Visually beautiful but dark retelling of classic fairytale.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Review Date: May 30, 2014
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 97 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids will learn the value of looking at a situation from more than one perspective, as well as the important lesson that people are often more than what they seem.

Positive messages

The movie's over-arching message is to not allow greed and hatred to blind you from love and generosity. If Maleficent had let go of her anger at being jilted, she wouldn't have cursed Aurora, and if Stefan hadn't been so greedy and hurtful, the kingdom and the moors could have lived in peace. Aurora's journey is about staying in the light, even when surrounded by darkness.

Positive role models

Aurora is a sweet, kind girl who's curious and loves the creatures of the moors, just like young Maleficent, who was brave and protective of her fellow fairies and creatures. Maleficent is both a villain and a hero, because she had reasons to be bitter and unkind and is eventually remorseful for the hateful way she cursed baby Aurora. Against all odds, Maleficent is able to love again when she sees what a smart and generous young woman Aurora has become. Diaval is a loyal and truth-telling servant/helper to Maleficent.

Violence & scariness

The movie's tone becomes quite dark, and there are some genuinely jump-worthy/scary scenes -- like when Maleficent realizes that her wings have been cut off (a brutal scene that's reminiscent of sexual assault in some ways), as well as the various battles between the kingdom and the creatures of the moors, including the climactic fight between Maleficent, the king's guards, and the king himself. The three fairies can be physical with each other -- pulling one another's hair, hitting, and slapping -- but it's usually portrayed in a humorous manner. People die on and off camera, including one key character who plunges to his death.

Sexy stuff

A couple of kisses, including a romantic kiss between Aurora and a prince.


Rare uses of insult language like "imbecile" and "idiot."


While there are no product placements in the movie, there are promotional tie-ins to merchandise including apparel, toys, accessories, and games.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Maleficent is Disney's retelling of its iconic animated princess movie Sleeping Beauty from the villain's point of view. Audiences will learn the reasons why the "evil fairy" (played by Angelina Jolie) is so bitter and resentful at not being invited to baby Aurora's welcoming party that she curses the infant princess. Far more so than the animated original (which itself is often too scary for younger kids in the preschool age bracket), this live-action version can get quite dark and may frighten younger kids, particularly during violent action sequences between the kingdom and the magical creatures of the moors. Characters die (or look dead) or are injured, and Maleficient is an intimidating figure. It's also very upsetting when her wings are cut off. But the movie's overall message -- about redemption and love -- is positive, and giving Maleficient more depth and context will help kids sympathize with her. As long as your kids can handle the battles, they'll probably enjoy this new take on a classic Disney villain.

What's the story?

MALEFICENT is a retelling of Disney's classic take on Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of the villain, the supposedly evil fairy who eventually curses baby Princess Aurora with eternal sleep. But Maleficent, like all villains, is a complicated character: She grew up a powerful, winged fairy who lived peacefully in the magical moors adjacent to the human kingdom. When, as a child, a young peasant boy Stefan wondered into the moors, young Maleficent grew attached to him, despite her distrust of humans. Their friendship leads to romance over the years, but after Stefan (Sharlto Copley) does something unthinkable to Maleficent (now Angelina Jolie) to gain the king's favor, she grows bitter and dark from his betrayal. Once Stefan is crowned king and his queen has a baby girl, Maleficent decides to get her revenge by cursing little Aurora. Little does Maleficent know that the girl will grow up into a sweet and curious girl (Elle Fanning) whom even a dark and angry fairy could appreciate.

Is it any good?


Plenty of Maleficent is visually spectacular, with amazing special effects and lush scenery: The moors at their brightest are sweet and enchanting, while the kingdom is a drab and imposing place. Between the art design, the costumes, and the immaculate CGI-aided make-up (has an actress ever had such razor-sharp cheekbones as Jolie in this film?), Maleficent is a true feast for the eyes, which is no surprise, given director Robert Stromberg's history as a visual effects specialist.

Plot wise, however, the movie is a bit of a letdown. Jolie is wonderful at being (justifiably) mean -- with her sharp face, scary green eyes, and clipped speaking tones -- and she's good at delivering the dry one liners. But to reduce her story to the cliche of a jilted and jealous ex-girlfriend is slightly disappointing and undercuts the movie's other message: that you should strive to stay in the light, even when surrounded by darkness. While younger kids might be alternately scared or bored, older kids and adults might wish for a little more enchantment to go along with the effects. Still, Fanning, so lovely and bright-eyed, is well cast as teen Aurora, and worth seeing opposite Jolie.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why villains/antiheroes are often just as compelling as heroes. Were you surprised at Maleficent's back story? Did it make her more sympathetic?

  • How does the movie make you rethink the story of Sleeping Beauty? What is the film trying to say about villains? Are people all good or all evil?

  • How is the idea of love explored in the movie? Is love only the romantic kind, or are there are other kinds of "true love"?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:May 30, 2014
DVD release date:November 4, 2014
Cast:Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley
Director:Robert Stromberg
Studio:Walt Disney Pictures
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Princesses and fairies
Run time:97 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:sequences of fantasy action and violence, including frightening images

This review of Maleficent was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Educator Written byaidakiwi24 May 29, 2014

Terrific, female-driven summer flick!

I absolutely love this movie, and the CommonSenseMedia review is mostly spot-on...except for one thing. Maleficent doesn't enact her revenge because she's been jilted - she's not evil because of a man. She becomes evil because of the greed and destruction of men, or mankind. She seeks to destroy Stephen's family because he stole her wings and physically violated her, all because of his ambition. This was one of the best movies I've seen with strong female characters who are in no way sexualized - a rare thing in films today. Great pacing and acting - and more comedic relief than I expected.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Parent of a 4 year old Written bygatorjackie May 30, 2014

Disagree with the site

Commonsense media often has very good reviews and their review of Maleficent is quite good this time around. However, they are completely wrong to characterize maleficent's anger as a result of being jilted by a boy. Maleficent seeks revenge on the king not because he married another woman; rather, she seeks revenge because he took from her what she most loved about herself - her wings. When Aurora asked her to describe her wings, you can see Maleficent's immense pride and love for her wings when she declares that they were strong, powerful, beautiful, large, and that they never let her down a single time. Stefan took from her what she most cherished. As far as the age range for this film, the commercials make it appear much scarier than what it really is. For example, the dragon in the commercials is presented as an evil dragon, but over the course of the film, viewers discover that the dragon is actually good, because it is trying to protect Maleficent and Aurora. Disney edited the commercials in the way that they did in order to attempt to appeal to an older audience, but remember the film is rated PG, so it is not that bad. We have a daughter who is a very, very mature four and a half years old, and she was not scared at all, although she was a bit confused by the complexities of Maleficent's personality. We did, however, have a fantastic conversation about the character after the movie. We talked quite a bit about forgiveness, apologizing when you make a mistake, and redemption. We talked about how sometimes good people make bad choices. She was definitely able to understand that. A VERY discussion-provoking film for a family
Parent of a 6 and 8 year old Written byheather13 June 15, 2014

Great film - very intense for most young kids

Having just seen this WITHOUT kids I'm basing my age ranking on what I feel my kids and most of their friends can handle. My eight-year-old daughter is completely fine with animated frights such as Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid. And she can handle a movie like Star Wars (original). While Maleficent doesn't show much gore, there are a few key scenes that are incredibly intense and heart-wrenching. One scene also shows the equivalent of a bloody stump. War scenes last longer than indicated in other reviews here (I'd estimate four minutes) and show many men being strewn about and some decapitated bodies. A man falling to his death is actually shown (I believe one review said the body disappears - that's incorrect. It's not like Tangled where she turns to dust. The body with unseeing eyes is right there on the ground). As for the movie itself - it's excellent. If you have tweens or pre-teens, don't hesitate to take them. The are no issues with language, it's a great message, they will love something that's a little more violent and intense than animation. I wouldn't risk it for younger kids though. As I said to my daughter, you can't unsee some of the images in the movie.
What other families should know
Great messages


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