Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Poster Image
Delightful but dark Potter prequel is more grown-up.
  • PG-13
  • 2016
  • 133 minutes
 Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 32 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 92 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive messages

This movie's messages, while grounded in the wizarding world, have applications in the real world, too: Learn about a creature (or person) instead of assuming it's dangerous, be open-minded in interactions with those who aren't like you, and work together against the forces of darkness. Compassion is a theme.

Positive role models & representations

Newt Scamander is a wonderful role model. He cares for, studies, and protects magical creatures. He wants them to be understood, not feared. He's curious, determined, and disciplined in his work and compassionate and kind in his dealings with others -- not to mention courageous. Tina Goldstein is persistent and confident even though she's no longer an Auror. Queenie is a kind, loving sister who sees beyond the fact Jacob is a No-Maj. Jacob gets over his initial fear to bravely help Newt.

Violence

Mass destruction, and a few character deaths and injuries. A force of suppressed, out-of-control magic kills two No-Maj characters pretty hideously. Wizards and witches engage in wand battle. A wizard and witch are sentenced to die in a pool of an acid-like substance. Credence's mother beats him; a scene shows him taking off his belt and handing it to her -- his hands are later shown with welts and cuts.

Sex

Queenie is in a slip when first shown; she puts her dress on in front of male guests, one of whom ogles her. She also changes into a nightie and alludes to a man thinking what most boys think when they first see her. Two characters kiss. Another couple stares longingly at each other and holds each other.

Language

"Merlin's Beard," "hell," "bugger," "freak," "anus."

Consumerism

No brands are featured in the movie, but the film is part of the global Harry Potter phenomenon that has spawned countless products, from toys to games, clothing, and more.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

A scene takes place in a speakeasy; characters order drinks at the bar -- specifically, a magical drink implied to contain alcohol that's called "giggle water" (it literally makes characters giggle). A supporting character smokes a cigar.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a prequel to the Harry Potter movies. Based on J.K. Rowling's original story, it takes place in 1920s New York City and follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a magizoologist and author of a Hogwarts textbook that catalogs magical creatures. As per usual in the Potter saga, you can expect plenty of fantasy violence, some of which ends in deaths (a couple are pretty gruesome). There's also mass destruction, although the property destroyed is magically fixed, and the minds of the No-Maj ("no magic") folks are always erased. Wizards engage in wand battles, two wizards are sentenced to death and nearly killed, and an out-of-control form of magic nearly destroys whole swaths of Manhattan. A character's mother beats him with a belt (welts, cuts are shown on his hands). One scene takes place in a speakeasy, where adult characters order drinks, and there's a bit of light romance between couples that ends in goodbye kisses, longing looks, and brief caresses. Unlike the original Harry Potter movies, the main characters here are all adults, and the story is much more of a grown-up suspense/thriller than a kid-centric adventure. But themes and messages include curiosity, compassion, and courage, and the main characters are all strong role models.

User Reviews

Adult Written byjllsmom November 17, 2016

Very dark

This movie was visually stunning. And the best part - by far - is the beasts! However, this is a very dark movie with significant violence and death, and very...
Parent of a 7 and 11 year old Written byNick S. November 18, 2016

Great scary movie not for sensitive children

This film lacks the charm of the Harry Potter films. I missed the end of the movie because my 7 year old was so upset by the violence. Don't take the pg...
Teen, 15 years old Written byelijah batz November 17, 2016

Great for families!

This movie is a masterpiece that definitely deserves a spot in the Harry Potter universe. Super entertaining story and characters. I had a great time at this mo...
Teen, 14 years old Written byMara_Jade November 19, 2016

WOW

I loved this movie, it was really good, and completely lived up to Harry Potter standards! (How could it not, with JK Rowling writing it) However, I agree with...

What's the story?

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM opens in 1926. British magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arrives in Manhattan with a briefcase full of magical creatures. Unfortunately for Scamander, a few of his friends -- which are illegal to breed or keep in the United States -- escape right around the same time that the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) is investigating a series of dark magical events. When demoted Auror (magical law enforcement officer) Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) discovers that Scamander has not only lost a few of his beasts but has also exposed a No-Maj (short for "no magic" -- the American term for Muggles) bystander, Kowalski (Dan Fogler), to the magical realm, she tries to bring him in, only to be shooed away by her superiors. Eventually, the two men, Tina, and her mind-reading sister, Queenie (Alison Sudol), end up working together to find Newt's missing creatures and clear their names of any connection to the forces of darkness that have killed a prominent No-Maj. Meanwhile, Director of Magical Security Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) is quietly tracking the possible source of the dark magic.

Is it any good?

Immersing yourself in JK Rowling's magical universe is always entertaining, but fans should know that this exploration of America's wizarding world is definitely a more grown-up movie. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them isn't set in child-friendly Hogwarts, full of House-sorted students going to class and learning about magical creatures. This is 1920s Manhattan, where magical characters face a very separatist attitude toward those without magic, as well as a frightening dark force that's a threat to all New Yorkers. The period cityscape provides a wonderful contrast to Scamander's amazing personal zoo, which he keeps hidden in his briefcase (that briefcase must use an even more impressive spell than Hermione's purse in Deathly Hallows). All the wildly imaginative creatures are a marvel to look at, from the adorable Niffler, who loves to hunt for shiny things, to the Groot-like Bowtruckle, to the enormous hippo-like Erumpent and the awesome Thunderbird.

The performances are led by a perfectly cast Redmayne as the curious, kind Scamander, who just wants to protect the magical creatures. Fogler is fabulous as his No-Maj friend, a factory worker who dreams of owning a bakery. The Goldstein sisters are opposites but both easy to root for -- with smart, capable Tina a bit reminiscent of Hermione and Queenie a lovely, Luna Lovegood-esque optimist. The villains aren't quite as grand as the Big Bad Voldemort, but it's clear that the anti-"witch" New Salemers (including secretly magic-curious Credence, played with creepy goodness by Ezra Miller) and whoever is suppressing and unleashing their magic aren't the only people to be wary of in New York. The characters' developing friendships and romances are kept pretty tween appropriate, but the violence and themes might be too much for single-digit-aged Potterheads.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which can be very dark and disturbing at times, is appropriate for younger Harry Potter fans. What parts might be too much? (For more, check out our age-by-age guide to Harry Potter.)

  • Is Newt Scamander a role model? How does he demonstrate curiosity, courage, and compassion? Why are those important character strengths? What about the other characters? Are Tina and Queenie strong female characters?

  • What are some of the dangers of bullying and abuse? What effect did bullying and abuse have on Credence? Can keeping magic inside be a parallel for keeping emotions bottled up? What are healthy ways to express emotions?

  • Newt cares very deeply about his magical creatures, even though many people think they're dangerous. Is there an environmental message in the movie? Why are things scarier when they're unknown?

  • What are some of the differences and similarities between the American and British wizarding communities? What do you think about the laws forbidding American wizards from marrying or even interacting with a "no-maj"? What parallels can be drawn to the real world?

Movie details

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