Flowers in the Attic

  • Review Date: January 13, 2014
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 90 minutes

Common Sense Media says

'80s pulp novel gets creepy with evil adults, incest.
  • Review Date: January 13, 2014
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 90 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Since the plot features a family who locks up and then tries to kill the family's children, positive messages are in short supply.

Positive role models

The adults in this movie are terrifying and evil. But Chris and Cathy are resourceful and eventually take their lives into their own hands (while also involved in an incestuous relationship).


The violence is rather tame (whipping and lots of talk of whipping, pushing, slapping), but very scary for kids to watch because it's from an adult authority figure, directed at a helpless child.


Sexual content is limited to kissing, talk, and a scene where two characters lie in bed together with the male character shirtless post-coital, but since the sex in question is between a brother and sister, parents or young viewers may be deeply disturbed.


A few words  like "hell" and "damn," and lots of hissed-between-the-teeth language about children being "devil's spawn" and born evil.


Flowers in the Attic is based on a novel, which viewers may want to read after watching the movie. Since the novel is very racy and controversial, parents may not appreciate that.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

At an adult party, there are what looks like wine glasses and drinks on a table; no one acts drunk.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Flowers in the Attic is a drama based on a very popular 1980s pulp novel about a family whose children are locked in an attic by a scary mother and grandmother. Incest is a major theme since the children are a product of it, and the older siblings eventually become intimate, though only kissing is visible. Violence is limited to whipping, slapping, and shoving with a lot of menacing talk about punishments, but since the violence is doled out by adult authority members, it could be extra frightening for young viewers to watch. A few mild four-letter words are used, and the grandmother calls the children many names, including devil's spawn and devil's issue.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

As FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC opens, the Dollanganger clan has it all. Gorgeous, successful couple Christopher and Corinne (Heather Graham) have four beautiful children: teenage Chris (Mason Dye) and Cathy (Kiernan Shipka), plus young twins Cory and Carrie. But one night, Christopher is killed in a terrible car accident, and, without job skills and unable to support her family, Corinne brings them to the home of her cruel parents. Years ago, they disowned her when she married Christopher who was actually a close-enough relative to make things creepy. The kids, it turns out, are the products of this incestuous relationship. Now Corinne plans to keep them hidden in an attic until she can bring her father around and convince him to let her inherit his millions despite her illicit marriage. Corinne's terrifying mother (Ellen Burstyn) is in on the scheme, and every day brings the children food in a picnic basket, including powdered-sugar doughnuts with one special, menacing ingredient. Corinne comes to visit less and less...and so the loveless and lonely Chris and Cathy turn to each other for their most intimate emotions.

Is it any good?


Parents who remember reading the original book in a breathless rush at camp or hidden under a bedsheet want to know one thing: Does Flowers in the Attic go there? The original book has full-on brother-sister incest, kinda-sorta rape, a murderous mom, and more absolutely purple plot points. Does the TV movie version of Flowers in the Attic have all that stuff? In contrast to the tame 1987 film, yep! Most of the incest action happens offscreen, but there are a couple of decidedly non-filial bro-sis kisses, then cut to Cathy and Chris cuddling in bed and Chris declaring his unending love for her, in a scene that would be kinda sweet if it weren't creepy.

This Flowers of the Attic also nails the menace of the grandmother, with a scene-chewing performance by Ellen Burstyn that could give even adults nightmares. Heather Graham as Corinne and the young actors who play Cory and Carrie aren't as good, but they have less to do in the movie, anyway. Shipka, best known as the nuanced daughter Sally Draper from Mad Men, is a sympathetic character who manages to ground some of the more melodramatic plot points and makes us care about Cathy Dollanganger, at least in the sense that we want to see what will happen next. Not to worry, book-version fans, all the scenes you remember and love are here, and nicely done. This is a guilty pleasure for women of a certain age -- just think carefully before you let the kids see it.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how realistic the story Flowers in the Attic is. Would a set of children really allow themselves to be imprisoned this way? Would they begin looking pale and sick as the Dollanganger children do?

  • How does the original novel Flowers in the Attic compare to the movie? Is it more believable or less? Do you relate more to the characters, or less?

  • Who is the main character in Flowers in the Attic? How can you tell? Is this character heroic or an anti-hero? Why?

Movie details

DVD release date:April 15, 2014
Cast:Ellen Burstyn, Heather Graham, Kiernan Shipka
Director:Deborah Chow
Studio:A&E Home Video
Topics:Brothers and sisters
Run time:90 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of Flowers in the Attic was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 14 years old Written bylucamations January 21, 2014

Very disturbing!!!! *SPOILERS*

this is seriously the most disturbingly gross movie i've ever seen! a sister and brother fall in love and kiss and cuddle and its SOOOO gross! violence and language is surprisingly not an issue, but this movie is SICK!
What other families should know
Too much sex
Adult Written bywonder dove November 12, 2014

Good remake!

Flowers in the Attic was well done for a remake of the original 1987 movie. Good acting but lacked some depth that the original had, it wasn't near as intense in the escape scenes. Teenage Kathy (Kiernan Shipka), Christopher (Mason Dye) and their much younger sibling twins Carrie (Ava Telek) and Cory (Maxwell Kovach) are four beautiful children of mother Corinne (Heather Graham) and father (Chad Willett). When the father is killed in a car wreck, they're left with nothing and Corinne has no choice but to take them to live with her rich parents, an ill father and a religion obsessed mother Olivia (Ellen Burstyn) who torments the children as well as her daughter Corinne specifically for engaging in an incestuous relationship, often brainwashing her grandchildren to be the Devil's Spawn. In order for Corinne to be accepted by her mother and to inherit her fathers millions, she must keep the children a secret by hiding them up in the attic, but months turn into years until Corinne stops visiting her kids and ultimately becomes just like her evil mother as the money and luxury take over her life. They turn to each other for comfort in a time of puberty and adolescents, the brother and sister start to have feelings for each other. When an innocent life is taken, they will stop at nothing to escape the attic but the memories will always live on. Violence has a scene of a woman who was whipped, her back is shown covered in bloody marks. Some screaming, arguing and verbal abuse. Sexual content has kissing of adult couples, an incest relationship between teenage siblings with some mild references, a scene of kissing and waking up under a blanket together (brother shirtless, sex implied), some talk and accusing of incest relationships, a teen boy looks through a magazine of women (not shown). Language is very mild but a lot of religious references to "evil" and the Devil's Spawn and that "God sees everything". Not much drinking shown. Is it worth seeing? Absolutely, but the story is slightly different than the book. Petals on the Wind, the 2nd installment, is also recommended but for mature viewers! This one is okay for 14 and up!
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much violence
Too much sex
Kid, 12 years old May 5, 2014

Great Movie!

Maybe I'm biased because I read the books, but the new adaption of the movie is so much better than the original movie. I rated it Pause for 14 and under because two of the main characters, who are teens and siblings, have an incestuous relationship, even though it only extends to kissing. There are a few curse words, and a grandmother who takes religion too far. A mother slaps both of her children very hard and pays more attention to her money and her new husband. There is also an early death in the movie. Adults drink at a party, but Chris and Cathy are supportive, loving role models and parents to their siblings. Messages include to never give up on hope. Can't wait for the sequel in May.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex


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