Heavenly Creatures Movie Poster Image

Heavenly Creatures

(i)

 

Gruesome yet imaginative teen psychosexual drama.
  • 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.

Violence

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.

Sex

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.

Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
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.

Parents say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

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?

QUALITY

HEAVENLY CREATURES is a frightening film. That's not because of the murder's aftermath shown at the beginning of the film or even the murder itself, but rather 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/Streaming release date:September 24, 2002
Cast:Kate Winslet, Melanie Lynskey, Sarah Peirse
Director:Peter Jackson
Studio:Miramax
Genre:Drama
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

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.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

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

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Donnie Brasco Poster Image
    Decent mob movie, but not meant for children.
  • Serpico Poster Image
    Gritty, mature cop story with violence and nudity.
  • Bernie Poster Image
    Jack Black stars in dark fact-based murder comedy.

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

Teen, 15 years old Written byPauletteWilde September 30, 2015
Peter Jacksons's masterpiece is intese and imaginative, but definitely not for kids or younger teenagers.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Teen, 13 years old Written byfilmfan13 July 23, 2015

Heavenly Creatures Review

Heavenly Creatures is the true story of two girls, Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme. The film is about the two girls and there intense relasonship starting when they were both just 13. Melanie Lynsey and Kate Winslet are both wonderfully chilling in the roles of the two girls. Audiences will be in a trance with the beautiful but deadly things the two girls make. Often poetic and compelling this is a film you will not want to miss! I give this film 5\5