Flowers in the Attic

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Flowers in the Attic Movie Poster Image
Book-turned-movie skips the incest but keeps the creepy.
  • PG-13
  • 1987
  • 93 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Some people will betray anyone, even those closest to them, if the price is right. A mother must choose between her children and a massive inheritance, and opts to abandon them completely to a terrible fate.

Positive Role Models & Representations

None of the characters are good role models. A mother chooses money over her children and a grandmother seems to relish abusing her grandchildren. And while the kids are clearly the victims in the film, the teenage brother and sister begin to display amorous feeling for each other, though this element of the story is not developed.


A few intense conflicts, including a mother slapping her children, young kids biting and scratching their grandmother, and a teen beating an old woman with a heavy stick. One scene implies that a woman is about to be whipped, and she later reveals that her back is covered with bloody welts.


Though there is no sex, the atmosphere is sometimes sexually charged. Four children are confined in a small attic for a lengthy period, and the teenage son and daughter both seem to develop a sexual interest in each other. The son sometimes washes his sister’s back while she bathes, and they exchange longing glances. This incestuous relationship is a key part of the book upon which the film is based, but in the movie it never goes beyond looks, nor is it even explicitly acknowledged.


One character, in a moment of rage, exclaims “damn you to hell.”

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this creepy thriller focuses on four siblings in a horrible situation, virtually imprisoned by an abusive grandmother in the isolated attic of a huge mansion. There are a few fight scenes that may not seem very violent compared to the shootouts of they typical action film, but they seem more intense because the participants are family members, including young children and an elderly woman. The kids’ feelings of powerlessness and despair could be tough for younger viewers. The movie suggests, but only barely, the themes of incest that were a central element in the popular book upon which this is based. There’s no nudity or sex, but a few scenes show the teenage girl and boy in moments that seem to border on the inappropriate.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byknuckleheadmom October 22, 2020

Suspenseful 80’s Film

This movie is very mild. It is often labeled as a horror movie but it is more like a lifetime movie thriller. Language is clean. There is no sex. Mild violence.... Continue reading
Adult Written by90210fan March 16, 2011
Love it as good as the book if u let ur teens watch soaps let them read the book series and watch the movie
Teen, 16 years old Written byJohn A. October 23, 2018

Rated 15 (Contains scenes of child abuse and disturbing images.).

SEX/NUDITY - Some passing references to incest, and very brief nudity. VIOLENCE/GORE - Some moments of moderate violence, and scenes of domestic abuse towards c... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byCoolbeansIE August 5, 2018

Waste of time

This is nothing like the book, they missed all the important parts, skimmed thru the whole thing. Bad and terrible actors, cheap knock-off of the book. If for s... Continue reading

What's the story?

Life is nearly perfect for the Dollanger family until the father is killed in a car accident, leaving Corinne (Victoria Tennant) with no means to support herself or her four kids. Desperate for money, she makes a hard decision: return to her family estate, make amends with her estranged, and very wealthy parents, and hope to be reinstated into her dying father’s will. Soon after they arrived to a less-than-enthusiastic welcome, the children are shocked when their grandmother insists they be hidden away in an abandoned attic. Hinting at some long-hidden scandal, the grandmother says her sick husband cannot know they even exist -- ever -- and locks the door behind her, imprisoning the teenage Cathy (Kristy Swanson) and Chris and their much younger twin siblings. Long days in their confined quarters turn into weeks, and then months. And as their mother’s visits become more and more infrequent, their grandmother (Louise Fletcher) becomes more and more abusive and tyrannical.

Is it any good?

Based on a popular pulp novel, FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC is a strange bird, despite the story's iconic status. The acting is stiff, the dialog stilted and production values are low. Fans of author V.C. Andrews’ book of the same name may protest. It keeps much of the key details, but eliminates completely the themes that made the book a bestseller. In the book, the teenage Chris and Cathy, confined together for so long as their adolescent hormones surge, develop romantic feelings for each other. This is a novel about forbidden love -- which, of course, was immensely appealing, though disturbing, to readers. The film however, glosses over this, but heightens the cheesy fear factor. It's also a miserable watch: Nothing hopeful happens, really, and in the end, it's hard to maingine what the point really is.The movie comes across as simply about a dysfunctional woman who tortures her grandchildren and her daughter who loses her way. As flowers go, this one's pretty wilted.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the impact of money. What do you think of the mother’s decision to trade her kids' freedom for a shot at a big inheritance? Why do people do bad things for money? Have you ever done something you're not proud of in the quest for money?

  • How is the abuse and violence seen in this film different from more violent shoot-em-up action movies? Does one make a deeper impact than the other?

  • How much license do you think a director can take when adapting a popular novel for the big screen? Do you think the director went too far in this film?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love to be scared

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