Isle of Dogs

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Isle of Dogs Movie Poster Image
 Popular with kidsParents recommend
Wondrous, bittersweet, funny, edgy animated canine story.
  • PG-13
  • 2018
  • 101 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 37 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 53 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Lies are uncovered (the truth will out!), and redemption is possible through sacrifice/generosity. The dogs learn that togetherness, teamwork, and forming a family are better in many ways than being loners. Kindness and loyalty are valued. It's important to treat animals with respect.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Chief learns trust while still retaining at least a bit of his "wild side." Most of the other dogs show loyalty in some way, and they're all quite emotional but don't judge each other for it. Arguably the best role model is the human girl, Tracy Walker, who uses her voice and the power of the press to stand up to oppression and corruption. It's worth noting that she's the film's only white character, and she happens to be the one who saves the day.


Chunk of metal impaled in boy's head (it doesn't affect him at all). Small blood spurt. Drawings/depictions of a beheaded samurai. Dogs fight; shown as swirling clouds of smoke, with appendages jutting in and out. Dog with military-issue "exploding teeth" that fire like bullets. Some wounds -- e.g., a chewed-off ear. Disturbing sushi-making scene (chopping and slicing live fish). A human character is poisoned; a dead body with bulging eyes is shown. Dogs locked in cages. Mention of a boy's parents dying in a train wreck. Unpleasant pictures of dogs sick with "canine flu." Dog skeletons. Mention of dogs being put to sleep. Spoken story about a dog biting a child, with "blood all over the floor." Some shouting/yelling. Kidney transplant operation shown, with some blood and gore. Scary character with monster-like face. Talk of suicide.


Mild sex-related dialogue, such as "dogs in heat," etc. References to dogs mating and having litters of puppies. Male human's naked butt shown getting out of a bath.


A use of "son of a bitch," a use of "bitch" (in reference to a female dog) and two uses of "damn it."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adult human character drinks in a bar. Minor character smokes a pipe.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Isle of Dogs is an imaginative stop-motion animated movie from Wes Anderson, who also directed Fantastic Mr. Fox; this one has a bit more iffy material. Dogs fight (shown as a cloud of smoke with limbs popping in and out), and we see injuries to both dogs and humans and a little animated blood and gore. Some dogs have military-issue teeth that fire like bullets and explode. A sushi chef chops up live, moving fish for a meal. Minor characters die, dog skeletons are shown, and there are spoken and visual moments with scary and/or unpleasant images (as well as talk of suicide). Expect a few references to dogs being in heat and mating; a human male's bottom is seen as he gets out of the bath. Language includes "son of a bitch," "bitch" (referring to a female dog), and "damn it." A woman sits at a bar with drinks in front of her, and a minor character smokes a pipe. Some younger kids might be confused by the lack of translation of most of the movie's spoken Japanese, but the story is still totally clear (although it has sparked some discussion around possible cultural appropriation). It's a wondrous movie, but it's likely best for tweens and up.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8-year-old Written bymadw March 24, 2018

Great movie but too complicated for younger kids

I took my 8 year old and her 7 year old friend today. I was a little worried that the movie would be violent/scary (seeing it was rated PG13), but this wasn... Continue reading
Parent of a 7 and 9-year-old Written byDavid B. March 31, 2018

Good for kids

I took my 7 and 9 year old girls and they loved it. There is nothing inappropriate- maybe one aspect around the mating question twice- but it’s said in those t... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bysuperkid1 May 9, 2018

Isle of Dogs

This is a very sweet and a sometimes scary movie!
This is a movie about dogs being quarantined on trash island because they have dog flu and snout fever-two... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byMovie- Book reviewer April 8, 2018

Another great movie by wes Anderson

This Movie is about a boy in semi-future japan where nobody likes dogs so they send them to an island called trash island. The boy tries to find his dog spots t... Continue reading

What's the story?

In ISLE OF DOGS, canine flu has ravaged a futuristic Japan, and the tyrannical mayor Kobayashi (voiced by Kunichi Nomura) decides to exile all dogs to Trash Island, starting with his own son Atari's faithful pooch, Spots (Liev Schreiber). Some time later, Atari (Koyu Rankin) crash-lands a small plane on the island in search of his beloved pet. Instead, he meets a roving gang of five dogs: Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Boss (Bill Murray), and Duke (Jeff Goldblum) -- all of whom lived in homes with humans -- and Chief (Bryan Cranston), who was mostly a stray. While they search for Spots, Chief slowly starts to bond with Atari. Meanwhile, an exchange student named Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig), working at her school newspaper, tries to uncover a government conspiracy against the dogs.

Is it any good?

Wes Anderson's ninth feature film (his second in stop-motion animation) is his wildest and waggiest yet, expanding his wondrous, inventive vision while retaining his meticulous compositions. Isle of Dogs -- which, if spoken aloud, sounds like "I love dogs" -- is probably Anderson's first movie to deal with the downtrodden and rejected, as well as politics and conspiracies, yet all of these things feel perfectly at home in his universe. He's been accused many times of being overly cute, but he clearly loves his characters; he probably laughs along with their quirky sense of humor.

The movie is sublimely funny but also a bit edgy, and it's certainly bittersweet and heartfelt. Certain moments are bound to prompt a tear or two, such as when Chief tastes a doggie treat for the first time. Anderson's last stop-motion movie, Fantastic Mr. Fox, was more kid friendly and also more straightforward. This one has a much bigger vision, and its movements and rhythms are utterly unique. The compositions of the shots are unfailingly jaw-dropping; as with the work of Stanley Kubrick, any frame from this movie could be taken out and viewed as a beautiful snapshot. On the whole, it's a pure treasure.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Isle of Dogs' use of violence. How much is shown, and how much is suggested? Is the violence meant to be unpleasant or exciting? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How did teamwork help the characters in Isle of Dogs realize their goal? When you're a member of a team, how do you help your team succeed?

  • Is Tracy Walker a positive role model? Why or why not?

  • Anderson has clearly taken great care in his world-building and his choices in depicting Asian characters, but some people may find it problematic due to what could be viewed as stereotypical characterization and a "white savior." What's your take on Anderson's/the movie's choices in this respect?

Movie details

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