.

As for the narration, Reilly is game for the funnier lines without being overwhelming with the hammy humor. His voice lends itself perfectly to switching between factual statements and corny comments about the bears acting like humans. The story celebrates the relationship between a mother bear and her cubs, and it's compelling -- and sometimes intense -- to watch. So just make sure you have kids who can handle potentially dangerous scenes, or they might end up worried about the cubs instead of caught up in the whimsy.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why wildlife documentaries like Bears are so popular. What attracts families to nature films? Are they better for kids than other live-action movies? Why or why not?

  • The narrator combines moments of humor and imagined dialogue with discussing facts about the way that bears live. Does the combination work? Which parts do you prefer?

  • Some critics have mentioned that the narration doesn't delve deeply into the way that bears live and act. Why do you think filmmakers might have chosen that approach? Might that make the movie more appealing to a younger audience?

  • Does humanizing the animals in movies like Bears make them more or less likable? Is it right that some are depicted as "good" and some as "evil"? Aren't all the animals just acting like animals?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animals and nature

Themes & Topics

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