March of the Penguins

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
March of the Penguins Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Stunning, loving documentary; some intense peril.
  • G
  • 2005
  • 80 minutes

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 25 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 32 reviews

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

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 sense of perseverance for animals that survive under the harshest conditions and a deep appreciation and understanding of the cycle of life: birth, life, and death.

Positive Role Models & Representations

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.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that March of the Penguins is an unforgettable nature documentary that includes stunning but also occasionally disturbing imagery of penguins walking, mating, and dying. Morgan Freeman narrates as the penguins make their annual trek 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 12 and 15-year-old Written byLaurieS March 28, 2011
I took my six year old to see MotP in the theaters when it first came out. We were the only family with children there, the rest of the patrons were all retiree... Continue reading
Adult Written byHuebel April 9, 2008


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... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old June 7, 2009

adorable and sad.....

This movie was AWESOME!!! It was sad when the sea lion ate a female penguin but exciting when new life came out of the egg.:)
Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008

Aww... aww... aw... No! The sea lion ate her! *sob*

*sob* Cute documentry... *sob* penguins in love... *sob* go on difficult journeys... *sob* to save the species *sob*. *ahem* Well, it is definitely an all ages... Continue reading

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're able to walk back to shore.

Is it any good?

This is a gorgeous, inspiring documentary for families with kids old enough to handle the peril. It's incredible to think that this annual journey to find a mate and start a family has been going on for centuries and that the penguins make the dangerous trip completely out of instinct. These animals are amazingly dedicated parents; if only all humans could be this devoted to their children. 

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. version has Morgan Freeman narrating, with a script that occasionally gets a bit dramatic: "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. It's a fantastic way to introduce older kids to documentaries; while the genre may have a "dry" reputation, there's nothing boring about this engrossing animal adventure.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about March of the Penguins' "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 were no narration?

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

  • How does March of the Penguins promote perseverance? Why is this an important character strength?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animals

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