Mars Attacks! Movie Poster Image

Mars Attacks!



Alien-invasion satire for older tweens and up.
Popular with kids
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1996
  • Running Time: 106 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Not many good role models here.


A herd of cattle is set on fire (digitally). A Martian death ray turns people into gruesome green skeletons, while other hapless citizens are crushed or impaled. There is a severed finger and a disembodied hand; captured humans (and one alien-autopsied Martian) are taken apart and reassembled in gruesome ways. Much shooting at the Martians (though seldom very effectively). Lots of explosions. Many characters die.


The presidential press secretary is shown using the prestige of his office to pick up girls (two are prostitutes, one a nasty Martian in disguise). The Martian leader is shown perusing a magazine with a pin-up centerfold and getting some lascivious ideas. Non-graphic sex scene.


Some strong language. Incomplete "f--k"s.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Scientist smokes a pipe.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Mars Attacks! was based on a notorious series of trading cards that were censored for gruesomeness, and director Tim Burton doesn't hold back: abundant cartoony violence includes people being turned into skeletons by a death ray, vivisection (and whimsical re-assembly) of living humans, Martians' brains swelling and bursting, and cruelty to (computer-generated) animals. In addition the filmmakers have added some prostitutes to the blend. There is a subtle anti-authoritarian tone that kids have the smarts to save the world after all the annoying adults are wiped out.

What's the story?

MARS ATTACKS! begins with a fleet of Martian flying saucers encircling Earth. While a blustery general (Rod Steiger) warns the self-aggrandizing US president (Jack Nicholson) not to trust the grotesque little aliens, a scientist (Pierce Brosnan) assures that creatures so intelligent could not possibly mean us any harm. The Earth's nations try to give the creatures a friendly welcome, to no avail. The Martians actually are sadistic varmints who enjoy faking out the humans with peace overtures, then opening fire with grisly death weapons. Eventually the Martians overrun Washington D.C. and declare victory, but their triumph is short-lived. Young Richie (Lukas Haas is trying to save his beloved grandmother from the Martians when he accidentally discovers that the old lady's favorite record -- Slim Whitman yodeling "Indian Love Call" -- makes the Martians' brains explode. If Richie can spread the news quickly enough, humankind may be saved.

Is it any good?


Director Tim Burton's dark sense of humor makes Mars Attacks! a must for the sort of young viewer who would rather read Famous Monsters of Filmland than Sports Illustrated. Remember "Sid," the twisted neighbor boy from Toy Story who liked to torture his playthings? This is his sort of alien-invasion film. Adults can enjoy it too, if they don't mind the subversive tone. But with an all-star cast and too many subplots, the movie threatens to turn into a collection of sketch-bits rather than a coherent whole.


Though the Martians are doubtlessly the villains here, you do get a sneaky anti-establishment message -- that the extraterrestrial holocaust will have a positive side effect of exterminating corrupt and worthless authority figures while sparing the cool kids and the few adults who listen to them.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the differences between this movie and Independence Day, and ask kids which one they enjoyed more, and why.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 12, 1996
DVD/Streaming release date:June 4, 2004
Cast:Glenn Close, Jack Nicholson, Lukas Haas, Natalie Portman, Pierce Brosnan, Sarah Jessica Parker
Director:Tim Burton
Studio:Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Run time:106 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:fantasy violence, sexual themes

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Adult Written bygreen_goblin May 8, 2009
Not suitable for under 15s, really. It's violent and too scary.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Teen, 14 years old Written byILUVMEAT January 31, 2009

This will make kids laugh more than it will scare them

The first time I really checked this out was before going to bed and I wanted to stop since I was about to go to bed but when I watched it all the way throug, I lauged. A race of martian aliens decide to invade earth. They have normal sized bodies but have huge heads. They try to invade a few times, each time disentagrating humans with a gun that zaps people and vaporizes their skin, leaving behind a red or green skeleton. This is just a movie full of crazy slapstick antics. For the 10 and up crowd.
Teen, 13 years old Written byFlaper May 28, 2009

If you like violence this is the movie for you!

This is a VERY violent movie. Many say that language is not an issue BUT it is... Do you know what those Martians are saying? Who knows. I have seen lots of violent movies and on the violence meter this is WAY up there probably broke the scale.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing


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