Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors

Movie review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors Movie Poster Image
 Parents recommend
Inspiring, faith-filled tale has emotion, serious themes.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 180 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

The movie intends to entertain rather than to educate, but there are strong themes about love, integrity, and gratitude. 

Positive Messages

Strong themes about gratitude, integrity, family, faith, and the enduring nature of love. Dolly's family lets adversity draw them closer together rather than tearing them apart, and Christian values guide how they live. Emotional scenes involving the loss of a baby and depression. Bullies torment classmates, teasing and physically intimidating them. 

Positive Role Models

Dolly's parents set wonderful examples for their children, putting a premium on hard work, honesty, and strong family values. Even though they have different views on faith, both come to find strength in the concept of a higher power, inspiring Dolly to lead others by her example as well. 

Violence & Scariness

Incidents are implied more often than they're shown. A fistfight that leaves a girl with a bloody lip; Dolly's mom spanks her for using strong language; and a teacher smacks her hands with a ruler as punishment for an infraction (it's not shown, but it's audible, and Dolly shows her swollen hands later). Her father plans to whip her with a belt before changing his mind. A young girl holds a knife while kids talk about exacting revenge on a school bully. 

Sexy Stuff

A married couple snuggles after having sex (the act isn't shown), and there's mention of physical contact causing a couple to be "in a family way." 


"Hell" and "damn" are heard numerous times. Also name-calling like "yellow-bellied." 


The movie is inspired by Dolly Parton's song "Coat of Many Colors," which can be heard at various points throughout the story. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Dolly's father smokes a lot, which was normal for the time, and there's discussion of his drinking moonshine. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors is a heartwarming autobiographical movie set during the celebrated actress-singer's childhood. Christian values, Biblical stories, faith, and prayer are central to the story and account for how Dolly's family recovers from tragedy. There are many emotional scenes in which the characters cope with grief and depression, including a very poignant one about an infant's death. Kids may not fully understand some aspects of Dolly's mid-century upbringing, so be prepared to explain things like physical punishment (spanking, slapping hands with a ruler, etc.), the prevalence of smoking, and the family's financial hardships. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byernieclementine December 26, 2019

Fantastic movie that shows Christian values

It is refreshing to see a positive portrayal of Christianity on a major broadcast network these days. Coat of Many Colors and its sequel originally premiered on... Continue reading
Parent of a 6-year-old Written byCarolyn F. February 19, 2019

Tragedy, Trauma, and Hellfire Theology

I saw this movie ages ago and thought my six year old would like it, but in the first half there was one horrible event after another. First little Dolly goes t... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bydollyparton March 9, 2021


This is a great movie, that lets you learn about Dolly and her life experiences. This lets you realize what it was like growing up where she lived. It shows pov... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byLoranikas303 December 11, 2020

What's the story?

DOLLY PARTON'S COAT OF MANY COLORS opens in 1955 with 9-year-old Dolly (Alyvia Alyn Lind) already full of big dreams about being a star someday. With the voice of an angel and an incorrigible spirit, Dolly knows she's destined for a future far away from her humble beginnings in Sevier County, Tennessee, but for now, the family farm and the love of her parents (Jennifer Nettles and Ricky Schroder) is all she needs. But then tragedy strikes and threatens her mother's steadfast faith in God, pulling the family apart and casting doubt into Dolly as well. Her mother slowly pieces her life back together as she creates a patchwork coat for Dolly, which leads to lessons in compassion and appreciation and eventually reaffirms the family's faith. 

Is it any good?

This autobiographical story based on Parton's early song of the same name never shies away from the harsh realities of Dolly's upbringing or the resulting faith-based themes. The latter are obvious, with Bible verses and moral words of wisdom oft-quoted in the dialogue, so they're not easily missed, and the tale of Dolly's multi-colored coat is a visual representation of her mother's (and thus, the family's) journey through happiness, despair, and eventual renewal of hope. It's a beautiful story with far-reaching messages about appreciating one's gifts and using them to bless others in turn.

With themes like these, Coat of Many Colors is an excellent choice for family viewing, but there are incidents in the story that may need some context from you if your young kids watch. Dolly's mischievous spirit endears her to viewers, but on a few occasions, it subjects her to physical punishment from her parents and, in one case, her teacher. There's a lot of raw emotion in scenes that deal with Dolly's mother's depression and its effect on the family, as well as the grief journey that follows their shared tragedy. Other features of the time and place -- her father's smoking habit, the fact that many of the kids don't attend school, the financial struggles of a large farming family, etc. -- stand out as unusual compared to modern times as well, but at the same time, it's refreshing to see such an unsanitized story of faith, family love, and overcoming adversity.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the similarities and differences between life during Dolly's childhood and now. How did families entertain themselves before modern inventions like TV? Why were large families like the one in Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors common? 

  • What accounts for the Parton family's closeness? How does their faith unify them? Does your family have any faith-based traditions? How do they account for your value system? 

  • Kids: Is it sometimes difficult to appreciate what you have when you compare it to others' possessions? How do you deal with jealousy? How does helping others change your perspective on what's really important in life? 

  • How do the characters in Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors demonstrate gratitude and integrity? Why are these important character strengths?

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