Castle in the Sky

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Castle in the Sky Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Exciting anime fantasy has some violence, peril.
  • NR
  • 1986
  • 125 minutes

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 22 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 46 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Courage, teamwork.

Positive Role Models

Sheeta and Pazu are both courageous, perceptive, plucky kids, though the girl seems to need rescuing a whole lot more than the boy. A spirited, tough old lady leads a gang of greedy pirates. These scalawags end up becoming allies and pals (though no less thieving). There seems to be dim view of the military and government agents.


A lot of shooting, with the child protagonists occasionally nicked by bullets flying around. Cannon/artillery fire, heat rays, a nuclear-type explosion. Characters perish (offscreen) by falling from a great height. A street fight between roughnecks. A robot is "killed," blasted with mortar rounds.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Castle in the Sky is a 1986 Hayao Miyazaki film. Cartoon violence and peril are fairly regular and sometimes intense in this spectacle, with abundant street brawling, gunfire (often aimed at children), artillery, death rays, even what looks like an H-bomb. Despite all that, no dead bodies are shown. Sheeta and Pazu are both perceptive, plucky kids who model courage and teamwork. This represents an English-dubbed, re-edited version of the three-hour original. If your household is filled with anime purists, you might want to try and obtain the uncut version.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byChristopherCamp October 31, 2021

Miyazaki sexualizes young girls

This is my favorite animated film of all time. With that said, the way Miyazaki sexualizes young girls in all his films doesn't age well. I still watch thi... Continue reading
Adult Written byFightwithgood June 11, 2020

Lost me in an instant

I LOVED the movie until...the scene where sheeta joins the pirates and starts work in the kitchen. The crew start fawning over her and coming in to “help” I fo... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byanimeresponse January 21, 2020

fine starter movie

a great, well formed movie for those wanting to start studio ghibli. good for families with positive messages for all. has little racial representation
Kid, 11 years old July 5, 2010


THIS WAS MY FAVORITE MOVIE WHEN I WAS LITTLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!... Continue reading

What's the story?

CASTLE IN THE SKY was a smash in its native Japan in 1986, known mainly to fantasy and animation fans in the West via imported versions until more than a decade later, when Disney Studios recognized its popularity by releasing an English-dubbed edition in the USA. The setting is a vaguely European early-20th century. In this world there exists a legend of a fabulous flying fortress called Laputa, laden with treasure, robots, and powerful weapons. Sheeta (Anna Paquin), a farm girl with an heirloom amulet crystal that points the way to Laputa, is chased by both government forces and a family of sky pirates. Briefly escaping into a mining community, Sheeta finds an unselfish ally and protector in a fellow adolescent, a brave boy named Pazu (James Van Der Beek) and together they try to outwit their enemies while on a journey leading inevitably to Laputa.

Is it any good?

Hayao Miyazaki's sumptuous design, artwork, cliffhanger pacing, and innocent "sense of wonder" so important to science fiction bring Castle in the Sky to glorious life. It's a family-suitable action-fantasy, even if the main characters lack depth. Pazu is a bold and brave orphan boy, Sheeta is a bold and brave orphan girl, etc. (our heroine also tends to be amnesiac in some scenes, while in others she can remember whole magic spells and the not-unimportant detail that she's a long-lost Laputian princess).

Possibly some of the deficiencies in the storyline can be explained by big chunks of the movie, which originally ran three hours, excised in the adaptation by Disney. Here a nature-oriented twist that saves the heroes from doom in the end seems to come out of nowhere (thin air, you might say). At least the American edit kept Ma Dola, a colorful, crusty old pirate matriarch (voiced by Cloris Leachman) who vigorously commands a flying criminal gang made up of her own husband and many sons. Some anime fans consider this one of the best of the best in the all-ages category.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Sheeta and Pazu's character strengths. How do they demonstrate courage and teamwork in Castle in the Sky?

  • Do you consider the main characters role models? Why or why not?

  • How do nature and technology interact in the story? Do the robots and airships seem more futuristic or old-fashioned? How does the movie use both realistic forces and fantasy elements in the imagery of the flying fortress in the sky?

  • Which parts of the movie, if any, were frightening to you? How much scary stuff can young kids handle?

  • Why do you think this movie is considered an anime classic? How is it different from the majority of Hollywood animated movies?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love adventure

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