Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Book-based comedy has some rebellion, light romance.
  • PG
  • 2016
  • 92 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 26 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 70 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Rafe breaks a lot of rules, but he does so to raise questions about the idea of rules just for the sake of rules. Also messages about the importance of sibling relationships and the less-than-ideal practice of teaching for a test rather than teaching actual students. Encourages honesty and communication between family members, though the examples of both aren't always clearly presented.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Rafe and Georgia's mom loves her kids and wants to help them do their best. Even though the siblings fight, Georgia is worried about her big brother. Rafe is smart, talented, and clever. Jeannie is socially conscious and stands up for Rafe, and vice versa. But most of the adults are unkind and unhelpful.


Pratfalls and sight gags of people falling, a dog peeing, a girl illegally driving a car she purposely damages, and mild school "vandalism" with art. A character's prized possession is destroyed. Sad discussions about a dead family member.


An embrace/kiss between adults, one kiss between middle schoolers, and a mention of a "hot" stepmom by a student government candidate.


"Buttwipe," "doofus," "sucks," "crap," "what rhymes with suck?," "oh my God," "what the hell," frickin', "totally screwed," "jerks," "twerps," "loser," "stupid," "pissed off."


Products/brands seen or mentioned include iPhone, Stussy, Ford Explorer, BMW, Post-It Notes, Dave and Busters, Instagram, Facebook, Apple MacBook, PT Cruiser, Nike, and Adidas.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink socially at a restaurant.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life is a comedy based on the best-selling book by James Patterson. The story revolves around a rebellious middle schooler who breaks lots of school rules. Little kids might be upset by that, but tweens and young teens will realize that he's doing it for a valid reason: questioning rules just for the sake of having rules. While there's no violence, several pratfalls are played for laughs, and there are sad discussions about a dead family member. Expect a bunch of insults and almost-swear words like "what the...," "what rhymes with suck," and "frickin'," as well as "pissed off," "buttwipe," "doofus," "stupid," "crap," and more. There's also some light romance (including kissing and reference to a "hot" stepmom). But the movie also encourages honesty and communication between families and siblings and the importance of teachers who focus on students rather than test scores.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bycdub October 16, 2016

Great Movie to Undermine Years of Good Parenting

A kid who acts out (for understandable reasons) is now on his third school. Does he straighten up and fly right in the face of stricter rules? Nope. He break... Continue reading
Adult Written byLouise R. October 13, 2016
First of all, doesn't middle school have a bad enough reputation? Now there's an idiotic book and movie that reinforces that to make prospective middl... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byBabyTunes15 January 13, 2017


Not ANYTHING like the commercials... the movie was inappropriate. It should be rated PG 13. There was kissing, boobs, loads of swearing, and a lot of violence.... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byHola Its me. July 10, 2020

Okay when u just look at common senses review they dont tell u bout the boob reference

K I liked it a lot but parents caution this should be may be pg 13 its on the brink. So there is an instance where a kid says his step mom is hot but that aint... Continue reading

What's the story?

MIDDLE SCHOOL: THE WORST YEARS OF MY LIFE is based on the book by best-selling author and publisher James Patterson. It centers on Rafe Katchadorian (Griffin Gluck), who has just started at yet another new middle school after being kicked out of several others. Rafe's only real friend is Leo (Thomas Barbusca), a former BFF who also ends up at his new school. It's led by Principal Dwight (Andrew Daly), who gives every student a handbook filled with arbitrary rules. Rafe finds solace in his beloved journal, where he keeps his doodles, drawings, and thoughts, but it gets confiscated and destroyed (in a bucket of acid!). The next day, Rafe and Leo create a Rules Aren't for Everyone mission to publicly "shred" the school's rules, one by one. Meanwhile, Rafe and his plucky younger sister, Georgia (Alexa Nisenson), must deal with their single mom's (Lauren Graham) two-faced boyfriend, Carl (Rob Riggle).

Is it any good?

This entertaining adaptation captures the spirit of the book's quirky main character's quest to break ridiculous rules and carry on after personal tragedy. Gluck's Rafe is as "adorkable" in the movie as he is in the book, with a whip-smart imagination and vivid drawings that come to life around him. The beauty of the title, Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, is that most adults and even some younger viewers can relate to the daily challenges of middle school: indifferent administrators, bullies, social hierarchies, and rules -- some that make sense and others that seem silly and/or pointless. Rafe and Leo demonstrate a strong friendship as they try to show their classmates how unnecessary most of the rules are to their education.

Daly is ideal as the principal who loves his rules and his No. 1 certificates for being first in the state's achievement tests (hilariously called the B.L.A.A.R). Parks and Recreation vet Retta co-stars as his devoted assistant principal, who -- like her beloved boss -- believes you should "teach to the test, not the students." (Um, nope.) Riggle makes the most out of playing Carl, Rafe's soon-to-be stepdad, who pretends he cares about the kids in front of their mom but really wants them out of the way. The light romance and rebellion make this a better fit for tweens and actual middle schoolers rather than really young kids, as does a poignant plot point that explains a lot of Rafe's behavior.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the idea of breaking rules, as addressed in Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life. When is it OK to break rules? When isn't it? How can you tell the difference? What would you have done in Rafe's place?

  • What does the movie say about the importance of sibling relationships? How do the characters demonstrate communication?

  • Do you agree with the movie's position on teaching students vs. teaching for test scores? Which side do your teachers/school fall closer toward? How does that affect you?

  • If you've read the book -- how does the movie compare? Do you think the illustrated parts were well depicted in the movie?

Movie details

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