He Named Me Malala

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
He Named Me Malala Movie Poster Image
 Parents recommend
Inspiring, deeply affecting docu explores teen icon's life.
  • PG-13
  • 2015
  • 87 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Major themes are courage, integrity, and perseverance. No matter what challenges are thrown at you, you can overcome them as long as you know who you are, stay grounded in what you believe, and speak when your voice needs to be heard. Promotes the importance of family and standing up for what you believe in. Underlines the necessity of education for all children everywhere and portrays school and study in an extremely positive light.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Malala is one of the bravest, most eloquent teenagers out there; she's 100% inspiring. And she's also a typical teenager (albeit one who lives an atypical life), which makes her even more relatable. Her father is her biggest fan (and is thoughtful, brave, and passionate in his own right), her mother is supportive, and her brothers are allies in her fight for girls throughout the world (as well as siblings she sometimes squabbles with).


Though the exact moment when Malala was attacked isn't shown because it wasn't filmed, viewers see images of the bloody scene and moments when she was being prepped for some of her many operations; her bruises and scars are a testament to what she's been through. News footage of armored vehicles, gun-brandishing Taliban enforcers, the aftermath of public executions, fiery explosions, and more hints at the menace that Malala and her neighbors had to deal with. Plenty of talk about threats the Taliban made against others, including beheadings.


Reminisces of Malala's parents' romance; suggestion that Malala fancies certain handsome athletes.


Any product logos appear by happenstance, not for commercial purposes.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Davis Guggenheim's documentary He Named Me Malala is a moving, engrossing, sometimes disturbing, but also delightful documentary about Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, an uncommonly brave teenage girl who's also a world-renowned human rights activist. The film is frank about everything that led to Malala's shooting in 2012, including the increasingly turbulent politics that fed into the event and the subsequent challenges she faced -- and continues to face -- as she moves forward. While there's no graphic imagery that directly reveals the extent of her injuries, viewers do see bloody pictures of the vehicle she was riding in, as well as surgery-prep scenes, and there's news footage showing how almost everyone expected her to die. That, combined with the film's other references to violence and images of gunfire, threats, and explosions, make it too intense for younger viewers, but older tweens and up are likely to find the movie's messages about courage, the importance of education, and standing up for your beliefs absolutely inspiring.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bykissymarks November 1, 2015


My 10-year-old daughter had read the junior version of Malala's book, and so I have no qualms about taking her to see this film... but after having seen it... Continue reading
Adult Written bymom2810 October 17, 2015

Older teens and adults

Not enough positive messaging to overcome the level of violence and adult content. Very disappointed, after reading reviews for the film felt this would be okay... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old December 14, 2016

He named her Malala

I think that this is a good movie for kids that are 11+ years old because it does have some action like showing how she got shot, and there is a little blood, b... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old March 22, 2016

Amazing Documentary

I love Malala's story, and in this documentary, she shows her life. There is violence, like a depiction of her being shot, but it is amazing! I recommend i... Continue reading

What's the story?

In 2012, Malala Yousafzai -- a Nobel Prize-winning Pakistani humanitarian and activist -- was shot in her neighborhood for speaking against the Taliban and advocating for girls' right to be educated in her home country (and around the world). In HE NAMED ME MALALA, director Davis Guggenheim takes an intimate look at Malala's life, both as a public figure and as a teenage daughter/older sister, in the 18 months before she was named the recipient of one of the world's highest honors.

Is it any good?

A chronicle of Malala's achievements alone would make for a fascinating documentary; what sets this film apart is how viewers meet not only the Malala the role model, but also Malala the teenager. Because not only is she one of the most recognizable activists in the world, but she's also an older sister to two boys, a high school student, and -- most movingly -- a daughter to a father who has always recognized her boldness and nurtured her independent spirit, despite the fearsome consequences.

Guggenheim makes use of beautiful animated paintings to depict the Malala of lore, after whom the famous teen is named, imbuing her life with a sense of manifest destiny. Through interviews with Malala, we get to know her as a relatable, three-dimensional figure preoccupied with typical concerns ("will I make friends with the girls at my new school?") and larger global worries ("will I ever see my country again in peace?") He Named Me Malala is both humanizing and inspiring. Bravo!

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how He Named Me Malala compares to the news appearances that Malala has made over the years. Does it help you get to know her in a different way? Why does that matter? What makes her a role model?

  • Parents, talk to your kids about what's happening in the world and how Malala's shooting is more than just a crime. Does the film help explain what happened -- and why? Which has more impact on you -- hearing a story like Malala's, which includes violent moments, or seeing violent scenes in an action movie? Why?

  • How does He Named Me Malala promote courage, integrity, and perseverance? Why are these important character strengths?

  • How does the movie make you feel about school and education? Do you appreciate having access to teachers, schoolbooks, and other learning materials? How does it make you feel to realize so many kids have few or none of these things?

  • What role do the movie's animated paintings play in Malala's story?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love being inspired

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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