Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Ferdinand Movie Poster Image
 Parents recommendPopular with kids
Sweet story about compassion, nonviolence has a few scares.
  • PG
  • 2017
  • 106 minutes

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 84 reviews

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 38 reviews

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

Educational Value

Viewers will learn about some of the cultural traditions surrounding the Spanish style of bullfighting, including some of the controversy related to the sport. They may also learn more about how sport animals are kept and treated and may have some questions about other animals, like racehorses. A few lines of dialogue are in Spanish. 

Positive Messages

Ferdinand's refusal to fight in the ring and his confidence in his nonviolent stance sends a strong message of individuality. He learns how to work out his problems without fighting, through quick and innovative thinking, as well as kindness and humor. His fellow animals often call him things like "soft" or "flower boy," which implies that he's somehow weak or unmasculine. While these messages are subverted by the movie's ending -- Ferdinand is clearly a strong character -- they may still have an impact on young viewers. Themes include compassion and courage.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ferdinand is a gentle and loving bull; he has obstacles but finds a way to get around them without compromising his principles. His character is happiest pursuing traditionally feminine pursuits (gardening, dancing, spending time with family), but he's also proudly strong and powerful. He doesn't believe that his interests are the only "right way"; he encourages his new friends to find their own "thing" that makes them happy. Nina has a tender relationship with him and accepts him as he is. Lupe is a daffy underdog who sees in Ferdinand her chance to back a winning horse, and she's a loyal friend. The largely male cast does include some stereotypes, such as Valiente, an aggressive bull voiced by an Italian actor with "tough guy" intonations, and a trio of high-stepping horses who have German accents and snooty "Euro" mannerisms. But many of the male characters learn, thanks to Ferdinand, that fighting and aggression aren't their only options.

Violence & Scariness

Whether or not Ferdinand can -- or should -- compete in the violent Spanish sport of bullfighting is the movie's central question, and the final scenes take place in a bullfighting ring during a match. Ferdinand is slashed and threatened with spears; he also charges a bullfighter and sends him flying into the air (no blood; the man appears shortly after, unharmed). Ferdinand's friends grimly sum up what happens to bulls: Either they die in the ring or go to the "chop shop" (a tense rescue scene takes place in the latter, with dangerous machines and many near-misses). Heroic characters talk about fighting for "glory." At one point, Ferdinand's dad leaves for a match and never returns, leaving Ferdinand to call after him and weep. In several scenes, Ferdinand runs amok after being frightened or hurt; he knocks things over and butts people with his horns; at other times, Ferdinand protects smaller animals and a baby. 

Sexy Stuff

Lupe the Goat has a few lines with mild innuendo: e.g., looking over Ferdinand's bottom, she says, "A plus on the flank, mama likey!" in an admiring way. 


No cursing, but Ferdinand and other bulls who aren't tough and aggressive are frequently called names like "flower boy," "soft," and "puny bag of bones." Bulls are also called "loser" and "dork." Also "sucks," "dumb," "stupid," and some crude humor, as when Lupe says that a group of bulls will be so surprised to see Ferdinand that they'll "fertilize the lawn." 


Nothing in the film, but plenty of offscreen merchandising.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ferdinand is an animated movie based on Munro Leaf's classic children's book about a bull who prefers flowers and friendship to aggression and fighting. The movie has strong messages of nonviolence, respect for Ferdinand's principles, and the friendships that can develop between creatures who are very different from each other. Ferdinand finds clever ways to avoid violence and conflict, including humor and kindness. That said, in some scenes, Ferdinand and other bulls (particularly those who aren't physically large and aggressive) are called things like "soft," "flower boy," "loser," and "dork," though the message sent by these names is ultimately undermined by Ferdinand's nonviolent triumph. Expect a few potentially sad and/or scary scenes: Ferdinand is slashed with a spear when he's trying to avoid a bullfight, a tense rescue scene takes place in a meat-processing facility, a baby is in danger in a large crowd (Ferdinand protects her), and Ferdinand sends people flying into the air (no one appears hurt). One character says that either bulls die in the bullring or go to the "chop shop." A young bull loses his dad (offscreen); we see him searching for his father and crying when he realizes his dad won't be coming back. There's some crude humor and innuendo: One character says a bunch of bulls will "fertilize the lawn" after being surprised, and a female character admires a male character's physique. And while Ferdinand is a strong, confident character who's a great role model of courage and compassion, some supporting characters are depicted a little stereotypically: An aggressive bull is voiced by an Italian actor with "tough mob guy" flavor, and some horses are given German accents and snooty "European" mannerisms. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byNina W. December 22, 2017

Not at all what I was expecting

My nine year old calls it the "death" movie. I think Ferdinand's message is lost amongst the images of the chop shop and bull horns on the wall.... Continue reading
Parent Written byC K December 17, 2017

Very confronting

I went with my little girl and she cried the whole movie ! I wanted to cry too! Having to explain bull fighting practices including stabbing the bull and as a... Continue reading
Kid, 7 years old January 13, 2018

worth seeing

its a good movie but it is not the best because they say some mean name calling that i don't like. but there are some good messages in the movie too so tha... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byCavindishPotato January 1, 2018

Good movie but slightly more mature than you would expect

It was a good movie but I think it's for more mature kids because the movie contains violence and some rude humour like the goat admiring Ferdinand's... Continue reading

What's the story?

FERDINAND (John Cena) was born to be a fighting bull, bred to compete with matadors in the Spanish bullfighting ring. But he prefers flowers and friendship to training and fighting, which disgusts and mystifies many other bulls at the farm, including tough Valiente (Bobby Cannavale). When Ferdinand discovers the true fate of fighting bulls -- death, not the glory promised by Ferdinand's powerful father (Jeremy Sisto) -- he makes a desperate bid for freedom and finds a happy home at the flower farm of Juan (Juanes) and his daughter, Nina (Lily Day). Life is beautiful on the farm until the fateful day Ferdinand is mistaken for a dangerous beast and forced into a matador battle. Can he escape without anyone getting hurt -- especially him? 

Is it any good?

Based on the 1936 children's book The Story of Ferdinand, this charming tale about a lover-not-a-fighter bull is surprisingly relevant for a vintage property. Ferdinand is a gentle giant who's -- literally -- bullied by his peers. They tell him, in not so friendly ways, that fighting is expected of him, and that his habit of admiring and sniffing flowers is suspect. It's a message that may resonate with children who struggle with traditional gender roles (and the parents who work hard to support them). When Ferdinand finally escapes the bare, brutal farm on which he was raised and gallops up a green hill strewn with flowers, we see that he's found a place where he can be himself, accepted and appreciated just as he is. It's positively beautiful, and sensitive viewers may find themselves welling up while wishing every person who doesn't feel like they fit in could find a place just like that. 

For their part, young viewers will find Ferdinand lots of fun. A trio of wisecracking manic hedgehogs keeps Ferdinand on his toes during the movie's second act, and Ferdinand's "calming goat," Lupe (Kate McKinnon), is a lovable goofball in the Dory tradition. The songs are a little anemic, and there are a few plot holes (why doesn't Nina age as Ferdinand grows from calf to bull?), but the serious message this movie sends is a great one for our times, or any times. "It looks like weird is the new normal," observes one character -- and if that's not true, it ought to be. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Ferdinand's theme of following traditions vs. personal principles. Which characters in Ferdinand are role models, and which character strengths do they demonstrate?

  • Why do you think stories about young characters who run away and go through difficult experiences to find out about themselves are popular? What does Ferdinand learn? How do his experiences away from the farm help him grow? Could he have grown in the same way if he didn't return to the farm after living with Juan and Nina? Do difficult experiences teach us more than easy ones? 

  • How does Ferdinand show courage by refusing to follow traditions he doesn't agree with despite criticism from other characters? How does compassion for other creatures figure into his personal code?

  • Is Ferdinand a hero? What ways would you want to be like Ferdinand, and what ways would you want to be different? How does his character defy gender stereotypes? Why is it important for kids to see a wide range of behavior from both genders in the media they consume?

  • Did you think any parts of the movie were scaryHow much scary stuff can young kids handle? Who do you think is the ideal audience for this movie? Why?

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