City of Lost Children

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
City of Lost Children Movie Poster Image
Bizarre, beautiful French sci-fi with creepy images, themes.
  • R
  • 1998
  • 114 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Surreal take on the Frankenstein theme, of artificial creatures turning on their creator in a commentary on humanity. The importance of human connection -- worth even major risks and sacrifices.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Miette is an exceptionally brave and resilient young heroine, while One is a Hercules-type muscleman good guy (although not terribly smart). Not every monstrosity is evil (such as "Uncle Irvin," the helpful brain), nor do good characters always act righteously. Fanciful setting seems to depict a society in which kids can rely on nobody but each other.


One villain is bloodily impaled with a speargun. Characters turn homicidal and kill with their bare hands, and the little-girl heroine is shockingly beaten and nearly strangled. Flashback to a mad-science lab fight, with bloody faces and smashed test tubes. One character threatened with a shotgun. Explosions and fires non-explicitly kill people.


A distant view of topless showgirls as a panicked nightclub empties. A woman in a low-cut gown tried to seduce a drunken man.


"Bitch" in the subtitles.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The strongman One drinks himself insensible in a bar. He and other characters smoke cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this surreal French film about bad dreams is full of nightmare-inducing imagery include menacing cyborg-like men who have replaced their eyes with old camera lenses, creepy faces distorted by wide-angle lenses and CGI rapid aging, and an opening invasion by nasty Santa Clauses. Children are menaced, with kidnapping, violence, betrayal, and with death -- drowning and strangulation. There is brief showgirl nudity in a nightclub scene and scene of coy sexy talk. Violence includes bloody faces, an impaling, near-shootings and fatal explosions (still, mayhem is minor for an R-rated movie). Characters smoke and drink. Most versions of the film require reading of subtitles (and "bitch" comes up in translated dialogue). A childlke grown man and a precocious little girl are a "romantic" lead couple -- but there's no sexual contact between them.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 18+-year-old Written byFutileFiction December 8, 2018

Lacks likeable characters

While the premise of the film may seem drastic and even cruel, in no way shape or form should this movie be rated R. After viewing this film, I realized that I... Continue reading
Adult Written byCherribomb August 13, 2020

Good movie for older kids. Shouldn't be rated R.

I would not recommend showing this to small children as there are some scary moments. But I think this is a movie older childen would love. There is a seen with... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byNeon_Fish January 17, 2016

Don't bother

It's like a prolonged nightmare that makes your head spin.
Not for kids. Dunno what the target audience would be :/
Teen, 17 years old Written bySylph June 3, 2012

A fifteen year old's view from it.

I say that this is an appropriate movie for approximately the age of thirteen and up, though I myself watched this as a fifteen year old. It's beautifully... Continue reading

What's the story?

In a mad-science lab at sea the rogue results of unwise genetic tinkering conduct their own experiments on human children kidnapped from the town. The mutants include a dwarf woman, six bumbling clones, a brain in a tank, and the boss, a spindly synthetic fiend called Krank (Daniel Emilfork), superintelligent but lacking a human soul, which he tries to gain by stealing dreams from the captive children. The rebellious brain -- named Irvin -- has decided enough is enough and subverts Krank's efforts by secretly poisoning the kids' dreams into nightmares. Meanwhile back on land, a carnival strongman named One (Ron Perlman) loses his adopted "little brother" to the clutches of the Cyclopses, a monkish brotherhood who have replaced their eyes, cyborg-style, with creepy camera-lens implants. It turns out they have been supplying children to Krank. One teams up with stoic, streetwise waif Miette (Judith Vittet) to fight the baddies and find the lost kids.

Is it any good?

CITY OF LOST CHILDREN  is a breathtakingly one-of-a-kind fantasy, not easy to follow or figure out but an incredible ride in getting there. Somehow it successfully gene-splices sci-fi "cyberpunk" with scraps of Jules Verne, fairy-tale innocence, exquisite CGI f/x and carnival-midway surrealism. From an opening nightmare sequence of bad Santas it escalates the wonder, weirdness, and pathos, right until the eerie closing theme song, with a showstopper cliffhanger ending. It may not surprise anyone this was a costly money loser in its native France, its eccentricities a turnoff to mainstream audiences. But for broad-minded parents not discouraged by the way-out elements it's a spellbinder for mature teens and up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the unusual style of the film. Was it off-putting or hard to follow? How does it compare to American movies you've seen?

  • Did the surreal style of the movie change your impression of the violence? Did it seem less realistic, or more creepy?

  • Talk about some of the themes in the movie -- the search for a soul, the need for human connection, resilience in the face of horror and loneliness.

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love weird movies

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate