Never Cry Wolf



Suspenseful, poignant wilderness film; a few gross scenes.
  • Review Date: March 31, 2011
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1983
  • Running Time: 105 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Many lessons about how one man can overcome his fears and disprove false beliefs. Also, watching Tyler on his journey brings home the realization that animals aren't that different from humans. A strong environmental message.

Positive role models

The main character is sent to a remote area with a mission and doubts whether he can accomplish the task. He gains confidence, comes to appreciate the beauty of his surroundings, learns to communicate with another species, dispels myths and learns more about himself.


Almost a plane crash. A few sad and dramatic moments. Wolves chase the main character. He falls through the ice into the water. There's a prolonged graphic scene when he starts eating mice as an experiment. This is juxtaposed with a wolf hunting and eating mice. Wolves feast on caribou and its carcass is shown. Gunshots are heard in the distance. There's also a threat of an animal tearing a man apart and talk of killing wolves for money.


No sex, but some non-sexual nudity. After Tyler falls in the ice, he has to take off his wet clothes, so his bare butt is shown. Later, he runs and jumps off a cliff naked -- briefly showing full frontal. A prolonged scene showing his bare butt as he runs with the caribou. Mike talks about a girl wanting to come home with him.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Many scenes of pipe smoking, mostly by the main character. Background cigarette smoking. Discussion of "Moose Juice," which is equal parts Moose brand beer and ethyl alcohol. Tyler uses it to conquer his fear of flying. He's shown drinking it throughout the movie.

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, with cinematography and sound that won awards (including an Oscar). This 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.

Families can talk 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 7, 1983
DVD release date:September 7, 2004
Cast:Brian Dennehy, Charles Martin Smith
Director:Carroll Ballard
Studio:Walt Disney Pictures
Topics:Wild animals
Run time:105 minutes
MPAA rating:PG

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written byTony Schwartz August 23, 2014

Exceptional film with great message

I saw this film when it was initially released and fell in love with it. The performances, direction, cinematography and music are first-rate. I've watched it a few more times over the years and just watched it with my sons, ages 9 & 7. I wanted to share this film with them. Yes, there is nudity, but it is harmless nudity, and it is shown appropriately and not for gratuitous reasons. There are a few scenes showing wolves chasing and then eating a caribou, but the scenes are mild and not graphic. I am a little surprised to see the age recommendation of 13. I have no problem with my sons viewing this film. Any "inappropriateness" is completely outweighed by the important message in this film about nature and man's responsibility to it. I recommend this to any parent who wants their children to learn to appreciate and take care of our planet.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 17 years old Written bymoviewannabe May 8, 2013

This movie reminds me of home

This film is really good. I remember when Tyler falls through the ice and into the water. After that, he strips naked so he can dry his clothes off and warm up to avoid catching hypothermia. I remember seeing his bare buttocks in some scenes, but I don't remember seeing his crotch when he jumps off the cliff. When Tyler lands, his pilot says to him "Beats the hell out of me." Even though, this is a PG movie, the MPAA assumes that the movie's content, there's a pretty fair bit for a PG. I'll never forget when I saw a pipe in Tyler's mouth and when he drank moose juice to help with his acrophobia. If you love movies about wolves or if you're a teacher and want to teach kids about wolves or how people struggle in the wild, this is the choice of movie for kids to learn about wolves. The setting of this movie reminds me of my hometown of Anchorage, Alaska.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 13 years old Written byEvolute Creator January 23, 2016

Correct. All ages.

Not much to say here. This movie literally generated my life. Go ahead.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


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