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Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable Movie Poster Image
Inspirational docu has themes of perseverance, gratitude.
  • PG
  • 2019
  • 100 minutes

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Viewers will learn about surfing basics: what kind of body mechanics it requires, how waves work, what kind of training is required for it. Also explains what modifications an athlete missing an arm (and in another case, a leg) needs to do to perform and compete.

Positive Messages

Positive messages include importance of passion, drive, dedication, commitment, support, faith. Each is mentioned as a pillar of Hamilton's life and why she's able to keep surfing and loving the ocean despite her childhood shark attack. Perseverance, courage, gratitude are clear themes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hamilton is clearly a positive role model. She doesn't dwell on her tragedy or disability but instead feels grateful to be alive, that the shark didn't attack her best friend. Instead of viewing herself as handicapped, Hamilton remains optimistic, determined, confident in her ability to return to surfing. She's a kind, generous daughter, wife, mother, sister, friend. As a woman of faith, she trusts that God has given her the strength and talents to overcome obstacles. Her husband, family, close friends are supportive as she pursues life as a renowned surfer and public speaker/figure.

Violence & Scariness

Footage of witnesses and bystanders during shark attack and of Hamilton at hospital recovering. A few candid conversations about what happened, as well as the sight of how much of her arm (just beneath the shoulder) was severed. Discussions of various ways that surfers face dangers in certain beaches/famous waves. Hamilton gets hurt during one surfing outing and bleeds a little bit.

Sexy Stuff

Hamilton and her husband are affectionate and kiss, hug.


Surfing slang like "gnarly"/"gnarliest."


Brands are shown that endorse surfing competitions or Hamilton personally: Rip Curl, Roxy, Red Bull, The Amazing Race, etc. Off-camera, Hamilton has several more endorsement deals and is considered a health/sports/lifestyle influencer.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable is an inspirational documentary that chronicles how the young Hawaiian surfer (who was also the subject of the drama Soul Surfer) overcame a harrowing 2003 shark attack that cost her an arm and returned to the waves to become an international surfing competitor. Although there's no inappropriate content in the film, it does deal with some mature issues and discusses the shark attack and the personal/professional challenges that Hamilton faces. Expect occasional surfing slang ("gnarly" and the like) and affection between Hamilton and her husband. Parents and kids will have plenty to discuss after watching -- about determination, courage, gratitude, discipline, perseverance, the value of representation in the media, and the importance of encouragement and support. Because Hamilton and her circle of friends and family are so passionate about surfing, expect some younger viewers to gain an interest in the sport.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written October 19, 2019


Best movie ever. I ❤️Bethany, and she is just so amazing and another movie about her?!?! Perfect. It’s awesome.
Parent of a 9 and 12 year old Written byLeslie C. July 30, 2019

Amazingly inspiring!!!! A+++++

My whole family loved this. It was inspirational, outstanding and the videos & pictures were ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL. Great capturing.

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What's the story?

BETHANY HAMILTON: UNSTOPPABLE is a biographical sports documentary about renowned surfer Bethany Hamilton, aka Soul Surfer, as she transitions from adolescence to adulthood and pursues her dream to surf competitively on the world's most famous waves, despite having only one arm. Although the film explores the harrowing events following the 2003 shark attack that took Hamilton's arm, its focus is on her life as a competitive surfer who travels the world on the international surfing circuit while also maintaining a busy schedule as a wife, mother, speaker, and public figure. In addition to interviews with Hamilton, her family, friends, coaches, and surfing experts, the film is about surfing in some of the world's most famous spots: Hawaii, Bali, Australia, and more.

Is it any good?

Poignant and inspiring, this documentary explores how Hamilton's deeply held faith, persistent optimism, and passion for surfing help her succeed against all odds. Hamilton is a fascinating figure: She doesn't dwell on the attack or her missing arm but instead single-mindedly believes that her new body can and will not only surf (which anyone familiar with Soul Surfer knows she can do) but also compete on a global scale. Through intensive, disciplined training, Hamilton -- with the unwavering support of her close-knit family; her husband, Adam; and various coaches -- prepares to tackle some of the world's most famous waves. While the movie's interview footage doesn't reveal anything too surprising (everyone genuinely seems to love and respect Hamilton), a couple of her friends do admit that they didn't think she could return to surfing competitively -- first because of her accident and then because she got married and had a baby in her early 20s. And the movie doesn't shy away from showing how Adam (and the rest of her family) have to step up and work hard to support Hamilton's efforts to fulfill her professional surfing and public-speaking obligations.

The action/surfing cinematography in Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable is thrilling and entertaining; you'll feel like you're in the water with Hamilton. Audiences will be awestruck by the different styles of waves in different famous surfing spots. Hamilton and her family are evangelical Christians, so the movie also has faith-based messages and themes. But whether viewers are churchgoers or not -- or whether they're managing their own physical challenges or not -- there's no denying that Hamilton is a motivational and remarkable athlete and individual.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable deals with personal danger and overcoming tragedy. What's the appeal of doing something that can be so dangerous?

  • How does Hamilton display perseverance, courage, and gratitude? Why are those important character strengths?

  • How is faith portrayed in the movie? Do you think viewers have to be people of faith to appreciate the documentary?

  • What does the movie teach you about surfing? Does it make you want to try the sport? When does a hobby become a passion and even a career?

  • How is Hamilton's disability addressed in the movie? What makes her a role model -- both for those with disabilities and for those without? Why does representation matter?

Movie details

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