Ender's Game

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Ender's Game Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Thought-provoking sci-fi adventure with military violence.
  • PG-13
  • 2013
  • 114 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 21 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 75 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

There are plenty of messages in the movie about moral responsibility, the dangers of offensive wars, the psychological trauma of military training and war on child soldiers, and the importance of peaceful diplomacy, compassion, and empathy in human society. The movie is very inclusive and multicultural, since the global community has formed one international fleet to defend the earth from invasion.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ender is not only brilliant, but he's wise beyond his years. He values his aptitude for compassion and empathy even more than his abilities with strategy and warfare. Ender's sister Valentine is his source of strength and encouragement; communicating with her is his way of staying connected to a kinder, gentler part of him. Ender's squad is full of misfits who all learn to work together and under his command. Petra is a strong female character who can fight just as well as the guys. Characters are racially diverse.


There is both personal and wide-scale violence in the movie. The prologue shows how bug-like aliens killed millions of humans. Ender severely injures two different guys while defending himself against their personal attacks (the first fight is bloody and the second is a fist fight that ends with a head trauma). It's unclear whether either boy survives. Battle and Command School require sparring and strategy games using weapons. An entire planet is destroyed; humans commit genocide against an alien nation. One minor surgery scene shows a bit of blood on a removed implant.


Bonzo is obviously jealous of Ender spending time with Petra and commands him not to train with her. Ender and Petra have a sweet friendship. They hold hands on a couple of occasions, and she comforts him when he's upset.


Insults include "smart-ass," "balls," "jerk," and "coward," plus "crap."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ender's Game is the highly anticipated adaptation of Orson Scott Card's best-selling 1985 sci-fi novel. While there's not any sex and only very minor language, there's a lot of violence in the militaristic story: from two near-fatal personal fights to weapons-based strategy competitions to simulated war battles to the annihilation of an entire planet and alien race. The book author's outspoken political comments have led to controversy surrounding the film, but the film itself promotes positive messages about empathy and moral responsibility, honest communication between adults and children, and peaceful diplomacy as superior to military aggression.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 9-year-old Written byMeerkat.dog.yo December 28, 2015

Violent, yet great film.

The first thing I want to point out, is that "smart-ass" is can be heard at one point in the film. Plus,"mother--ker" in Spanish. Other than... Continue reading
Parent of a 11 and 14-year-old Written byexitedreviewer November 2, 2013

Everything I Could have Wished For!!

Ender's Game is based on one of my favorite novels from when I was a kid. I made my kids read it, and even though they were reluctant, they thanked me aft... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byiiTrxshAxel June 18, 2020

Long Story Short: Read the Book, it's Better

I was a little disappointed in the movie, it left out important, meaningful parts from the book. I expected more. The book is more meaningful. So uhh long story... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byMileydog2015 June 10, 2020

Decent, but not as good as the book

I watched this with my family (who hasn't read the book) shortly after reading the Ender's Game book. I absolutely loved the book, but the movie fell... Continue reading

What's the story?

Based on author Orson Scott Card's beloved sci-fi novel, ENDER'S GAME takes place in the 22nd century, after humans suffered millions of losses during an invasion from the Formics, an insect-like alien race. Not wanting to be caught defenseless in the event of another attack, the world governments created an international fleet that trains gifted children for military service. At a military academy, Colonel Hyram Graff (Harrison Ford) singles out Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a humble young genius, for promotion to Battle School -- in space -- for further training. Ender performs so flawlessly he's promoted again to Command School and is offered an opportunity to command the entire fleet -- making him humanity's only hope against the Formics.

Is it any good?

It must've been daunting to adapt such a complex military sci-fi novel into an accessible film for young and adult audiences; writer-director Gavin Hood should be commended for his screenplay. It streamlines the story down to its core: protagonist Ender Wiggin's development from childhood prodigy to genius military commander. Ender is one of the most compelling (and messianic) young protagonists since Harry Potter hit the big screen. Like Harry, Ender is "chosen" and must live up to his reputation, but unlike Harry, Ender doesn't get any chances to just hang out with friends. He's being groomed to command not to have fun.

The performances are all spot-on, with Hugo star Butterfield growing into an impressive (and intense) teen actor. Hailee Steinfeld is well suited to be courageous and compassionate Petra, and the rest of the young actors -- including Abigail Breslin in a pivotal supporting role as Ender's loving older sister Valentine and Hannah Montana alum Moises Arias as Ender's Napoleonic rival -- do a fine job of keeping up with the adults. The grownups are extraordinarily good at playing well-meaning but morally ambiguous characters: Ford; Viola Davis as military psychologist Major Anderson; and a late appearance by a Kiwi-accented Ben Kingsley (reuniting with his Hugo co-star) as legendary military general, Mazur Rackham. With its talented cast, thought-provoking themes, and pulse-pounding battle simulations, Ender's Game is a sci-fi flick with surprising depth and moral insight.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about one of the movie's central themes: compassion/diplomacy versus cruelty/warfare. How is Ender gifted at both war and peace? In the end, do you agree with Ender or with Col. Graff?

  • How are the relationships between adults and children portrayed in the movie? Are the miscommunications, omissions of truth, and expectations of obedience realistic?

  • This movie is controversial, partly because of political remarks made by the book's author. Should you separate a work of art from its creator or not? What does it depend on?

  • On one hand, the officers tell the young soldiers that their peers are competition not friends, but on the other hand, they expect the soldiers to work together under a leader. Are these ideas contradictory or can competitiveness still strengthen teamwork? 

  • Those who've read the book, how does the movie compare?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sci-fi

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