Heavenly Creatures

  • Review Date: January 16, 2012
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1994
  • Running Time: 99 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Gruesome yet imaginative teen psychosexual drama.
  • Review Date: January 16, 2012
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1994
  • Running Time: 99 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

The film looks at friendship, fantasy, and obsession, as well as how repression can be acted out to an extreme.

Positive role models

In some ways, Pauline and Juliette seem like any other teenage girls who are obsessed with a handsome singer, spend all their waking hours together, and rebel against the actions and rules of their parents. This makes their extreme actions all the scarier. Authority figures are strict and stodgy. Parents are often seen as clueless or befuddled by the actions of their children.


Two girls are shown running through and out of a forest, screaming and covered in blood; later a graphic murder scene is shown. Scenes of imagined swordfights with life-size clay figures are shown hacking and slicing; sometimes these clay figures are imagined by one of the girls to be attacking someone in real life, like when a psychologist is shown being stabbed through the chest with a sword.


A teen girl is shown losing her virginity, showing a neck-up shot of a man as he has sex with her. The two girls in the film are often shown in a tub together. While in the middle of imaginative play involving characters they have made up, the two characters strip down to their undergarments and briefly kiss on the cheeks. Questions are raised throughout the film, by parents and authority figures, as to whether or not the two girls are homosexuals.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Set in the 1950's, some characters are shown smoking. Brief scenes of drinking at dinner, but no one is intoxicated.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Heavenly Creatures is based on a true story about two teenage girls in the 1950s who murder one of the girl's mothers. The murder scene is intense, graphic, and suspenseful -- way too much for tweens, most young teens, and any sensitive viewer. There is an air of budding sexuality throughout the film that is sometimes innocent, other times with hints of lesbian psychosexual drama. One of the teen characters is shown losing her virginity; the shots are of faces only, but plenty of suggestive sounds. Still, for older teens, Heavenly Creatures is an imaginative and brilliant portrayal of a gruesome true-life crime from the director of The Lord of the Rings.

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What's the story?

Pauline (Melanie Lynskey) is a sullen and withdrawn 14 year old attending a stodgy girls' school in 1950's Christchurch, New Zealand. But when bright and energetic Juliette (Kate Winslet) arrives as a new student, an inseparable friendship forms over a mutual love of Mario Lanza records and imaginative play. The two create their own reality filled with stories of medieval love and conquest as a counterpoint to their stuffy surroundings, and as the two form an attachment bordering on obsession, their parents begin to worry. As Juliette's parents begin to divorce and plan on taking Juliette to live with an aunt in South Africa, Pauline and Juliette try to save up money to go to Hollywood to make movies inspired by their medieval romances, or, barring that, Pauline plots to move with Juliette. When Pauline's mother (Sarah Peirse) refuses to sign a consent form allowing Pauline to have a passport, Paulette and Juliette plan a hideous scheme: the murder of Pauline's mother.

Is it any good?


HEAVENLY CREATURES is a frightening film -- not because of the murder's aftermath shown at the beginning of the film or even the murder itself -- but because of how innocent and seemingly like any other young teenage girl from any time or place Juliette and Pauline seem to be. Their Justin Bieber is Mario Lanza. They are emotional and overwrought about any and all drama that enters their lives. They argue with their parents. They are moody and mercurial in temperament. All of this makes their murder plot all the more terrifying, and makes Heavenly Creatures such a suspenseful and imaginative film. 

Peter Jackson's directing is highly creative, weaving rich montages and sequences highlighting the frenetic imaginations of the two girls and creating a counterpoint to the girls' drab and repressed 1950's surroundings. The under- and overtones of sex and violence throughout don't exactly make this a "family film," but for adults and older teens, Heavenly Creatures is an unforgettable experience.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how this film was inspired by a true crime. Lots of movies and television shows are inspired by true stories. What are the similarities and differences between Heavenly Creatures and other movies and television shows that draw on true stories?

  • What purpose do you think the dream montages and imaginative sequences serve? What would be lost if they weren't in the film?

  • How is the stodginess of 1950's New Zealand conveyed through place and character, and how does this contrast with the wild imaginations of Pauline and Juliette?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 14, 1994
DVD release date:September 24, 2002
Cast:Kate Winslet, Melanie Lynskey, Sarah Peirse
Director:Peter Jackson
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Friendship, High school, History
Run time:99 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:A chilling murder and some sexuality.

This review of Heavenly Creatures was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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