Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events Movie Poster Image

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events



Book's fans will enjoy, but too creepy for some.
Popular with kidsParents recommend
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2004
  • Running Time: 113 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive role models

Brave and intelligent children of both genders.


Peril, tension, and violence (mostly off-screen), some graphic images.


A forced marriage with a 14-year-old (predatory, but only with regard to her money).


Some very crude language "said" by a baby ("shmuck," "bite me").

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie may be upsetting to some kids. The children in the movie are orphans who are continuously mistreated. There are constant scenes of peril and tension; though most of the violence is offscreen, we see the aftermath. An adult strikes a child and there are other assaults and murders and an apparent suicide. There is one scary surprise and several shots of creepy creatures, including rats, bugs, bats, and snakes. Some children will understand that this is intended as macabre humor but others will not, so parents should be particularly cautious about deciding whether the film is appropriate for their kids. Other parental concerns include some very crude language "said" by a baby ("shmuck," "bite me"), and a forced marriage with a 14-year-old (predatory, but only with regard to her money).

What's the story?

LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS begins as a sugary but slightly off animated tale about the littlest elf, but Mr. Snicket soon interrupts, explaining that this will be quite a different kind of story. Violet (Emily Browning), an inventor, Klaus (Liam Akin), who reads everything, and 2-year-old Sunny (Kara and Shelby Hoffman), who loves to bite things, are on the beach when Mr. Poe (Timothy Spall) from the bank comes to tell them that their house has burned down and their parents have been killed. He drives them to their nearest relative, Count Olaf (Jim Carrey). The Count puts the children to work and tries to kill them, but no one listens when they try to explain what is going on. But they finally get removed from his custody and subsequent guardians include a kindly herpetologist (Billy Connelly) and a multi-phobic grammarian (Meryl Streep). Count Olaf keeps coming back (sometimes in disguise). He wants the Baudelaire fortune and is ready to kill -- or marry -- anyone he has to in order to get it.

Is it any good?


The whole movie is rather macabre. It may surprise some, but the Unfortunate Events series by Lemony Snicket (pseudonym of Daniel Handler) are wildly popular with school-age kids, though they may horrify tender-hearted parents. "These books are among the most unpleasant in the world," Snicket warns crisply on the dust jacket for the first three volumes, the basis for this film, "and if you do not have the stomach for such unpleasantries as a repulsive villain, a deadly serpent, cold cucumber soup, a terrible fire, and a doll named Pretty Penny, I would advise you to read three happy books instead." "Unfortunate events" is an understatement.

Some adults are genuinely horrified by the unabashedly creepy people in these books. It is disturbing to think of any children, even imaginary ones, being subjected to abuse. But Snicket's talent is in understanding his audience better than anyone past the age of 12 usually can. Watch how careful he is to create an atmosphere of menace while leaving what is, if you look for it, a very reassuring zone of protection around the children. Other than one slap, the children are never touched and they never appear to be rattled or upset. The very presence of the narrator itself adds a comfortable distance. And it is always clear that if the solution isn't found in one of Violet's inventions or Klaus' extensive knowledge from books, Sunny's powerful teeth will save the day.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how we learn to respond to the unexpected, and the importance of having a Plan B (and Plans C through Z). Some kids will want to be reassured about who their guardians would be if something happens to their own parents. And families could talk about what messages they would want to read in a letter like the one from the Baudelaire parents and why books with such terrible abuse are so popular with kids.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 17, 2004
DVD/Streaming release date:April 26, 2005
Cast:Jim Carrey, Jude Law, Meryl Streep
Director:Brad Silberling
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Book characters
Run time:113 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:thematic elements, scary situations and brief language

This review of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events was written by

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


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

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

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Kid, 11 years old January 27, 2010

A great great movie!

A great movie. It's really very funny in the begining how it opens up. It's a great adventure movie. Alot of thrill and suspense to. I reccomend this to you.
Parent of a 11 year old Written byJenoi January 8, 2010

I wish their would be sequels!

This movie was fantastic, Jim Carrey's characters are hilarious. I only wish they would make more!!!
Adult Written byJenniferGrant April 9, 2008

Dark, dark, but good underlying message

I took my 8 1/2 year old son to Lemony Snicket tonight. He has seen (and loved) the Lord of the Rings movies and the Harry Potter movies. This movie, however, scared him and he didn't like it. He found it too creepy and eerie and the murders of the orphans' guardians by Olaf too disturbing. I loved the movie - think there is a lot of strong and good messages to it and I found it really entertaining. I loved the idea that unfortunate events can spur the beginning of a journey, that they bring out the best in people, that the kids were home when they were with each other, and a number of other messages. I liked what unique individuals each child was. I also like the honesty: bad things happen in life and you don't give up. "What would Violet do?" Seeing the movie together allowed my son and I to talk about such issues. I think tomorrow (or some day soon), we'll talk more about these things. I haven't read the books, so I can't speak to whether the movie is true to those stories. The deaths of the parents and benificent guardians and overall creepiness of the movie was too much for my son.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?