Girl Rising

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Girl Rising Movie Poster Image
Powerful docu explains why all girls need an education.
  • PG-13
  • 2013
  • 101 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 4 reviews

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

Positive Messages

Girl Rising's message is loud and clear: Girls in many parts of the world don't have the access they need to attend school and receive an education. Many girls in the Fourth World are kept at home, offered up in early marriage, and even "sold" into forced labor. The movie stresses that the rest of the world needs to take notice and take action to help educate girls and free them from the literal and figurative bonds that keep them illiterate, uneducated, and subservient. Perseverance, courage, compassion, and empathy are all major themes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Each of the featured girls is a powerful role model; all have faced -- and in many cases overcome -- unthinkable odds and obstacles to go to school, better themselves, and believe in their futures. They write poetry, sing, give advice on the radio, draw, and dance as outlets for their creativity and intelligence. All young girls should see what it's like for their counterparts in the developing world; it would help girls from the First World to not take their schooling for granted.


One of the girls recalls that she was raped, and nothing was done to convict her attacker. Another girl discusses how her father, a gold miner, died. And another explains how horrible it was to be a child servant/bonded laborer in Nepal. Most of the girls experience cultural and societal prejudice.


Mention of brothels as being the inevitable destination and source of employment for poor girls in a remote village in the Peruvian Andes. One section explains how child brides must be a certain age or they will be "split open" by their husbands.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One girl mentions that a grown man (who ended up raping her) offered her alcohol to drink.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Girl Rising is an informative, educational documentary about the lives of impoverished girls living in countries where education for girls isn't a priority. Directed by Oscar-nominated documentarian Richard Robbins (Operation Homecoming) and narrated by A-list stars including Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Selena Gomez, the film explores the dangerous inequalities that girls and young women face in parts of the world. Some of the segments deal with intense and disturbing topics including slavery, child marriage, rape, and human trafficking. There are matter-of-fact discussions of these issues, but nothing graphic is shown.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymartha_pdx April 21, 2013

appropriate for tweens and teens

This is an inspiring movie that highlights the importance of education for girls in the developing world. Many of the things in the girls lives are hard - child... Continue reading
Parent of a 9, 13, and 15-year-old Written byKaren S November 6, 2017

9 stories, some good for age 5+ and others best for age 10-12+

Some stories in the film are appropriate for an elementary audience and some better for ages 10-12+. The movie is all about girls' education, although the... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old May 29, 2016

Heartwarming And Heartbreaking.

Girl Rising is one of the saddest movies, as all of these girls have gone through such terrible things while it seems like most American kids live in luxury. Th... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old March 22, 2016

I want to watch it a second time

Girl Rising, like He Named Me Malala, is so empowering. Girls from around the world talk about their lives outright.

What's the story?

GIRL RISING tells the stories of various impoverished girls -- most of them adolescents -- from the developing world. Directed by Richard Robbins, the girls' heartbreaking but ultimately uplifting tales include a young, low-caste Nepalese girl who has been sold as a "kamlari" (indentured servant to a wealthy family), an Ethiopian 13-year-old whose widowed mother considers arranging a marriage for her, a Peruvian teen whose prospects seem to be either the mine or the brothel, and several more. Except for one girl who is raped and another who's already a teen mother without independent rights, the girls featured in the documentary have opportunities for a better future through education.

Is it any good?

It can be difficult to watch some of the film’s powerful vignettes, but it's important to push past the sadness, the discomfort, and even the horror of how these girls are exploited and oppressed. Even though upsetting issues are explored, Girl Rising is the kind of stirring documentary that parents should watch with their mature tweens or teens and then discuss the ideas it raises -- girl empowerment, education, and equality. 

All of the stories are touching and deserving of attention. Senna's tale is particularly compelling and hopeful. Named after Xena: Warrior Princess, Senna is from the remote town of La Rinconada, Peru, in the Andes and goes to school at the command of her father, who eventually dies after a gold-mining accident. She discovers the words of Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo that inspire her to honor her father's memory, to claim her right to learn, and to have as bright a future as she can imagine. If only every girl, regardless of where she was born, could be assured the same.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the importance of empowering girls and recognizing that girls/women should have the same rights as boys/men. What does Girl Rising teach us about the way girls are raised in other countries?

  • Which girl's story most impacted you? What opportunities do you have that these girls have to hope and fight for?

  • How can you help spread the word that girls -- all girls -- deserve a shot at being educated? 

  • How does Girl Rising promote perseverance and courage? What about compassion and empathy? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

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