Heaven Is for Real Movie Poster Image

Heaven Is for Real

Extremely earnest drama explores issues of family and faith.
Popular with kidsParents recommend
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 100 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The power of faith is a central theme of the film, which encourages viewers to consider their own beliefs. It also provides a positive depiction of a happily married couple who aren't bored or unhappy with their marriage.

Positive role models

Todd is an engaging orator, a kind pastor, and a loving husband and father. Colton is matter-of-fact about his experiences and doesn't say anything to try to change anyone's mind; he's sure of himself. The Burpos have a strong and faithful marriage that's portrayed as affectionate and passionate, even though they don't always agree.


A grown man falls and suffers a painful fracture during a softball game; he later has debilitating kidney stones that cause him to collapse in public and scream in pain. A boy has a near-fatal case of appendicitis. A girl punches two boys who make fun of her brother.


Several kisses and embraces between a married couple. The wife whispers something (presumably suggestive) in her husband's ear about what she'll do if he agrees to go on an impromptu vacation.


A couple of uses of "Lord" and "God" as exclamatory phrases.


Products and brands visible or featured include Adidas, Ford, Spider-Man, Peg Perego, Coca-Cola, Palmolive, Florida's Natural orange juice, Google, and Sony Vaio laptop.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Heaven Is for Real is a faith-based family drama inspired by Nebraska pastor Todd Burpo's best-selling memoir about his son Colton's alleged experiences in heaven when he was 4 years old. The movie, like the book, proposes that, during surgery, young Colton (who never died on the operating table) somehow visited heaven, proving that the afterlife exists. While there's not much questionable content in the movie overall, a few scenes show characters in pain or injured, and there's one scene in which the Burpos' school-aged daughter punches two boys making fun of her brother. There's also a fair bit of kissing and marital affection (though certainly nothing that could be considered graphic), as well as one suggestive (but unheard) comment. Young kids may not understand some of the movie's mature issues, and some families may feel more comfortable with the religious subject matter than others.

What's the story?

In HEAVEN IS FOR REAL, Todd Burpo (Greg Kinnear) is Imperial, Nebraska's, jack of all trades: He's head pastor at an evangelical church, a volunteer for the fire department, a wrestling coach at the high school, and the owner of a garage door company. He and his wife, Sonja (Kelly Reilly), are having financial problems, so after two back-to-back injuries (a leg fracture and kidney stones) force Todd into taking a sabbatical, the couple takes their two adorable tow-headed children on a mini vacation. Both kids get sick, and Colton (Connor Corum), their 4-year-old son, ends up with acute appendicitis, requiring emergency surgery. After Colton recuperates, he tells his parents that, during the operation, he visited heaven. At first, his parents think the stories are part of Colton's imagination, but as he begins to recall meeting dead relatives he never met and specific details about Jesus and angels, the Burpos believe. But will anyone else?

Is it any good?


Based on Todd Burpo's 2010 memoir of the same name, Heaven Is for Real is an expressly Christian film made with established actors, and the performances are notably thoughtful. Kinnear plays Todd Burpo as a man of God who's also a concerned citizen and even an occasional doubting Thomas. He doesn't blindly accept what Colton says about heaven (at first), and he struggles with reconciling Colton's revelations with his own faith and pastoral responsibilities (can he really, as the head of a congregation, tell everyone that his kid actually went to heaven and hung out with Jesus?).

The other adult actors are also quite genuine in their roles, particularly Reilly as Todd's supportive wife and character actress extraordinaire Margo Martindale as a church trustee who's initially skeptical about Todd's claims about Colton's experiences. Colton himself is almost distractingly cute, and Corum manages to be sweetly straightforward about the movie's spiritual material. Your overall feelings about Heaven Is for Real's messages will likely depend on whether you believe Burpo's story. But as a movie, it's a well-acted biographical tale of a family changed forever by their son's declarations about what's waiting in the hereafter.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can discuss who you think Heaven Is for Real is intended to appeal to. Do you think it's for people who already profess a faith, or will it appeal to others equally?

  • How would you describe the movie's point of view about faith?

  • The movie is based on a memoir. Do you believe that Connor might have actually visited heaven? Why or why not? Does it matter whether you believe?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:April 16, 2014
DVD/Streaming release date:July 22, 2014
Cast:Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly, Thomas Haden Church
Director:Randall Wallace
Studio:Sony Pictures
Topics:Brothers and sisters, Friendship
Run time:100 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:thematic material including some medical situations

This review of Heaven Is for Real was written by

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

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

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Educator and Parent Written byMovie Review Maven June 1, 2014

Family friendly

Movie Title: Heaven Is for Real PG, 1 hour 40 minutes Grade: B In a Nutshell: This is a simple movie with a simple message, and yet it is very powerful. Perfectly timed for Easter, this faith-building film is based on the New York Times best-selling book Heaven Is for Real by Todd Burpo, the father of a boy who saw heaven during a hospital operation when he was only four years old. I heard a recent interview with the “real” Colton and his dad on the radio. Colton is now a teenager. He continues to share his simple message that heaven IS for real. I thought it was interesting that Colton’s parents (in real life) had such a hard time believing their son, especially considering Todd Burpo was a pastor and his wife was a believer. I suppose it’s easy to believe IN Jesus Christ, but harder to believe Jesus. What this film does well is get Christians to really think through what they believe, rather than try to convince non-Christians to believe. Uplifting theme: Heaven is real. God is real. We live after this life. When Todd Burpo gave his final sermon at the end of the movie at church, the notes that he used were only a few bullet points: “Only faith heals wounds” and “God is love.” Things I liked: I’ve always loved Thomas Haden Church ever since he was a young actor in the old TV show WINGS - Seasons 1 & 2 Greg Kinnear always gives a solid, charming performance. The Burpo’s friend, Nancy Rawling, had a beautiful indoor garden filled with flowers and lovely plants. Nancy is played by Margo Martindale, who always does a great job as a believable character. I loved the conversation Nancy and Todd had at the cemetery about their sons. It was truly touching and profound. Connor Corum, who played the young Colton Burpo, did a fantastic job and was absolutely adorable. He has a bright future in Hollywood. I loved the scene when Colton casually mentions to his mother that he saw his unborn sister in heaven. Tears streamed down the mothers face, as well as mine. I had several miscarriages and shared the pain and sorrow that Sonja Burpo felt. My heart ached for my little unborn babies. After my first miscarriage, I found a book that really helped my heart to heal. The author (Sarah Hinze) and I are now Facebook friends! It’s called Life Before Life : A Collection of Mothers’ Experiences With Their Pre-born Children. Since then, Sarah has written several other books about life before life that are very inspiring. I have read many life after life books based on people’s near death experiences, but Sarah’s books take us on a journey in the opposite direction that provide insights that teach us that this mortal life is only a part of the whole story. The movie is about what Colton saw in heaven, but it also illustrates how precious this time on earth is. Things I didn’t like: I was proud of the child actors for holding that tarantula, but I certainly wouldn’t do that for a sticker! EEK! I think British actress Kelly Reilly is so beautiful and feminine, but her singing voice didn’t add anything, unless director Randall Wallace was going for a home-towny feel for the church with small talent, but big heart. David Blaustein from ABC News Radio recently said about the movie “The earnest performances aren’t enough to elevate the vanilla narrative from a faith-based film that will only preach to the choir.” While I tend to agree, the movie still made me cry and reflect on the wonder of life and death. Inspiring lines: “If heaven is for real, wouldn’t we all live different lives?” – Todd Burpo Did Colton go to heaven? Yes. He saw the heaven Jesus wanted him to see.” – Todd Burpo “God crushed my pride and opened my heart to love and all I have to do. The one thing love requires is to let others know they’re not alone.” - Todd Burpo “You don’t have to save the world, Todd. I believe that’s already been done.” – Nancy Rawling Todd Burpo (played by Greg Kinnear) explains to his son that some people might be afraid of what Colton said he saw in heaven. “What are they afraid of?” asks the innocent Colton. His dad replies “That there might be a heaven or that there might not be.” Colton’s sister punched a kid at school who was making fun of her brother . Her parents encouraged her to be more Christian and “turn the other cheek.” Cassie says “I DID turn his other cheek when I hit him.” Things to look for: Every time there is a scene that takes place in the church, blue is a prominent color. Of course, the wall behind the podium is blue, but so is the pastor’s shirt, the children’s choir bows, and many of the other people’s clothing. I suppose director Randall Wallace wanted to use blue to depict a calming, heavenly color. I loved the cool birdhouse in their yard and the view from their home in the heartland of Nebraska. Things we learn about heaven through Colton’s experience: "Jesus has a horse." Angels have a sense of humor and laugh. "In heaven, everybody’s young" "Nobody wears glasses in heaven." People are always singing in heaven. You feel love and peace. Tips for parents: This movie is very family-friendly and a safe place to begin a discussion about death with your children.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 12 years old April 20, 2014


I was in the movie theater plugging my ears as Colton's father collapsed due to kidney stones and when he fractured his foot in a softball game AND when Colton and Cassie where in the bathroom throwing up.I also plugged them when Todd was passing thses kidney stones. Even though I'm 12 years old, I don't think I was ready to see this movie....... I also learned that I am very sensitive to violent scenes.
What other families should know
Great messages
Parent Written byBands123 May 18, 2014
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models