Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
CodeGirl Movie Poster Image
Heartfelt docu showcases tech competition for teen girls.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 107 minutes

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

Positive Messages

Girls can overcome limiting stereotypes. Perseverance and hard work pay off. Even high school students can identify and help solve world problems. Additional themes include communication, curiosity, and teamwork.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Girls from the U.S., Mexico, Nigeria, Moldova, and other countries all show pluck, drive, creativity, and social consciences as they learn to compete in a largely male world: technology.


Apple and Android (Google) systems and products are mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that CodeGirl is a 2015 documentary that focuses on a tech competition designed to foster the intellectual and economic empowerment of girls. International teams of female high school students learn to write computer code and business plans as they identify and solve global problems through the creation of mobile phone apps. Positive messages include overcoming limiting stereotypes, working hard and persevering, and making a difference in the world. Girls from across the globe show drive, creativity, and social consciences as they learn to compete in the largely male world of technology.

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What's the story?

CODEGIRL shows that by participating in the Technovation Challenge international competition, high school girls from around the world and from all economic strata learn to write computer code and a business plan as they create mobile phone apps designed to solve pressing social problems. Director Lesley Chilcott picked various teams and followed them through the beginning, middle, and final stages of the process. Chilcott, who produced the Oscar-winning film An Inconvenient Truth, records the girls' inspiration, work habits, cooperation, disappointments, and finally the victory of one triumphant team at the finals in San Francisco. The winners receive $10,000 in seed money to bring their app to the market.

Is it any good?

The film nicely captures the rare opportunity the Technovation competition offers to thousands of girls. Many of these girls might not otherwise learn to write code or think about starting businesses and solving major world problems. The contrast between the self-acknowledged overprivileged girls of the American teams and those from Third World countries is showcased. Members of the Moldova team fetch their water from a well and address widespread water contamination in their app. One team of American finalists creates an app that allows schoolmates to say nice things about each other. The movie is clearly a labor of love, as the director's admiration for the girls shines through in every shot. But this may also be at the root of the documentary's greatest weakness: At 107 minutes it's easily twice as long as it needs to be. At the halfway mark even sympathetic viewers may question the need for close observation of yet one more team. One team member articulates this problem perfectly on camera as the filmmaker unnecessary records her team when nothing is happening. "This is the least interesting footage ever," the girl correctly declares of one of many scenes that belong on the cutting-room floor.    

Still, CodeGirl is a great movie for parents to share with tweens and teens, especially girls, since it may inspire them to better their own communities and update their tech skills.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why more boys and men work in the tech field than girls and women. How can this change?

  • Do you think families and teachers encourage boys more than girls to do well in science and math? Why, or why not?

  • Do you think you could identify an important problem facing the world today? How would you go about solving it?

  • How does CodeGirl promote communication and curiosity? What about perseverance and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

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