March of the Penguins

  • Review Date: December 13, 2005
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2005
  • Running Time: 80 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Stunning, loving documentary; some intense peril.
  • Review Date: December 13, 2005
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2005
  • Running Time: 80 minutes





What parents need to know

Educational value

This documentary shows the beauty and struggle of emperor penguins as they embark on yet another cycle of migration and mating. A deep reverence for nature is shown throughout the movie, through narration and scenes depicting how these penguins survive the harsh climate of Antarctica. The cycle of life for these penguins is shown and discussed, as are the dangers they face through the climate and predators.

Positive messages

Reverence for nature is abundant throughout the movie. It also teaches, through narration and filmed scenes, a deep appreciation and understanding of the cycle of life: birth, life, and death.

Positive role models

As it's a documentary on the mating and migration habits of emperor penguins, there are no positive role models, per se.

Violence & scariness

Sea lions attack penguins; an egg cracks open, killing the unborn penguin. This documentary honestly discusses the difficulties emperor penguins face during migration periods. Some penguins are shown unable to survive the trek across Antarctica. The narration discusses how some mothers die while they're pregnant and they search for food.

Sexy stuff

Penguins mate.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the documentary includes stunning but also occasionally disturbing imagery of penguins walking, mating, and dying. Morgan Freeman narrates as the penguins make their annual march from the Antarctic shore in Antarctica. Some penguins die along the way, and others freeze during the long winter as they huddle to protect pregnant females and then eggs and babies, and still others are killed by predators.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

MARCH OF THE PENGUINS is an account of the grueling annual trek made by Emperor penguins. Although temperatures reach 80 degrees below zero, these flightless birds trundle across the tundra, walking and sometimes sliding on their bellies over some 70 miles, from the shore to an inland plain. Here they mate, gestate, and lay eggs, after which the males take over to protect the eggs while the females head back to the sea to eat fish and do their best to avoid hungry sea lions. The females then head back to the plain where reunited couples nurture adorable fuzzy little hatchlings until they are able to walk back to shore.

Is it any good?


The French language version of Luc Jacquet's March of the Penguins reportedly featured voices for individual penguins, articulating joy and sadness. The U.S. release has Morgan Freeman narrating, with a script that occasionally overreaches: "It's a story of survival, a story of life over death. It's a story about love." You see the penguins endure any number of hardships, look charming or awkward as they waddle, and even remarkably graceful when they crane their necks over one another or exchange gentle, seemingly loving beak-taps.

Young children might be alarmed at several scenes that underline the severity of conditions facing the penguins. They endure freezing temperatures, wind, and blizzards by gathering into a huge group. Some starve, some lose their eggs from under the protective folds of a mother or father's body and watch as the eggs crack in the instant cold, and still others (especially babies) are assaulted by predators. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the film's "humanizing" of the penguins, as it describes their sense of loss, fears, and aspirations. How does the movie make penguin pairs seem like romantic couples? How does the movie construct the penguins' sense of community or future? How might the penguins serve as documentary subjects even without such effort to anthropomorphize their feelings?

  • What role does the narration serve in heightening the visual elements of the documentary? What if there was no narration?

  • What is one new thing you learned about Emperor penguins after watching this movie?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 24, 2005
DVD release date:November 29, 2005
Cast:Morgan Freeman
Director:Luc Jacquet
Studio:Warner Independent
Topics:Ocean creatures, Science and nature, Wild animals
Run time:80 minutes
MPAA rating:G
MPAA explanation:All ages

This review of March of the Penguins was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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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, okay 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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Adult Written byHuebel April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age


I couldn't peel my eyes off this movie. If you have kids who really enjoy movies about animals, this may be right up their alley. The narration by Morgan Freeman is warm and inviting, which is a stark contrast to the harsh realities that these penguins deal with. The only negative thing I can say about this movie is that it may not hold some children's attention.
Adult Written byJenPete April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

Finally a movie for even our smallest child

This was entertaining for the entire family, educational and beautiful to watch. Enough humor in the script to keep the audience listening. Even our 2-year-old didn't worry about the only "violence" - a scene involving seals v. penquins...very adeptly handled.
Adult Written byMomma Adamson April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age


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