Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Holes Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Great movie respects its audience's intelligence.
  • PG
  • 2003
  • 111 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 37 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 82 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Stanley and Zero are treated badly by adults at the camp who call them worthless and stupid. Stanley, however, takes on the task of teaching Zero how to read. He sticks out his neck for Zero and eventually saves his life.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The adults in charge of the boy's camp are mean-spirited and demeaning. But the adults in Stanley's life are kind-hearted and generous. Stanley has inherited these traits from his family, welcoming Zero into his home like a brother. 


Stanley is sent to a boys' work camp, where there is rough-housing and some fist fights. There are wild west flashbacks where a gun-toting female renegade kills men and then kisses their cheeks. Members of the old west community threaten to lynch an African-American man who loves a white woman -- he is shot as he tries to escape. Perilous moments on the face of a rock, as Stanley and Zero nearly fall to their deaths. A character commits suicide by allowing a poisonous lizard to bite her.


Non-sexual scenes of boys showering (in their underwear). Stanley talks in passing about a fantasy he has of seeing a woman in a bikini.


"Damned," "hell," "schmuck," and "jackasses" are all uttered.


Mr. Sir hands a guard a Coke. Characters revel in newly found wealth.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mr. Sir has quit smoking at the start of the movie, but is back to smoking by the end. In an old West flashback, a sheriff admits that he is drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Holes, based on the bestseller by Louis Sachar, has an edge to it, but it's not as gritty as it could be. Portraying a teen boys' work-camp could give excuses to broach more lewd subject matter, but this movie portrays the rough and tumble without devolving into a gross-out fest. There are some moments of racial and gender tension played out in glimpses of the past (reference to a lynching, men trying to force their attentions on a woman), which might be too intense for younger viewers.  

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 9-year-old Written byJSB2209 January 8, 2020

Great movie but VERY heavy

This movie is great BUT common sense doesn’t mention that there is an attempted sexual assault on one of the characters by a drunk sheriff. He is later murdered... Continue reading
Adult Written byLizzy P November 14, 2020

Amazing Film

This is one of the best family movies I have ever watched with my children! I have a 11 year old and a 7 year old and they both loved this film! There is a litt... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old February 29, 2016

A friendship story

I think that Holes had a good message. The back story had some death. I thought the actors were good.
Kid, 10 years old July 5, 2015

Good movie. But PG-13 is beter

It was a pretty good movie. but there were some bad parts. (spoilers coming) at one point the Warden calls the boys A--'s and Mr sir smokes at the end, Zer... Continue reading

What's the story?

Adapted by Louis Sachar from his Newbery award-winning book, HOLES, this is the story of Stanley Yelnats (Shia LaBeouf). Stanley is wrongfully accused of stealing a very valuable pair of sneakers and sentenced to a juvenile facility in the desert. Each boy there is required to dig a five-foot-deep hole every day. They are told it is to help them develop character, but could it be that the Warden (Sigourney Weaver) is looking for something that just might be buried in the endless stretch of sand that once was Green Lake?

Is it any good?

Author Louis Sacher (who appears briefly as a man who is going bald) adapted his own story, and it retains all of the complexity and understated, offbeat charm of the book. The adult actors are excellent, especially Arquette and Dule Hill, but the kids are the center of the story, and they handle it beautifully. Khleo Thomas is wonderfully engaging as Zero. In sharp contrast to most movies directed at 10- to 15-year-olds (come to think of it, to most movies of any kind), Holes respects the intelligence of its audience. It is even willing to challenge them, and that makes it a movie for everyone in the family to treasure.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about its themes of fate and choice. What actions in Holes seem to have been decided by fate (or a curse) and what were decided by the characters?

  • How much of our present is influenced by or determined by the past?

  • There are even more connections between the three stories than you see at first. How many can you find?

  • If you pay close attention, there is something significant about when the boys use their real names and when they use their tough nicknames. What does that tell you?

  • Why doesn't Stanley tell the truth in his letter to his mother? How is Stanley different at the end of the movie?

Movie details

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Themes & Topics

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