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Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Hugo Movie Poster Image
Spectacular book adaptation is great for tweens and up.
  • PG
  • 2011
  • 127 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 38 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 111 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids will learn about the history of film, silent movies, and real-life French director Georges Melies, who made hundreds of the earliest short films in movie history.

Positive Messages

Emphasizes the importance of films and how magical movies can be for their audience. Hugo's relentless faith in his father, in his mission to fix the broken, ends up being a metaphor for healing Melies' broken heart. Hugo and Isabelle discuss how everyone -- every thing -- has a purpose, and you just have to find out what it is for that purpose to be met.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hugo and Isabelle are curious, courageous kids who overcome their fears to discover the truth. Their perseverance, even in the face of danger, sets an example for adolescents to follow their passion, seek the truth, and help fix what's broken in the world.

Violence & Scariness

Hugo's father is killed in a fire. The station inspector sics his Doberman on unaccompanied kids and then brusquely throws them into the station jail before transferring them to an orphanage. In a nightmare, Hugo dreams that he's about to be run over by a train and then that he transforms into the automaton.

Sexy Stuff

Two different sets of adults flirt with each other and are shown walking hand and hand. Married Papa Georges recalls his love of Mama Jeanne, and the two embrace and kiss. Hugo and Isabel hold hands, and she kisses him on the cheek in one scene. The station inspector has humorous conversations with the policeman about marriage, infidelity, and a baby's parentage of a baby. The station inspector asks the policeman if he has "had relations" with his wife in the past year.


Insults like "idiot," "no-good thief," "liar," and "drunk."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Uncle Claude drinks out of a flask and is obviously drunk. The inspector calls him a host of synonyms for "inebriated." People are shown with wine glasses at the train station cafe.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that although Hugo is a book-based period adventure about the art and magic of movies that may be a tad too mature for younger elementary school-aged kids. Between the orphaned main character (whose father dies in a fire), the looming threat of being sent to the orphanage by the mean station manager, and an extended sequence about the history of early film, it's unlikely that kids under 8 will follow the sophisticated story. Since author Brian Selznick's novel is aimed at middle-grade readers, that's a good age to target for the movie, too. Kids who do watch will take away worthwhile messages about perseverance and overcoming fears, and budding filmmakers will especially delight in the movie's second half. Expect a little bit of flirting and hand-holding, a few insults, and one drunk (adult) character.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 11 and 14 year old Written byConcerned Smart... January 13, 2012

Loved the movie, Sasha Cohen not so much.

The movie is artistically delightful. Totally recommend it. However, I must agree with the other reviews that Sasha Cohen's part as station inspector was... Continue reading
Adult Written byOverly sensitive? December 17, 2011

Disturbing to a sensitive person. The mechanical transformation of the boy upset me too. I am 63 and I wouldn't recommend it for anyone. Sorry!

To me it was just sad. I grew up in poverty and without family models (absent, neglectful parents. The colors in film were dreary, the home life was absent.... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old November 23, 2011

A brilliant take on the book is most enjoyable for those who have read the story

Hugo is very fun and touching. It closely follows the story with relatively few plot changes. Like the book, the movie deals with death, the treatment of orph... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old December 3, 2011

very great for people and kids who can comprehend well

very great movie! No violence, accept hugo almost gets run over by a train in his dream, then in his real life. No sexual stuff. Isabelle kisses hugo on the che... Continue reading

What's the story?

In this 1930s-set adaptation of Brian Selznick's Caldecott-winning novel, 12-year-old HUGO (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan who lives in a Paris train station. His prized possession is an automaton (mechanical man) that his late father rescued from museum archives before his death. Hugo steals from the various shops at the train station to get by, but when he attempts to swipe a wind-up mouse from eccentric toy seller Georges (Ben Kingsley), he embarks on an adventure that leads him to uncover exactly what the automaton is and why it's important. "Papa" Georges' orphaned goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), befriends the mysterious Hugo, and the two explore the train station and Paris at large while evading the station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), who's notorious for sending unaccompanied kids to the orphanage.

Is it any good?

It might have seemed impossible, but Scorsese has proved that he can pull a Spielberg and create a magical movie -- about the magic of movies -- for all. Martin Scorsese isn't the kind of director you'd expect to make a spectacular film for families. He is, after all, the auteur behind such mobster dramas as Goodfellas, Casino, and The Departed. But by selecting Selznick's genre-defying illustrated novel as his subject, Scorsese is able to tackle one of his personal passions -- the history of early film and a very real director named Georges Melies. Once Hugo discovers that Papa Georges is actually the long retired-but-not-forgotten prewar director, the story transforms into a visual love letter to the pioneers of film history, as viewed from the perspective of a young movie fan.

Butterfield is simply amazing. With eyes that evoke every emotion from awe to horror, the young English actor is a revelation, as is his on-screen connection to Moretz, one of America's best teenage actresses, and Kingsley, one of the best actors, period. Cohen provides much-needed comic relief with his manic portrayal of the crippled station inspector, who's also a lonely war veteran; and as film historian Rene Tabard, Michael Stuhlbarg is a stand-in for Scorsese and any serious film lover. The 3-D in Hugo is dazzling and the set pieces as visually appealing as an actual walk through Paris.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Hugo's message about the art of filmmaking. Are movies as transformational as Melies claims? What is the role of movies -- to entertain, to educate, to provide meaning? Do all movies fulfill that role or only some?

  • The movie says Hugo was looking for a message from his father but ended up on a journey "home." What does that mean? How is Hugo responsible for everything that transpires?

  • Fans of the book: How is the movie different than the story? What characters or scenes didn't make it into the adaptation? What did the filmmaker add that you liked? Why are changes sometimes made when books are adapted for the big screen?

  • How do the characters in Hugo demonstrate curiosity, courage, and perseverance? Why are those important character strengths?

Movie details

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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