Flowers in the Attic

Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Flowers in the Attic Movie Poster Image
'80s pulp novel gets creepy with evil adults, incest.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 90 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

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 & Representations

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
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 inte... Continue reading
Adult Written byVanillacola February 20, 2016

Flowers in the attic

I have never watched the movie but I read the book last year in 8th grade when I was13. Based on what happens in the book this should be for older teens. There... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bylaura926 February 17, 2014

Not bad adaptation to the novel!

The many gist of the story is probably inappropriate for young children, and possibly some teenagers. The movie is dark, and creepy, and also has some scary ima... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byjacobsavva June 18, 2020

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?

This is a guilty pleasure for women of a certain age -- just think carefully before you let the kids see it. 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.

Talk to your kids 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

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