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Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole Movie Poster Image
Sweeping owl fantasy adventure is impressive but intense.
  • PG
  • 2010
  • 91 minutes
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 49 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 52 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids will learn the importance of listening to historical stories and legends, as well as treating others like you'd want to be treated, regardless of their background. Obedience is called into question if it's to a suspect authority, so children may realize that it's sometimes the right thing to act against the rules. Kids interested in nature and animals will learn about a few different species of owls, particularly the Tyto and elf owl -- that they're nocturnal, live in different habitats, and expel pellets of their undigested food.

Positive Messages

The movie's overall messages are positive, with the primary take-away being that believing in your dreams is what makes you strong and focused. Another positive message includes the idea that family and friends are more important than the promise of power and strength. The movie also demonstrates the power of myths, defending others, and and standing up to evil. The evil owls are very "species-ist" and think that other owl species are sub-par and meant to be enslaved -- but the Guardians see the worth and contribution of all owls.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Soren is a strong positive role model: He's kind, selfless, and brave. He cares for his friends and family and believes the best of everyone. Gylfie is small but willing to fly away with Soren and later acts bravely despite her diminutive size. Ezylryb sagely explains that war isn't pretty and glorious -- that it's ugly and horrible and should be avoided if possible.

Violence & Scariness

Lots of animated violence, confrontations, and battles. The scenes with owl-to-owl combat are dark and often feature extreme slow-motion close-ups. Several owls die -- one falls into fire, and others are killed during combat. It's obvious that the owls are dead or injured, even if there's no blood. The 3-D makes the violence much more intense.

Sexy Stuff

A young male owl flirts with a female owl, and married owls embrace a couple of times.


"Hell," plus some insulting, demeaning language about other owls, like "you're weak," "soft," "old," "what a waste," etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this 3-D adaptation of Kathryn Lasky's best-selling Legend of the Guardians books is more intense and violent than most animated adventures -- even though the characters are all owls. The movie focuses on the conflict between a group of owls that considers themselves a master race entitled to enslave "lower species" of owls and the Guardians, a hidden group of warriors that fights to defend all owls from evil. With such a heavy plot and many action-packed battle sequences, this isn't age-appropriate for all young children. But kids old enough to read the books and mature enough to handle the themes will benefit from the movie's message that all owls (and therefore people) are worthy, not just those whom one group thinks are better than the rest. Note: The 3-D factor makes many of the movie's battle/fight scenes much more intense.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8 year old Written bymattsdad September 20, 2010

A war movie for kids?

Yes, it's got fluffy looking, beautifully rendered owls but make no mistake it's a movie about war and has long, intense scenes. I would have preferr... Continue reading
Parent of a 3 and 6 year old Written bykinderqueen September 26, 2010

evil images for small children

I think owls are really beautiful, so my children and I were very excited to see this movie! I was extremely disappointed, however, when the first thirty minut... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old September 26, 2010

a bit violent

It was inspiring, but a bit violent for a kids movie. If you make the owls humans a not animated it would be rated R.
Kid, 12 years old April 13, 2011
this movie is awesome!

What's the story?

Based on Kathryn Lasky's fantasy book series, LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS follows young Tyto owlet Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess), who loves his father's tales about the Guardians of Ga'Hoole, a legendary band of warriors that protects the owl kingdom from danger. But his brother, Kludd (Ryan Kwanten), thinks the stories are just silly fantasies. One day the brothers are kidnapped by two menacing owls that take them to the faraway lair of Metalbeak (Joel Edgerton), the "Pure One" who believes that the Tyto owls are supreme to all other owl species. Soren and his new elf-owl friend, Gylfie (Emily Barclay), are taught how to fly by a resistance-fighting owl who tells them that the Guardians are real and that Soren and Gylfie must warn them about Metalbeak's plans to rule the owl kingdom. With help from Twilight (Anthony LaPaglia), a "warrior-poet" Great Gray Owl; Digger (David Wenham), a jittery Burrowing Owl; and Mrs. P. (Miriam Margolyes), the friends fly to the Tree of Ga'Hoole to train and eventually fight as Guardians.

Is it any good?

The collaboration between director Zack Snyder and Animal Logic, the Australian effects and animation company responsible for Happy Feet, has yielded a visually stunning animated film. Despite featuring animal characters, LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS will appeal to tweens and teens. With many 3-D movies, the glasses feel like an unnecessary accessory, but here the technology is used artistically and imaginatively. The extreme close-ups and slow-motion shots are impressive, as are the intense moments that focus on a single feather, an eye, a claw. It's stylized action reminiscent of Snyder's 300 -- without all the blood and gore.

Soren's story is compelling and original -- even as it will remind you of many other heroes' journeys. There are so many layers to the plot -- from sibling rivalry (Kladd stays behind) to hero worship (Geoffrey Rush plays the wise legendary warrior that Soren idolizes) to family loyalty to political intrigue. It's obvious from the movie's ending that the filmmakers would love to make more films in the series, which is always a gamble -- but this story is in-depth enough and the visuals so captivating that it wouldn't be unwelcome.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's overall message about owl equality. How does that translate into human culture? Is it ever right for a group to decide that they should be served by others?

  • How does the movie's violence compare to that in other animated movies you've seen? Is it more or less scary because the characters are animals? Why?

  • For kids who've read the books, how does the movie compare? Were the changes understandable, or did they impact how much you enjoyed the movie?

  • How does Soren's journey remind you of other cinematic heroes, like Frodo, the Pevensie children, or even Harry Potter?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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