Never Cry Wolf

Movie review by
Lisa A. Goldstein, Common Sense Media
Never Cry Wolf Movie Poster Image
Suspenseful, poignant wilderness film; a few gross scenes.
  • PG
  • 1983
  • 105 minutes

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

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 & Representations

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.

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.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMrsDMB February 8, 2019

High Quality - Entertaining, Challenging & Worthwhile

I saw this movie when it came out (many years ago) and remember being impressed. Tonight, I watched it with our 7 and 9 year old kids, unsure what to expect.... Continue reading
Adult Written bytomtriumph November 15, 2017

Fine If You See The World As Natural

I don't disagree with any of the concerns raised, but those same elements are what gives the movie an honest, interesting depth. Yes, he pees to mark his... Continue reading
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.
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... Continue reading

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?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love nature and animal movies

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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