Childhood's End

Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Childhood's End Movie Poster Image
Slow-burn sci-fi is chock-full of scary imagery.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 247 minutes

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age 2+
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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Families stick together when the chips are down. Not every human is lazy and uncreative; some are fighters and protectors. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

This ensemble piece has many characters both admirable and despicable but centers on one heroic character, a salt-of-the-earth farmer and family man. 


Scenes of environmental devastation, mothers and children crying, huge ships looming in the sky. Very large monsters that will scare young children, otherworldly lights, children and animals in danger. A young boy is shot after his mother is attacked by a drug dealer. 


No official cursing but almost-swears such as "Son of a ... "


Mention of brands such as Pop-Tarts. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Childhood's End is a tense sci-fi drama about aliens that invade and take over Earth. There's not much bloody violence but lots of scary images: huge ships hovering over cities, children crying, people whose deceased relatives suddenly appear to them, giant terrifying monsters that look like devils. Characters are killed on-screen in explosions; a young boy is shot. Guns are brandished and pointed at unarmed civilians. The miniseries' plot concerns a gradual takeover of the minds of children, which includes many frightening images of young children speaking robotically and exhibiting disturbing powers. There are also scenes of environmental devastation, military actions, and animals and children in danger. Discussion of sensitive issues include suicide and faith. Cursing includes multiple uses of "hell," including "What the hell?"

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What's the story?

Based on the 1953 Arthur C. Clarke novel of the same name, CHILDHOOD'S END is a three-part, six-hour miniseries that picks up in 2016, when huge alien ships suddenly descend and hover over major cities around the Earth. Aliens are here; they're now in charge and are swiftly named the Overlords. But mankind has nothing to fear, Overlord Supervisor Karellen (Charles Dance) assures everyone, speaking through charismatic Missouri farmer Ricky Stormgren (Mike Vogel). Why won't the Overlords show their true faces? What are their real goals? If they're here and they intend to do us harm, why are they curing diseases and turning back centuries of environmental damage? Most are complacent, but the leader of the radical Freedom League Hugo Wainwright (Colm Meaney) thinks the Overlords are softening the human race up before delivering the coup de grace. Is this the end of humanity? Or the golden age the Overlords have promised? 

Is it any good?

A nice treat for the type of sci-fi fan who prefers a good think about the (potential) shape of things to come, this slow-burn drama does take its time creeping out patient viewers. Hints that there's more than meets the eye to what at first seems a simple aliens-crush-humans plot take a while to show up; younger kids will probably be alternately terrified by otherworldly imagery and bored by talky scenes in which Ricky and Karellen debate faith and morality. Readers of the novel will be well aware we're not headed for a happy ending, and the show itself signals this with a lead-in in which the last man on Earth pauses to tell his tale. But just how we get from here to there is a complex and thought-provoking story, one that unspools dreamily in this fine adaptation. It's not for kids, but geeky tweens and teens will love watching with parents and prising out the notions this drama evokes.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why alien invasions are a common sci-fi plot. What universal fears does it signify? Why are people drawn to this plot?

  • In the book on which this mini-series is based, the main character is the Secretary-General of the U.N. In this adaptation, an Everyman type is the center of the action. Why do you think the show's creators would make this change? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love science fiction

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