Movie review by
Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media
Elephant Movie Poster Image
Nature docu has stunning visuals, positive messages, peril.
  • G
  • 2020
  • 88 minutes

Parents say

age 3+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 4+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

There's plenty to learn about elephants' physical, mental, and social characteristics, as well as their survival among the wildlife and animals of the Kalahari Desert of Africa.

Positive Messages

The film subtly promotes wildlife conservation by showcasing the natural beauty of this special environment and the interplay of all of its ecosystems and creatures. The elephants' behavior is exemplary in terms of caring for each other, their resourcefulness and resilience in surviving against significant odds.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Elephants are shown to prioritize taking care of their family members over all else. They never leave a member of the herd behind, protect each other at all times, thrive on their social-emotional bonds. They also "never forget" and "seem to have a deep connection to the past and a reverence for those who've gone before them."

Violence & Scariness

Natural dangers include sticky mud, roaring water, salty dry winds, crocodiles, lions, hyenas, other herds of elephants, and annual droughts. An elephant dies of old age.

Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the nature documentary Elephant is appropriate for all ages, but some viewers may find it a little slow-going. The filmmakers confront that by introducing new dangers for the elephants, creating moments of suspense throughout the film. These scenes include possible drowning, predators like lions and hyenas, a baby elephant with his head stuck in the mud, and more. Some could be scary/upsetting for certain viewers, especially when the youngest elephants are put at risk. But the elephants always come through the scares intact until near the end of the film, when one matriarch dies of old age. It's a tender scene as the herd gathers around her and feels for her last breath with their trunks, covering her eyes with her ear when she's finally gone. Some viewers, though, may feel uneasy knowing that her body will likely be attacked by surrounding lions as soon as the herd moves on. Likewise, narrator Meghan Markle makes clear that while this herd has survived its perilous journey, not all do.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byNHOPESTEPHEN April 8, 2020

Loved Elephants so much

A very emotional, loving, informative, educational, loving documentary. Must watch with the whole family. Will watch over and over again.
Adult Written byfabiola7 April 4, 2020

So cute

My daughter is 4 and I normally can’t get her to watch documentaries with me. She absolutely loved and watched the entire thing.
Teen, 14 years old Written byMar mbl June 8, 2020
Teen, 13 years old Written bygigi235 April 14, 2020

Super cute

I think if your child is very sensitive that it would not be good but it is full of the circle of life. A few elephant births and some elephant death. Great mov... Continue reading

What's the story?

ELEPHANT follows a herd of African elephants, led by matriarchs Gaia and Shani and Shani's mischievous 1-year-old son, Jomo, as they take a 1,000-mile, 8-month round-trip journey across the Kalahari Desert. Gaia and Shani rely on their memories of past travels to navigate the safest routes across ancient worn paths and toward essential watering holes. Few elephant herds remain in the wild to roam such vast distances. Along their route, they encounter a myriad of animals, including some predators, and other dangers. All the while, the matriarchs look out for their family members and protect each other. Meghan Markle narrates.

Is it any good?

This documentary's calming message of solidarity is always relevant. And is there a sweeter yet tougher animal in the world? Elephant suggests not. "Social life is like oxygen for these animals," we're told by narrator Markle, who's a fitting proxy for this matriarchal herd. "For elephants, family is everything," and their emotional bonds "are as strong and long-lasting as our own."

The documentary follows a template employed by other nature documentaries of infusing some of the starring animals with names and personalities. In this case, the matriarch sisters Gaia and Shani, who rely on ancient wisdom and enduring memories to lead their herd, and Shani's mischief-making toddler Jomo. Elephant also keeps our attention by throwing the herd increasingly treacherous obstacles about every 10 minutes of screen time, from sticky mud to roaring rapids to hungry lions and hyenas. The stunning photography of the Kalahari Desert and Victoria Falls is complemented by a stirring soundtrack of African music.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why there are so few elephant herds left in the wild. What do you think has happened to them?

  • The elephants found themselves in many dangerous situations. Which seemed the most threatening to you? Why?

  • How are elephants similar to humans? How are they different?

  • What were some facts you learned about elephants? How could you learn more?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animals

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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