It (1990) Movie Poster Image

It (1990)

Stephen King pits kids vs. killer clown from hell.
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Horror
  • Release Year: 1990
  • Running Time: 193 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

On the one hand, there's a killer clown. On the other the protagonists are decent-hearted kids that support one another in youth and adulthood against bullies, bad parents, and worse. Only the lone female in the bunch seems to have taken her childhood traumas visibly into adulthood, marrying an abusive man.


Much blood -- erupting through sewers and out of exploded balloons. But it's "supernatural" blood, in that most people can't see it -- only the terrorized heroes. Kids bully, beat, and threaten each other with knives. A man is found dead in a tub (a suicide who slashed his wrists). A wife is slapped by her abusive husband. One character is stabbed. Rocks thrown at people and monsters.


Several characters start romantic liaisons but never finish them. Rather out of the blue, a grown man admits (regretfully) to being a virgin.


Prime-time profanities like "bastard," "son of a bitch" and the "n" word.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Social drinking, or drinking to calm nerves after a demonic attack. One girl's father is an abusive drunk.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the plot of this made-for-TV Stephen King adaptation centers on a long series of unsolved child murders, and while the worst of the nasty stuff is kept offscreen, there are still apparitions of semi-decayed juvenile ghosts, a werewolf, a fanged clown, and other monsters. Blood is shown frequently, gurgling out of drains and splashed around the community, but it's "supernatural" blood, only visible to the terrorized heroes and not other people.

What's the story?

Based on Stephen King's novel, IT is set in the fictional town of Derry, Maine, where a supernatural curse has caused waves of violence, murders, and disappearances -- mostly of children -- since colonial times. Now, town librarian Mike Hanlon (Tim Reid) is calling a widely scattered group of adults who were once tight-knit friends as kids. Hanlon wants them to honor the promise they made back in 1958 to reunite and fight It once again, if It ever resurfaced. And It has -- children are disappearing or being horribly mutilated. Flashbacks show the difficult childhoods of the group, which includes successful architect Ben (John Ritter), and prominent fashion designer Beverly (Annette O'Toole). Once known as "The Losers," they were constantly tormented by town bully Henry (Michael Cole) and his creepy gang. But a worse threat soon materializes, a demonic clown called Pennywise (Tim Curry), who first kills the little brother of future successful novelist-scriptwriter George (Richard Thomas). Both in 1958 and in the present, Pennywise taunts the various Losers and assumes the shapes of their worst fears.

Is it any good?


Director Tommy Lee Wallace makes some of the shocks work, and it's interesting seeing young actors (like Seth Green) matched against the adult ones (like Harry Anderson) playing the same part. But the ponderous nature of the twin-timelined material makes this a long trip (originally a TV miniseries, it's over three hours long). And, besides being a metaphor for the adversities of youth, what exactly is Pennywise, anyway? Once must read the 1,000 page Stephen King book to find out.

The flashbacks are often repetitious, to keep the TV viewer up on the story over successive nights and commercial breaks of the miniseries. And too bad It was made before computer graphics came into wide use. Instead, stiff puppetry and stop-motion depict such hallucinatory horrors as Pennywise squeezing out of tiny drains and turning into monsters.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the theme of friendship among the outcast kids in the movie and how it creates a secret world for them, one which (unlike the town's mainstream society of adults) allows them to perceive more clearly the menace of Pennywise and devise a plan to fight him. The plot continually hops across a 30-year timespan, seeing these characters both as grown ups and children. Parents can talk about reunions with their own old friends and the importance of staying in touch (whether to defend against evil demons or for slightly more sentimental reasons).

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 18, 1990
DVD/Streaming release date:October 1, 2002
Cast:John Ritter, Tim Curry, Tim Reid
Director:Tommy Lee Wallace
Studio:Warner Home Video
Run time:193 minutes
MPAA rating:NR
MPAA explanation:Not Rated

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 11 years old February 24, 2011
That Clown still creeps the heck out of Me.
Teen, 15 years old Written bydamoviecritic April 9, 2008

Proof that the truest horror comes from the imagination

This was a very good miniseris overall. I saw it when I was 9 years old, and I remember being terrified. It is certainly not as good as the book, but when it comes to Stephen King adaptations, this one is one of the better (if not more watered down) ones.
Teen, 13 years old Written byhorrorfan January 29, 2009

LOVED this movie!

I absolutely loved this movie. But it can be EXTREMELY scary. Exspecially if you are scared of clowns to start with. (Like me) I would recomend this to any horror fan 12 and up or 10 if your brave. I thought the ending was really stupid, but other than that the movie is very scary.