Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Moana Movie Poster Image
 Parents recommendPopular with kids
Great characters, memorable music, some monsters/scares.
  • PG
  • 2016
  • 113 minutes

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 115 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 171 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids will learn about Polynesian myths and culture, as well as lessons about courage, teamwork, communication, curiosity, and perseverance.

Positive Messages

Great messages about being a strong leader and staying true to yourself. Shows the benefit of taking risks to help others, even when that means sacrificing your status or your possessions. Promotes the value of owning up to your responsibilities, even when it's challenging. Also encourages teamwork, communication, and trusting others. The depiction of ancient Polynesian culture is Disneyfied but respectful.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Moana is a wonderful role model and a strong female character. Unlike many movie princesses, her focus isn't on winning a prince -- instead, she's set on being a strong, successful leader for her people. She doesn't shy away from her responsibilities, but she also fearlessly follows her heart. She demonstrates curiosity and courage and inspires both in her fellow islanders, too. Maui starts off as a self-centered braggart, but he learns (from Moana) to be selfless and ends up being a patient mentor to her. Thoughtful representation of Polynesian culture.

Violence & Scariness

Several dark moments and potentially frightening scenes/images. A huge, fiery lava monster attacks the main characters. An elder tells the scary tale of why Maui was exiled. An elderly character dies and later returns as a spirit. Storms; characters tossed about violently by the ocean. Moana's father yells at her for wanting to go out on the ocean; Maui also yells at Moana. Cute but violent coconut pirates shoot arrows and poisoned darts at characters. A giant, creepy, glow-in-the-dark crab attacks Moana and Maui. Some comic violence, including when Moana hits Maui with an oar, a sidekick chicken nearly drowns, and a man is seen receiving a tattoo. 

Sexy Stuff

A young boy dances and winks flirtatiously at Moana, and Maui is shirtless for the entire film, but there are no romantic elements. 


No profanity, but characters do say "butt," "dumb," and "heiney." Also some creative insults, like "sharkhead," "beady-eyed bottom feeder," "filthy pile of pebbles," and "lying son of a..." Moana also tells the ocean that "fish pee in you."


No brands featured in the movie, but the film is part of the Disney princess empire and has inspired countless products, from toys to games, clothing, and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Moana is an animated Disney adventure about a Polynesian island chief's daughter who sets off on a quest to save her people. With Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson voicing demigod Maui and a score that features original music by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, the movie should appeal to viewers of all ages. Scary, perilous scenes include run-ins with frightening, violent monsters (one made of lava, the other a giant crab) and with ocean storms and waves. Characters also go up against a ship full of adorable (but armed) coconut pirates, a character dies (offscreen), and a couple of male authority figures yell at Moana. There's also a bit of language along the lines of "butt" and "dumb." Otherwise, the movie should be fine for younger viewers, offering positive messages of self-discovery and empowerment. And Moana herself is a great role model, demonstrating perseverance, curiosity, and courage.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10-year-old Written byTeanna B. November 22, 2016

Come Sail Away!

Realizing I was a bit culture/history/mythology impaired when it came to Planet Ocean, the vast swath of the Pacific settled by Polynesian voyagers millennia ag... Continue reading
Adult Written byShelena T. December 19, 2016

Heads Up For Christians

First I'm not a parent, I just enjoy selecting movies to go see. Let me express if you're a Christian Parent then you're going to have to sit d... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old February 16, 2019

Adventurous Princess/Hero Animated Musical

A classic Disney arc with a good plot, catchy music, and important life lessons. Stereotype defining characters.
Kid, 12 years old November 27, 2016

Great movie!!!

This movie is really awesome. For kids who have a fear of the ocean, you might want to wait a little bit because there are a few scenes where there is a storm a... Continue reading

What's the story?

In MOANA, Disney tells the story of a Polynesian island chief's adolescent daughter who's been raised to become the next leader of her people. Moana (voiced by Auli'i Cravalho) has always had a special relationship with the ocean and has grown up believing her grandmother's tales about how shape-shifting demigod Maui cursed the islands by stealing the ancient Heart of Te Fiti, which grants the power of creation. When the coconut harvest fails and the fishermen return with empty nets, Moana takes her grandmother's advice and sets sail against her father's rules. Her quest is to find the exiled Maui (Dwayne Johnson) and deliver him across the sea to return that which he stole a millennium ago. Along the way, the mighty Maui mentors Moana on how to be a wayfinder -- voyager -- as her people were meant to be.

Is it any good?

This engaging adventure triumphs because of its empowering storyline, which pays tribute to Polynesian culture, and because of its feel-good music, courtesy of Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. Teen Hawaiian singer Cravalho and Johnson (aka "The Rock") share a refreshingly student-and-mentor-like chemistry as the driven Moana and mythic Maui. Unlike any other "Disney princess" movie, Moana is completely romance free, never once bringing up its main character's marriage prospects. Moana's status as the island's next chief is unquestioned, and she's so busy trying to diplomatically solve her people's problems that the lack of a love interest is welcome. As Maui points out, she's a princess because she wears a dress and has an animal sidekick (in her case, a kooky rooster called Heihei), but Moana strives to save her island, not find a prince.

No other actor could have been a better fit for Maui than Johnson (himself of Polynesian heritage): He's as charming in animated form as he is in live-action adventures. Maui starts off as a self-absorbed demigod; he sings one of the catchiest songs in the movie, "You're Welcome," about all of the ways humankind should thank him for his accomplishments. But as he grows to know Moana and teaches her how to navigate the ocean, his truer, kinder self emerges. The original music, which is a collaboration between Miranda, Disney composing alum Mark Mancina, and Samoan musician Opetaia Foa'i, is catchy and appropriately inspired by Oceanic music. Besides "You're Welcome," the funniest song is "Shiny," sung by Jemaine Clement, who plays a killer crab with an insatiable appetite for treasure. With its inspiring messages, charming characters, and memorable music, Moana is an excellent choice for moviegoers of all ages.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about which parts of Moana were scary. Did making the monsters cute (like the coconut pirates) or colorful (like the giant crab) make them more or less scary?

  • What makes Moana such a strong character? How does she demonstrate curiosity, perseverance, and courage on her quest? Why are those important character strengths? Is she a role model? Why? Can you think of other movies featuring strong female characters?

  • How does Moana deal with wanting to stay on the island and be a good leader for her people but also wanting to listen to the voice inside her telling her to explore the ocean? Have you ever felt like who people want you to be isn't the same as who you really are? Does Moana have to change who she is to be a good leader?

  • The story of Moana is based on myths and legends from ancient Polynesian culture. Is the movie respectful of those cultures? What did you learn about how people lived then?

  • How do the different characters handle their grief? Who becomes more cautious, and who becomes more courageous? Have you ever lost a loved one? How did you react?

Movie details

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