Cinema Paradiso

Movie review by
Scott G. Mignola, Common Sense Media
Cinema Paradiso Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Charming Italian film about friendship has sex, profanity.
  • PG
  • 1989
  • 121 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 11 reviews

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 2 reviews

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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.

Positive Messages

This movie shows how movies transcend cultures, unify a community, and bridge the gap between generations. The importance and benefits of a fatherless child being mentored into a job by someone older is also shown. Integrity is a major theme.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Alfredo takes Toto under his wing despite Toto's constant proclivity toward misbehavior and ends up playing an instrumental role in helping him to grow up and be the successful man he becomes later. Toto learns responsibility by taking over as the projectionist at the Cinema Paradiso. 


Alfredo is severely burned in a fire. Fighting, hitting, violent scenes from movies. A boy in his late teens is punched in the face by a bully and is later revealed to have a black eye. A man who has routinely spat from his seat in the balcony in a theater is hit in the face with feces. An abusive teacher slaps a boy in the head and hits him with a ruler in front of a classroom of children who laugh at him because he doesn't know his multiplication tables. 


Brief shots of exposed breasts in black-and-white movies. While nothing is explicitly shown, a group of young teens is obviously in the act of masturbation while in a theater watching a Brigitte Bardot movie. A man grabs a woman's breasts and starts to moan and grind his body into hers. 


Occasional profanity: "s--t," "a--hole," "son of a bitch," "damn," "ass." A young boy exclaims, "Up yours!" 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cigarette smoking, including a scene in which two young children smoke. Wine drinking; some characters appear drunk. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Cinema Paradiso is a 1988 Italian coming-of-age movie in which a young Sicilian boy is taken under the wing of an older man who teaches him about the love of movies and helps him find his purpose in life. It's a charming tale of friendship and the love of movies that's the perfect introduction to foreign films for teens, despite some iffy scenes -- including a scene where young teens are obviously (if not explicitly shown) masturbating in a theater to a Brigitte Bardot movie, and a man who spits on those below him while in the balcony of the theater eventually gets pelted in the face with feces. Expect brief shots of exposed breasts in black-and-white movies. A man grabs a woman's breasts and starts to moan and grind his body into hers. There is some profanity throughout ("s--t," "bitch"), and two kids smoke a cigarette. A man is shown catching on fire in a projection booth and is rescued by a young boy who drags him down the stairs of the burning building. There is also some bullying -- a young boy is slapped in the head and hit with a ruler by a teacher when he doesn't know the answer to a multiplication problem, and a young man is punched in the face by a bully while trying to woo a beautiful woman. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAnakinsaber July 8, 2020

A Masterpiece!

I don’t know what drugs the initial reviewer was on for this movie, but it certainly is NOT syrupy!! If you have a heart beating in your chest, then this movie... Continue reading
Adult Written byShah Muhammad T. December 23, 2019
Kid, 10 years old March 14, 2020

My Favorite Film of all time, A true love letter to cinema

It shows how cinema can inspire and create a community. I think that it’s unknown to the general public and so are most foreign or ( anything that isn’t a block... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old May 20, 2014

Good movie

Cinema Paradiso is a great family movie.

What's the story?

When something precious is taken from us, we reach for whatever might fill the void it leaves, so altar boy Salvatore (Salvatore Cascio) finds a substitute for the father he lost to war at the movie theater in the Italian film CINEMA PARADISO. In a small town, a priest sitting in the Cinema Paradiso rings a bell. The projectionist, Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), tags the offensive footage for editing. Watching from the shadows is Salvatore. In time Alfredo reluctantly teaches the boy how to operate the projector. But running a machine in the dark, alone, is no life for a boy, he tells him. He has higher hopes for Salvatore. A film reel catches fire one night, burning the theater and badly injuring Alfredo. When the Nuevo Cinema Paradiso opens, Salvatore runs the projector. The patrons cheer at seeing on-screen kissing for the first time, free of censorship. It's a good life, but Alfredo's words haunt Salvatore until finally he leaves to pursue a filmmaking career. Salvatore gains a mentor and Alfredo gains a surrogate son.

Is it any good?

This bittersweet film is a bit slow for teens, but anyone with a true love of cinema who doesn't mind some syrupy moments will be charmed.

Cinema Paradiso director Giuseppe Tornatore takes the wholesome path in showing a relationship between an adult man and a child, and in doing so he demonstrates that age is no obstacle when it comes to friendship. That's a good lesson to share with teenagers who find themselves thumbing their noses at younger kids.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Alfredo helps Salvatore gain the confidence to pursue his passion in Cinema Paradiso. Who are your real-life mentors? Families may also want to talk to older children about the gifts they have to share with younger kids.

  • How does the theater -- and the films it shows -- bring the community together and perhaps even connect it to the outside world? 

  • How is this movie a coming-of-age story? What are some examples of other coming-of-age movies? 

  • How do the characters in Cinema Paradiso demonstrate integrity? Why is that an important character strength?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love foreign travel

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

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