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Beasts of the Southern Wild

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Beasts of the Southern Wild Movie Poster Image
Devastatingly moving drama has harsh truths, whimsy, wisdom.
  • PG-13
  • 2012
  • 93 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 17 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Steely resolve and courage can see you through the toughest of times, but you still need the love and warmth of family.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hushpuppy is strong and brave and very precocious for her age. For a 6-year-old, she has a very wise outlook on serious matters, including  death. She doesn't let anything keep her down, and she believes in her power and ability. Her father is deeply flawed and sometimes hurtful, but he loves her fiercely.


A character slaps his child once to discipline her, and she hits him back; he also taunts her to toughen her up. A child starts a fire. Three men blow up a dam.


A father discusses the night of his child's conception (but not in a lewd way). Kids dance in a brothel.


A couple of uses of "s--t" and "p---y," plus "ass," "damn," "hell," "crap," and "goddamn."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lots of drinking, including off-label hooch, beer, wine, vodka, and other hard liquor. A man shares his liquor with his very young daughter.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Beasts of the Southern Wild is a heart-wrenching fable that's so unique that it's hard to classify. It's a drama about an alcoholic father who means well but has few tools to convey his love to his spitfire 6-year-old daughter. It's a celebration of quirky friendships and the power of the imagination. It's an indictment of the deep divide that separates the rich and the poor. And much more. Expect some swearing; kids and adults both say the word "p---y." There's also lots of drinking, brutal depictions of abject poverty, an adult striking a child, and discussion about the death of a parent.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8 and 10 year old Written bylititzmom September 3, 2012

Amazing, haunting... for teens and up

This is a beautiful, haunting, sad, and mystical movie. Background setting is a fictional Bayou island community in Louisiana, about to be flooded out by risin... Continue reading
Adult Written byDeladiramom July 8, 2012

A Tribute to the Beast in All of Us

An amazing film about love, survival and courage. I took my 7-year-old and 9-year-old to see it, a decision I’m not sure would repeat because this is a tough fi... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old July 14, 2012

Depressing film was one of my favorites.

I thought this movie was one of the best movies I've ever seen. If you like movies that have lots of heart to it, I would highly recommend this movie to y... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bystargirl132 February 2, 2013

What's the story?

Six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) is as fascinating as her name: As she walks around the cluttered, broken-down trailer in which she lives and the town in which she was raised, she picks up little creatures and objects -- a leaf, a rat -- and listens for their heartbeat. She's looking for signs of life. Across from her, in an equally dilapidated trailer, lives her father, Wink (Dwight Henry), who loves her fiercely but also loves to drink and wanders the days in a semi-drunken state, sometimes enraged, other times animated, and always, heartbroken. (Hushpuppy's mother is dead.) They live in Bathtub, a Lousiana bayou town in the shadows of a giant levee, filled with renegades like them who live hard and celebrate even harder. But when the levee breaks, there's not much to celebrate as they struggle to survive.

Is it any good?

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD proves that you don't need the bombast of a too-loud soundtrack and superhero excess to make an audience feel, deeply and achingly. Hushpuppy's devastatingly impoverished but imaginative life in the bayou is enough. Destruction needs no embellishments, poverty no fireworks. The film takes flights of fancy, but they share space well with harsh realities. The juxtaposition is outstanding, and they make you question your own suppositions -- something few films do. Is Wink a bad father, or is he remarkable given the circumstances? (The casting director deserves an award for finding two of the most compelling actors to debut in a film: Wallis and Henry are both acting novices, though you wouldn't know it from the potency of their work here.)

Beasts of the Southern Wild unfolds through Hushpuppy's eyes, and it's a sight to behold: sometimes wondrous, often disordered and dysfunctional. It's hard not to see the film through a political lens even if you're apolitical. But there's no stridency here: Fantastical moments and a fantastic script manage to juggle so much with grace. As Hushpuppy says, "The entire world depends on everything fitting together just right." But her world is one where wealth and squalor co-exist all too easily, the discrepancy painfully obvious (even though we don't really see the other world), the puzzle pieces not equal in weight or importance. Yet the hardscrabble people of Bathtub still find a way to channel their joy, even though they've been forgotten.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Beasts of the Southern Wild depicts drinking. Are there realistic consequences?

  • What is the movie saying about fathers and their daughters and the ties that bind them? Is Wink a flawed father?

  • Parents, talk to your kids about Hurricane Katrina: Who suffered most in the end? How does this movie reference the social issues that the hurricane brought to light?

  • How does Hushpuppy cope with the difficulties in her life? Is she aware of them? How does she compare to other movie girls?

Movie details

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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