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Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Lion Movie Poster Image
Great performances in emotional, intense biographical drama.
  • PG-13
  • 2016
  • 129 minutes
 Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 10 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 22 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Positive messages about the power of family bonds, how finding and understanding your past can be the key to move toward your future, and the impact of a loving family on a child. Themes include compassion, gratitude, and perseverance.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Saroo's adoptive parents are loving, generous, and supportive. They understand his need to find his birth mother. Saroo himself is persistent, compassionate, and intelligent. Saroo's biological brother was protective and caring. Lucy is an encouraging, loving girlfriend.


Brief but unsettling scenes of endangered, homeless, presumably orphaned street children in India. In one scene, a group of kids sleeping on cardboard boxes in a public transport station is ambushed by men who take several of them away, presumably to unsafe situations. In another scene, a man inspects and touches young Saroo in an uncomfortable but not outright inappropriate way. Implied violence against children, but the disturbing consequences the children have to face isn't explored, whether it's human trafficking, sexual slavery, or something else.


Passionate kissing and scenes of a couple in bed (shirtless man, bare-shouldered woman) after implied sex. Flirting/kissing.


Infrequent strong language includes "s--t," "ass," and "damn."


Google Earth is prominently displayed and a big part of the story.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink at parties and dinners, as well as at home. Some cigarette smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Lion is an emotional biographical drama about Saroo Brierley, who was lost to his family in India at age 5 after ending up on a train bound more than 1,000 kilometers away from his hometown. Based on Brierley's memoir A Long Way Home, the movie chronicles how Saroo (Dev Patel) used Google Earth to track down his birth family after a 25-year separation. Children are shown in danger -- including a disturbing scene in which homeless children are abducted as they sleep, one in which young Saroo is physically inspected in a creepy manner, and others in which he's forced to live on the streets with no shelter or food. When the action switches to Saroo's adulthood, there are scenes of implied sex (he and his girlfriend are in bed, half dressed) and passionate kissing. Adults (twentysomethings) drink at dinner parties, restaurants, and at home; there's also cigarette smoking and infrequent strong language ("s--t," "ass," etc.). And underlying everything are powerful lessons about perseverance, gratitude, family bonds, and the power of technology.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJim C April 29, 2017

Outstanding movie about self-reliance and perseverance

It's a shame that a 17 yr old reviewer got nothing out of this movie and gave it one star, describing it apparently as an unnecessary documentary, because... Continue reading
Adult Written bySolo Fide May 17, 2017

Movie good/Book better

This movie is based on a true story found in a book, "A Long Way Home," which I found to be riveting. The movie, while also good, sometimes has diff... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byOlive Cohn January 20, 2017

Incredible and Inspiring

This movie is one of the best I've ever seen! I'm 15 and I've never been more inspired! Incredible movie!
Teen, 14 years old Written bykidcriticreviews January 15, 2017


The movie Lion is about a five year old boy that accidentally goes on a train from eastern India to Bengal India. Twenty years later the boy wants to find his f... Continue reading

What's the story?

LION is an incredible story based on Saroo Brierley's memoir A Long Way Home. Born in India to a poor but loving family, Saroo was lost to them at age 5 when he ended up on a train that took him more than 1,000 kilometers away from his modest hometown to the bustling streets of Calcutta. Young Saroo (Sunny Pawar) has no idea how to return to his mother and siblings, so he wanders around, homeless, skirting one tragic close call after another until he's placed into an orphanage and adopted by a loving Australian couple: John (David Wenham) and Sue (Nicole Kidman) Brierley. More than 20 years later, Saroo (now played by Dev Patel) shares his improbable story with new friends who encourage him to use Google Earth to track down all the possible towns he might have come from. From that point on, Saroo isolates himself from his family and girlfriend, Lucy (Rooney Mara), to focus solely on the slim possibility of finding his biological mother and siblings.

Is it any good?

Be prepared to cry -- a lot -- at this wonderfully cast tearjerker about a man who searched for his birth family across a continent, with only decades-old memories to guide him. Director Garth Davis' adaptation of Brierley's memoir starts off strong, with the charming, big-eyed Pawar playing adorable young Saroo. Audiences will audibly gasp at the circumstances that lead to his separation from his family, and there will be (many) tears as he narrowly escapes the grips of people who would surely do him harm. Once Saroo is an adult, Patel takes over as a well-adjusted adoptive son who's flourished in his new family and country but then becomes obsessed with finding out where he's from and what happened to the family who must have assumed he was gone forever.

Although the beginning and the end of Lion are emotional and compelling, there's a period in the middle of the second act when all Saroo seems to do is hang out in front of his computer, searching countless train stations within a 1,000-mile radius of Calcutta. He also pushes away the people who love him -- most frustratingly, his devoted girlfriend (played beautifully by Mara). This is definitely the movie's low point, and it lasts a bit too long, but eventually everything picks up again. Wenham has little to do, but Kidman gives a fantastic supporting performance as the mother of two adopted Indian sons, one of whom (Saroo's brother) has special needs. Without completely spoiling the ending, let's just say you can expect the tears to flow freely as you witness Saroo's complicated joy, relief, and sadness at the end of his long journey.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what makes Lion such an emotional story? Do you enjoy tearjerkers? Why do you think we sometimes seek out movies that will make us cry?

  • How do the characters demonstrate compassion, gratitude, and perseverance? Why are those important character strengths?

  • What is the movie's message about adoption? Does it offer a positive representation of an adoptive family?

  • Does the inclusion of Google Earth feel artificial or vital to the story? Why is it different than a random product placement?

Movie details

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