Hugo

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

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 42 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 116 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.

Language

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

Consumerism
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.

Wondering if Hugo is OK for your kids?

Set preferences and get age-appropriate recommendations with Common Sense Media Plus. Join now

Continue reading Show less

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 6-year-old Written byEmily C. January 19, 2020

Magical, suspenseful and great for parents, too!

Beautiful and fun, inventive and suspenseful. A little quiet for the kids but they were enthralled. Unfortunately, I didn’t read the age rec on this site—but an... Continue reading
Adult Written byBettybetty22 May 15, 2019

Amazing story that holds you !

Excellent for kids - my boys loved this and they are 8 and 11. Good mix of detective and history and action.
Not crazy about the performance of the train conduc... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old February 9, 2014

READ THIS!

Hugo is about a young boy in France Train Station. He is trying to fix his wind up robot, so he steals parts from a toy store, but the owner catches him and tak... 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

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

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love adventures

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

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

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate