Ghost in the Shell (1996)

Movie review by
Tony Nigro, Common Sense Media
Ghost in the Shell (1996) Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
An intellectual, violent ancestor of The Matrix.
  • NR
  • 1996
  • 82 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 20 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 19 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages
Positive Role Models & Representations

The Major may inspire some philosophical discussion on the nature of humanity, but she's not really a role model.


Graphic, video game-style violence.


Frequent animated nudity.


Strong language in the English translation.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ghost in the Shell is an anime movie with lots of stylized violence along the lines of The Matrix. Many people get shot. Blood spurts and heads are crushed. The lead character has a tendency to fight in the nude. There are other assorted scenes of animated nudity. Characters frequently use profanity. The movie's philosophical and metaphysical ideas blur the line between good and bad.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 18+-year-old Written bySircjalot June 10, 2021

Great anime movie that inspired the matrix. Not for Kids

Deep thought-provoking cyberpunk movie. This movie is quite violent. A scene where man head is completely blown open, few intense bloody gun fights throughout t... Continue reading
Adult Written byaslaug13 January 24, 2015

NOT for children or teens. Period.

I have been an anime/manga junky most of my life. I have been to a number of Comic-Cons, and conventions that have been centered around this genre. I am 43 now,... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byMoreCommonSense January 16, 2021

Introspective movie with partial nudity

This movie reflects on what it means to be human, and it does that with some violence and partial nudity. There are many positive messages, such as an overarchi... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byevolinag September 14, 2012

Philosophical science fiction anime contains some strong violence, nudity.

"Ghost in the Shell" is an infamous science fiction that is often called the preceeder of the Wachowski's "Matrix". And yes, the visual... Continue reading

What's the story?

Set in the year 2029, GHOST IN THE SHELL is a detective noir story centered on Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg undercover agent on the trail of the Puppet Master, a powerful hacking virus run amok. Kusanagi has been cybernetically altered to the point of questioning her humanity and the existence of her "ghost," or her soul. The Puppet Master's quest for a human shell and thus, sanctuary as a life form, only adds to Kusanagi's existential dilemma.

Is it any good?

In a post-Matrix world, this landmark Japanese animation film may seem dated, but it's one of the most daring anime films to make it Stateside. It's a classic provocative piece of animation that works alongside Blade Runner in the sub-genre of philosophical science fiction. The special effects and shoot-em-ups do not get in the way of the story's question about what it means to be human. 

On the other hand, the movie can be turgid; alternating abruptly between fast and furious action and slow and stilted dialogue. Thoughtful as it may be, the film's plot is at times, too complex for its own good. Nonetheless, this is a unique movie, and in the U.S. lent much-needed credibility to anime, consequently paving the way for more adult-themed animation. Ghost in the Shell may have its faults, but no one can deny its status as a trailblazer.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the themes of humanity, the idea of the "ghost," or soul, and Ghost in the Shell's clear influence on the Matrix franchise.

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love anime and sci-fi

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate