Mighty Joe Young (1998)

Movie review by
Ellen MacKay, Common Sense Media
Mighty Joe Young (1998) Movie Poster Image
Successful remake is thrilling family fun.
  • PG
  • 1998
  • 116 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 7 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The movie addresses the subjects of endangered animals and poaching.

Violence & Scariness

A poacher kills Joe's mom (a gorilla) and Jill's mom (a primate specialist) in the traumatic opening scene. Joe crushes a bystander's leg and kills his attacker by throwing him against some power lines. In the climactic sequence, a child is barely rescued from a burning Ferris wheel.

Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that a poacher kills Joe's mom (a gorilla) and Jill's mom (a primate specialist) in the traumatic opening scene. Joe crushes a bystander's leg and kills his attacker by throwing him against some power lines. In the climactic sequence, a child is barely rescued from a burning Ferris wheel. The movie addresses the subjects of endangered animals and poaching.

Wondering if Mighty Joe Young (1998) is OK for your kids?

Parents: Set preferences and get age-appropriate recommendations with Common Sense Media Plus. Join now

Continue reading Show less

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byTinaa311 June 1, 2020
Adult Written byMarglenna May 15, 2020

Language right out the gate...

The use of the word "damn" at the beginning did us in - we didn't even take the time to watch it.
Kid, 12 years old November 21, 2018

What you need to know about Mighty Joe Yong 1998

You need to know that this movie is extremely exciting, if you see this movie be prepared to be a little scared for some of the animals. And if you see this mov... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bySertyU October 12, 2016

Great family movie, but language and scariness might not be good for young children

Kids may get upset at the fact that Joe almost dies trying to save a child from a ferris wheel. A character loses his thumb and his pointer finger, and we see b... Continue reading

What's the story?

Jill Young (Charlize Theron) makes a promise to her dying mom: she will protect Joe, an infant gorilla. This turns out to be a tricky promise to keep when Joe grows to astounding proportions, making him the target of wildlife poachers everywhere. When zoologist Gregg O'Hara (Bill Paxton) offers Joe sanctuary at a Los Angeles preserve, Jill packs up her 2000 pound gorilla and heads for Hollywood. Just as she and Joe are warming up to life in California, trouble hits. The poacher who orphaned them both 12 years earlier comes back to finish the job. Joe escapes through downtown Los Angeles and faces off with the evil Strasser at an amusement park.

Is it any good?

Animal lovers will be charmed by Joe, a giant but gentle gorilla. In an attempt to show how endangered some species really are, MIGHTY JOE YOUNG includes a couple of hard-hitting sequences, but it remains thrilling family fun. There are times when you just have to shake your head at Hollywood's desire to remake a classic. This is not one of those times. The 1949 RKO version of Mighty Joe Young is a tired monster film of the ape-runs-amuck variety that tried (unsuccessfully) to cash in on the popularity of King Kong. In contrast, this Disney version has plenty to offer a young audience. With a nod to the more adult Gorillas in the Mist, the movie centers on the daughter of a Dian Fossey-like primatologist. As Jill follows in her mom's footsteps, this environmentally-friendly story provides serious food for thought. It also provides plenty of comic relief.

Joe is more Curious George than King Kong. His favorite pastime is hide and seek, yet he doesn't seem to realize that at 15 feet tall, he is a bit too big to hide behind a bush. Joe is a feat of technical wizardry; he's so life-like that it's hard to believe he's a composite of animatronic and digital effects. Children will warm to him, especially since Joe is particularly sweet to kids. They will also enjoy Theron's and Paxton's engaging performances, and applaud (as an 8 year-old viewer did) when this couple inevitably gets together. If the climactic sequence is too intense for small children, it certainly ends happily. Mighty Joe Young turns out to be a heart-warming experience with an environmental message.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether this film, which is a remake of a 1949 monster movie, is also a monster flick. Is Joe a monster? Or is he simply ill-treated and misunderstood? Are there other so-called movie monsters that might fall into that category? What about Frankenstein? What message, if any, do you think the movie makers were trying to get across? Do monster movies often have messages?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animals

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate