Hercules

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Hercules Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Lighthearted, but scary stuff is too much for littlest kids.
  • G
  • 1997
  • 92 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 16 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 48 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids who are unfamiliar with the Greek gods and goddesses will get an introduction to Zeus, Aphrodite, Hermes, and Hades. Hercules is also an actual mythological figure, though few of the heroic tales in the movie are in line with those in his mythical tale.

Positive Messages

The movie's overarching message is about learning what it means to be a real hero -- as opposed to a celebrity.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hercules is initially motivated to be a hero by rather selfish, if understandable, motives: He wants to become a god so that he can be with his real parents. But overall, he's a nice guy who suffers a betrayal. On the other hand, the portrayal of Hades as a slick power broker with a hooked nose who makes deals and uses Yiddish words plays on unnecessary stereotypes.

Violence & Scariness

Hades is a slimy, terrifying guy whose sharp teeth and hot temper are likely to frighten the youngest viewers. Hercules fights monsters, decapitating a hydra from inside of its long neck, only to watch it grow a bunch of more heads and attack him. Dead bodies are shown in the underworld and dying people are shown floating in a sea of death. Apocalyptic scenes, characters in peril.

Sexy Stuff

Meg is forced to handle Hercules "like a man" if she wants her freedom. Hercules and Meg share a couple of long kisses. Phil spies on nymphs swimming and chases them.

Language

Taunts/insults -- "freak," "sweetcheeks," "yutz," "Jerkules" (instead of Hercules), etc.

Consumerism

When Hercules gains popularity, he gets a credit card with his name on it; there's also a Hercules store with lots of Hercules dolls on the shelves, and kids wear Air Herc shoes and drink Herculade. In other words, success means having your name on lots of products.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Hades smokes a cigar and drinks a martini when he celebrates success.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Hercules about what it really means to be a hero is a shade darker than many other Disney blockbusters. There's a lot of gore and intense, scary stuff for a G-rated movie, including gruesome monsters and end-of-the-world images (floods, fires, ice storms, mass destruction) that might overshadow the more lighthearted musical components. Some kids may also be confused or even upset about the underworld and what happens when people die.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 14 and 18+-year-old Written byCollegeGirl_Kid... October 13, 2016

Back in Disney's Glory Days

This is a great movie. I see a lot of reviews about how the movie is "too scary" or "inappropriate" for small children, but I seriously cann... Continue reading
Adult Written byryleewaters1213 February 21, 2020

Nice movie but a few scenes are inappropriate

I like this movie! It teaches great things about ancient Greece and the Greek gods. My daughter loves it but there is a scene with Hercules and his girlfriend (... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old March 23, 2020

My favorite Disney movie!

This movie is a great one for families with kids. This movie was my favorite growing up. There are a few violent scenes, but because this movie is animated, thi... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byJoseph Rock February 28, 2012

Come on Disney,you didn't even try on this one!

The animation on this movie is just HORRIBLE! Its soo ugly.It is VERY ANNOYING! Watch Charlie & The Chocolate Factory instead.

What's the story?

According to Disney, HERCULES was the adored son of gods Zeus and Hera, stolen by Hades, ruler of the underworld, and made mortal. He must become a true hero to become a god again so he can live with his parents on Mount Olympus. To do this, Hercules (voiced by Tate Donovan) seeks out a grouchy satyr (Danny DeVito), who trains him in fighting techniques and strategy. When he saves some children (so he thinks) and defeats the hydra (its many heads masterfully provided by computer animation), he becomes an instant celebrity, with action figures and "Air Hercules" sandals. He goes on to his other labors but finds that it's not enough to be a real hero -- that comes from the heart, not the muscles. Meanwhile, Meg (Susan Egan), who sold her soul to Hades to save the life of her boyfriend, must now try to find Hercules' weakness so that Hades can take over Olympus.

Is it any good?

Kids will need some preparation for this movie; scant exposition is provided by the movie's Spice Girl-style "muses" (a sort of gospel Greek chorus that's fun to watch, but hard to follow). The role of the three fates, who share one eye between them and cut a thread when a human's life is ended, is particularly confusing. Meg is tougher and braver than the traditional damsel in distress, but still very much on the sidelines. The movie's other weakness is its lackluster score.

Hercules' teenage protagonist may not be Disney's most memorable hero, but the movie's bad guy turns in a performance of astonishing verve -- as Hades, James Woods will join Cruella DeVille in the pantheon of unforgettable Disney villains. Sidekicks Pain and Panic (Bobcat Goldthwait and Matt "Max Headroom" Frewer) are wickedly funny as well.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about real-life heroes. What makes someone a hero? How does society treat its heroes? Why do we buy products endorsed by athletes (or movie tie-ins)? How do real-life heroes compare to the heroes in Hercules?

  • Is wanting to be a god a good reason to want to be a hero? Do we see any evidence that Hercules (or anyone else in the movie) has much concern for the well-being of the community?

  • Does this movie seem scarier than other animated kids' movies? Why or why not?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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