A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this Oscar-nominated drama about a man in the wilderness includes some graphic animal eating scenes and some non-sexual nudity. Expect several perilous situations, pipe smoking, beer drinking, and a prolonged scene where man and wolf are juxtaposed eating mice. A few scenes show the main character naked while changing clothes, swimming, or running (brief full frontal, bare butt). Since the end isn't concrete, expect kids to ask questions about what happened after the credits roll.
What's the story?
Based on Farley Mowat's memoir of the same title, Tyler (Charles Martin Smith) is a government researcher who goes to the Arctic to determine whether wolves are the real menace to the vanishing caribou. He ends up dispelling myths about wolves and learning more about himself. He ingratiates himself with the species and creates a particularly unique experiment, which ultimately results in his discovery that humans are more detrimental to the natural environment than the wolves. Brian Dennehy's pilot/real estate developer character makes an appearance now and then. Tyler also befriends locals Ootek and Mike, which likely keeps him from going just a wee bit insane out there in the wilderness.
Is it any good?
A recipe for a boring movie is watching a biologist in the Arctic study wolves, but to director Carroll Ballard's credit, he put together a film that's suspenseful and interesting from the start. The cinematography and sound won awards (including an Oscar), and the film is also on the New York Times list of the 100 "essential" children's movies. The sacrifice that Tyler makes by living with the wolves is visually and movingly portrayed in this medium; few words are needed. The wolves themselves are incredible to see. And anytime Brian Dennehy's larger-than-life, jovial character is on screen, he's a worthy competitor.
The realities of life in the tundra are stark, however, which might be difficult for younger kids to handle. Kids might also consider it slow or not fully appreciate its beauty. Older kids might have trouble with a couple gross animal-eating scenes. The ending -- well, there really isn't one, which is disappointing. Too many unanswered questions are left; an epilogue would have been nice.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the film's violence. This movie is based on a true story and was made in 1983. How does its violence compare to movies made today? How much violence is necessary in movies?
This movie is based on a man's memoirs. How faithful do you think the film is to the book? How accurate is the original story, for that matter? What questions did you have at the end, if any? How would you have chosen to end the movie?
Tyler tentatively sets out on a daunting mission but eventually gains confidence. Would you have been able to do what he did? Is there anything you've done that you can compare? What can you learn from this movie?
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
For kids who love nature and animal movies
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
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.