Big Miracle

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Big Miracle Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Animal-rescue tale has one death but otherwise OK for kids.
  • PG
  • 2012
  • 107 minutes

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 17 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 21 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids will learn quite a bit about whales and their habitat and migratory patterns; Inuit culture and its connection to whales and whaling; the uneasy relationship between the United States and Russia in the late '80s; and the political differences in opinion between Greenpeace activists and the Regan administration.

Positive Messages

Many positive messages about family, teamwork, nature, appreciating your cultural background, and even politics.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The Inuit tribe leader isn't just a chief, he's a grandfather who teaches Nathan about his heritage and how to listen to the whales. He also makes a decision to help rather than harvest the whales, even though it would benefit his people to use them for food and fuel. Nathan learns about his people and why the whales are so important to them. Rachel is a catalyst for change. Reagan's adviser is truly interested in the whales, not just how the situation will affect the administration.

Violence & Scariness

The movie opens with an Inuit tribe hunting a whale, which they harpoon (this happens off camera). Bam Bam is injured during the ordeal; his breath sounds shaky and labored while he's ill. Spoiler alert: Children may become upset during an unexpected animal death. It's devastating, because audiences assume there will be a happily ever after. Expect younger kids to be disturbed, possibly to the point of crying. Also a few tense moments during a helicopter ride.

Sexy Stuff

Nathan calls a TV reporter "hot." Adam flirts with Jill and eventually rekindles his relationship with Rachel; they share one kiss.


Mild language and insults/name-calling include "hell," "stupid," "holy crap," "witch," "damn it," "cocky," "bastards," and "oh my God." Because the movie takes place in the '80s, the Inuit tribe is referred to by the less politically correct term "Eskimo."


The National Guard Colonel drives a Maserati and owns a JVC sound system and Mr. Coffee coffee maker. A Sony and RCA Walkman are also shown.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

In one scene in which two characters discuss job frustrations, many mini bottles of scotch are visible, and one character refers to herself as drunk. There might also be drinks on a table during a brief dinner scene or two, but it's not overt.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Big Miracle is an animal-rescue adventure that was inspired by a true story from the 1980s. Although the movie has positive messages about family, friendship, nature, and more, there's one very disturbing death that may cause little ones to cry out of sadness. Language includes a few exclamations like "damn," "holy crap," "hell," and "bastards," and mild flirting includes one kiss between a grown-up couple. Because this is a "period" drama, there are some political discussions about Reagan's administration versus the Greenpeace agenda. Kids will also learn about Inuit tribe culture, the difference between tribal and commercial whaling, and about whales and their migratory patterns.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written bySuejfinn August 19, 2020

Heartwarming Family movie

What a great movie. Watched it for family movie night and all from 8-85 loved it.
Adult Written bySTRIDER9 April 7, 2013


A great movie with a tearjerking part in it.
Kid, 8 years old January 17, 2021
Big Miracle is about a news reporter named Adam who stays at the Arctic with his friends and finds out that a family of whales does not have a hole big enough t... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bylilychan May 16, 2020

Big Miracle

Big Miracle is a touching story of humanitarian efforts to save three grey whales that got off course to reach their winter destination. The whales now need to... Continue reading

What's the story?

It's 1988, and Anchorage news reporter Adam Carlson (John Krasinski) is in the tiny town of Barrow, Alaska, when he unintentionally discovers a family of three gray whales trapped in the icy waters off shore. Realizing that this could be a huge story that gets him a job in the Lower 48, Adam sends a piece that gets picked up by the national press, attracting the attention of everyone from his ex-girlfriend/Greenpeace activist, Rachel (Drew Barrymore), to Tom Brokaw and a young White House staffer in President Ronald Reagan's administration. The whales' fate quickly becomes a tug-of-war between the environmentalists and the local Inuit tribe, which wants to harvest the whales. When the tribe decides to help the cause, Greenpeace and Big Oil -- and even the Soviets -- must band together to save the whales.

Is it any good?

Based on a mostly forgotten news story from the late '80s, this is the kind of entertaining, historical, even educational family-friendly film that will appeal to parents and older kids alike. There are no commercial tie-ins or CGI-hybrid talking animals, and all of the actors are charming -- especially Barrymore and Krasinski, but also Ted Danson as a rich oilman, Dermot Mulroney as a focused National Guard officer, and Kristen Bell as an ambitious Los Angeles reporter covering the story up north.

One of the best aspects of the movie is that despite being firmly rooted in the '80s (a fact that's reinforced by glimpses of real news spots about the whales and references to Walkmans and Def Leppard), there isn't an oppressive amount of '80s nostalgia included in the story. And although various political perspectives are shared, everyone wins as the groups come together for the sake of the whales. A downside is that the pacing feels off at times (brisk in some parts, dragging in others), and the movie may be a tad too "grown up" for younger kids. Otherwise, it's a decent and thought-provoking family pick.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why save-the-animal movies are so popular. Do you prefer movies with animals that talk or realistic depictions like the whales in Big Miracle?

  • What do you think the filmmakers wanted audiences to take away from the story? Were there political messages in the movie?

  • Does seeing Big Miracle make you want to learn more about the real story that inspired it? Parents, talk to your kids what you were up to in the late '80s and whether you remember this trapped-whales news story.

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animals

Themes & Topics

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