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Paper Planes

Movie review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
Paper Planes Movie Poster Image
Thoughtful, inspired look at grief soars.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 96 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 4 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Perseverance; allowing people to process grief at their own pace; autonomy; standing up to bullies; being a good sport; winning versus performing at a level you can take pride in.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Dylan is a smart, kind, wise, sensitive kid who cares about others and stands up for his friends. He steals money from his dad's wallet to get a ticket to a competition but is grounded. Adults are engaged and present, although dad Jack is largely too grief-struck to parent and Grandpa breaks the law to show Dylan a good time. All are well-intentioned and realistically flawed. Other characters have unexpected depth, such as the father stand-in for a plane-making competitor who helps his faux son understand how to be a good sport and a girlfriend who shows Dylan how to appreciate more than simply winning.


A boy pushes another boy down the stairs; he sprains his ankle, is treated with acupuncture. Mild bullying includes boys taunting and intimidating, tossing paper at one another, or flicking things. Boy and grandfather imagine flying a fighter plane in WWII, dodging bullets and nearly crashing. Some discussion of a dead mother, who was killed in a car accident.


Man and woman kiss briefly.


"Hell," "loser," "sucks."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Dad appears to be hungover upon waking up.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Paper Planes is a thoughtful, spirited look at competition and perseverance that features a plucky Australian boy and his grief-stricken dad muddling through the mom's death in a car accident (not shown, only discussed) to win a paper plane-making competition. Grief looms large over the film; it keeps dad Jack from doing much to guide his son. Dylan steals from his father and subverts the rules -- as does his grandfather on occasion to have a good time -- but the film is overwhelmingly an uplifting look at overcoming grief and fear, standing up for yourself and others, and rethinking the very idea of winning for the sake of winning. There is some mild profanity ("hell," "sucks") and bullying.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 6 year old Written byMammyO July 23, 2016

Heart warming family movie

A pretty predictable movie but with a lovely message about family sticking together in tough times, which still makes me tear up and is useful with my children.... Continue reading
Adult Written byJulia N. August 31, 2016

Get ready to talk about death with your kids

While the movie itself doesn't focus on the death of the title role's mother, it brought up some deep conversations with my oldest son about my passin... Continue reading
Kid, 7 years old April 17, 2016

its awesome!!!

Its amazing but it is sad in some parts. Its inspired me to make my own paper planes and to give things a go.
Teen, 13 years old Written byzoe.w September 3, 2016
Im using this film for a film study at school so I watched the movie for the first time (not some thing I usually watch) but surprisingly overall I loved this m... Continue reading

What's the story?

Dylan (Ed Oxenbould) discovers he has a knack for making PAPER PLANES. He has a chance to compete in a world championship, but he'll have to help rally his grieving dad, Jack (Sam Worthington), and face bullies and self-doubt to do so. Along the way, friends, mentors, and a trip to Tokyo help him rethink his old ideas about what it means to try, what it means to win, and the importance of releasing something beautiful into the world.

Is it any good?

This movie manages to blend a heavy premise with an inspired look at what creativity really means and what winning ought to be about. Paper Planes is beautifully shot with multiple settings in Australia and Tokyo, and it blends cultures beautifully with an obvious appreciation for the Japanese approach to paper-making and the innate satisfaction of simply working hard to be good at an art form, whether you're exceptional at it or not. Throughout the film Dylan -- who makes for an exceptional child actor -- studies origami, flying, and paper-making, and he does a deep dive into the essence of the art and science of the craft. The ending isn't particularly unexpected, but it offers a few twists on how most of us are taught to approach competition and creativity, as well as some strongly positive modeling about friendship, bullying, and sportsmanship that far outweigh the heavier themes. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about winning. What does Paper Planes say about winning? Do you agree with it? Why, or why not?

  • What helps Dylan approach plane-making creatively? Have you ever entered a competition of any kind? What was it? What was the outcome?

  • How does the film portray bullying? Is it like bullying in real life? How should you handle bullies?

  • How do the characters in Paper Planes demonstrate perseverance? Why is this an important character strength?

Movie details

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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