Harvey Movie Poster Image




Jimmy Stewart + a 6' rabbit = a family delight.
  • Review Date: May 28, 2007
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Classic
  • Release Year: 1950
  • Running Time: 105 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The main character is studiously pleasant, polite, and kind to every single being he encounters. Other characters are presented as jealous, dismissive, or controlling, but all are transformed by their contact with this gentle man and his invisible friend.

Violence & scariness

Some wrestling of psychiatric patients into cells and a short but bloodless barroom brawl.

Sexy stuff

Nothing shown, but one character mistakenly concludes that she was going to be sexually assaulted by the orderly at the Sanitarium. Surreptitious romance between the orderly and the character's daughter ensues.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Main character may be alcoholic and spends a great deal of time in bars or making plans to be there. Others discuss alcoholism as the source of his problems, but he seems perfectly functional, and the other bar patrons are much more tolerant of the main character's quirks than his sober friends and family.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie is a gentle, consistently funny, and endearing story of a man who may or may not be crazy and his best friend, an invisible 6-foot 3 1/2-inch rabbit named Harvey. The movie raises the possibility that what defines "crazy" for one person may be the perfect definition of happiness for another. Wonderful acting, rich characters, and nonstop subtle humor will keep children and parents laughing. But there are a number of references to the possibility of alcoholism here and plenty of bar scenes and drinking.

Kids say

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What's the story?

HARVEY, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Mary Chase, is a classic tale of relentlessly pleasant Elwood P. Dowd (Jimmy Stewart) and his best friend Harvey, a white rabbit that only Elwood can see. His eccentric insistence on the real existence of his friend have driven his sister Veta (Josephine Hull, who won an Academy Award for this performance) and niece Myrtle Mae (Peggy Dow) to distraction. They fear that Myrtle Mae will never be accepted into polite society and find a husband with her crazy uncle in the background, and decide to have him committed to a sanitarium called Chumley Rest. They don't bank on other characters having the same reaction to Elwood that the audience might; namely, that they are the ones needing psychiatric confinement and that Elwood is perfectly sane, if a bit unusual.

Is it any good?


Slapstick humor, sophisticated dialogue, and perfect timing combine to create a rare blend of humor and thoughtful commentary about the nature of happiness and mental health.

According to an interview with Stewart from the 1990s included on the DVD, the role of Elwood P. Dowd was one of his very favorites. Mr. Dowd has the magical ability to make those he meets feel better about themselves, and to elevate those special qualities in those around them. Stewart also brings something of his own magical abilities to this film. Watching his Oscar-nominated performance, acting against thin air in his one-sided conversations with Harvey, the viewer can't shake the notion that the rabbit is as real as Elwood believes.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the relationship between Elwood P. Dowd and Harvey. Is Harvey real? Why is Elwood the only one who will admit to seeing him? Have you ever had an imaginary friend, or been able to imagine something that no one else seems to understand? When Veta and Myrtle Mae try to make Elwood go to Chumley Rest, do they do it out of love or cowardice? Why are misunderstood characters so popular in movies and books? What other characters like Elwood can you think of?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 13, 1950
DVD release date:February 6, 2001
Cast:James Stewart, Josephine Hull, Peggy Dow
Director:Henry Koster
Studio:Universal Pictures
Run time:105 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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Parent of a 6 and 10 year old Written bynorthlight April 9, 2008

gentle but with adult themes

Recently watched Harvey with my 10 year old. She enjoyed the imaginary Harvey aspect but the adult themes required a lot of explaining: institutionalization of the mentally ill; involuntary institutionalization; sister Veta explictily mentions the problem with psychiatrists' obsession with S..E... I stiffened a bit and my 10 year old became wide-eyed and confused at that scene. That one scene is a bit of shock for the younger crowd. I do not agree with the 8+ rating, mostly due to this scene and the fact that the comedy of errors is too complicated for younger kids: Veta is institutionalized instead of Elwood and she is understandably traumatized by the experience. I would say 10 at the minimum, but 11 or 12 to understand the humor and very serious themes. For example, the 10 year old did not understand one bar's customer reference to "Yeah, I've been away for 90 days making license plates." The bar scenes are not that offensive; more like a scene from 'Cheers'-local bar where community comes together. There was the inevitable question also: "Where's the rabbit?". So, older is better to fully appreciate the quality of this wonderful film.
Educator and Parent of a 7 year old Written bygrumblekitty November 4, 2011

Fine, just perhaps over young-uns' heads.

I think it's fine for 8 and up, as the review says, but I agree with the other poster that it's a little bit over the heads of the younger audience members. My nearly-8 year old missed nearly all the humor either because it was too subtle or he hadn't had the life experience yet to get the joke. *shrug* This isn't a problem, it's just that it would be more enjoyable for someone a tad older. I remember seeing the play at around 8 and being enchanted with Harvey himself...but my parents hadn't censored ANYthing from me, so I already had a lot more experience than my kid has at the same age.
Parent Written byStepMomSterToo June 26, 2010
This is a great movie. One for the whole family. A great celebration of imagination.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


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