Fiddler on the Roof

Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Fiddler on the Roof Movie Poster Image
Epic musical story of Jews facing religious persecution.
  • G
  • 1971
  • 186 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 14 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The inherent evil of religious persecution is portrayed and can easily be extended to include all bigotry toward minorities. As a counterpoint, the film shows the resilience and strength of the oppressed people, as well as the powerful family and community ties which helped them survive with unbreakable spirit. In addition, as the world rapidly evolves because of expanding communication, increased multiculturalism, and changing values, even the most precious traditions may be left behind. Additional themes include compassion and empathy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Traditional old school family roles, with an all-powerful father, a submissive mother, and dutiful children, are examined in this film. In a loving, but dictatorial household, three teen daughters begin to demand the right to make decisions for themselves and follow their own hearts. Both parents learn to accept more limited control over their children and their future. Most, but not all of the Russian soldiers, are portrayed as brutal and bigoted. Most, but not all of the Jews in the village, accept their victimization.

Violence

There are a number of incidents which show religious persecution of the Jewish population in a small Russian village. A young girl is accosted and bullied by some teens. Soldiers on horseback threaten the residents, vandalize the town, disrupt a wedding, knock people down and destroy their belongings. Finally, all the Jews are expelled from the village; soldiers order them from their homes at sword point, dispersing crowds, and manhandling everyone. A comic, but scary, musical dream sequence conjures up ghostly presences which pop up from graves and float in the air. The dead return to life to frighten the living.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

On several occasions alcoholic beverages are consumed either for religious ceremonial purposes or in celebration. In one festive sequence, the hero and many of his cronies get very drunk. He suffers a hangover the next day.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Fiddler on the Roof tackles numerous social and political issues within a religious context, including the concepts of interfaith marriages, gender roles, socialism, religious intolerance, and more. Smaller children may be spooked by the movie's portrayal of the violence of the Russian soldiers, and may also be frightened by the film's ending, in which the inhabitants of a small Jewish village are forced out of their homes by soldiers. Expect some celebratory drinking.

User Reviews

Adult Written bywhateverfloats September 14, 2009
Adult Written byCommonSenseChristian December 31, 2012

Climb on Up--Just Watch for some Slippery Shingles

Another gem of musical film, "Fiddler" is my second favorite. Tevye's struggle to balance tradition with wanting to let their daughters follow th... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byCSM Screen Name... April 9, 2008

Best Musical of All Time

Absolutely the best musical ever written! The songs are unbelievable, the messages and morals are inspiring and thought-provovking, and there's even a tou... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byWayward Girl September 6, 2012

GREAT film

This is such a powerful and amazing movie. It rocks. It has many inspiring messages in it, it has catchy songs, and it's even kind of funny. It's grea... Continue reading

What's the story?

FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is an epic musical that is both a boisterous, comic look at rural life in a Ukrainian village, and a serious portrait of the sweeping, tragic changes the 1905 Russian Revolution forced on Russian Jews. The film centers on a humble agrarian family: milkman Tevye (Zero Mostel) is a devout Jew desperately attempting to hold onto his faith's traditions in the face of both the rebellious actions of his three marrying-age daughters and the increasingly ominous intimidation of Czarist officials. Fiddler starts off as a joyous trifle, with Tevye questioning his station in life in "If I Were a Rich Man," and his daughters wishing for ideal husbands in "Matchmaker." But the upbeat tone of the musical's first half makes the second half, which delves into the politics of the brewing Russian Revolution and introduces the terrible specter of exile and the Jewish diaspora, all the more disturbing.

Is it any good?

It's the dichotomy of this film that makes it a daring, thought-provoking departure from traditional stage musicals. At the heart of Fiddler on the Roof is, of course, tradition; the title itself refers to the instability of life, against which tradition provides support. But this movie musical marks the ways in which such traditions are eroded, both for good (the viewer is presented with sympathetic portraits of Tevye's daughters and their unconventional choices of husbands), and decidedly bad (the pogrom that sweeps Anatevka's villagers from their homes is hauntingly realistic).

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the importance of religious traditions like the ones shown in Fiddler on the Roof: are they stifling to individuality or do they provide a moral framework that imbues everyday life with meaning?

  • Talk about parental authority. What happens when children flout their parents' wishes? Teens: How do you handle conflicts with your parents?

  • What are the big messages of this film? How are the movie's messages relevant to today's cultural and political issues?

  • How do the characters in Fiddler on the Roof demonstrate compassion, communication, and empathy? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

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