Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Movie review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief Movie Poster Image
Too scary for younger fans of the popular books.
  • PG
  • 2010
  • 119 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 148 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 507 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Along with all the positive messages of family loyalty and perseverance, comes the negatives: absentee parents, disobedient teens, teens who express dislike of their parents, and some rewards for negative behavior.  The underworld depicted seems like a place of torment for everyone. There's also some very reckless teen driving -- Grover falls asleep at the wheel and almost gets hit by a semi, and later teens speed down the freeway in a sports car.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Percy is a poor student coping with dyslexia and ADHD who discovers his heroic qualities. He also adores his mom and does everything to save her. While Grover is a good friend, he's also played as a womanizer. Annabeth is a strong female character who's great with a sword. But the fierce friendship that these three forge makes a much stronger impression in the book.


Battles with some mythological monsters are quite frightening. Some creatures are also demonic-looking -- like a gruesome fury, a giant Hades with skeletal wings coming out of a campfire, and scores of tormented fiery souls. Others are just large and violent, like a minotaur and a hydra with many snapping, fire-breathing heads. Medusa's head of snakes is severed and carted around. A car is thrown, limbs are hacked by swords, and two characters -- one monster, one human -- are impaled violently. There's lots of fighting amongst campers, with some blood (though Percy magically heals in water).


Gabe slaps Percy's mom's behind in front of Percy. Grover is all about the ladies -- he has a horde around him at a casino and asks jokingly, "Which one did I propose to?" after he tells Percy he's getting married. Persephone kisses Hades passionately, then turns her attentions to Grover saying, "I haven't had a satyr [pause] visit before."


"Ass" a few times. "Highway to Hell" plays on the radio as the characters head for the underworld. A few uses of "God" as an exclamation. Plus insults like "bald-headed freak" and "little brat" exchanged between Percy and his stepfather.


Converse All-Stars should have their own credit (even though the kind with wings that the movie's characters fight in aren't for sale). An iPod is also an important part of the story. Also shown: a Mac laptop and a sports car. Plus shout-outs to The French Connection (original) and Mick Jagger.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lotus flowers at the Lotus Casino are offered constantly to guests; they have a mind-altering effect that make patrons loopy and unaware of the outside world. Gabe drinks beer or asks for a beer in every one of his scenes. There are fruity-looking drinks at a bar in the Lotus Casino around teens.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie is an aged-up version of the Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief book that Common Sense Media recommends for readers 9 and up. Young hero Percy is now in high school rather than middle school; his satyr friend Grover loves the ladies; and a trip that Percy, Grover, and Annabeth take to a casino has a nightclub, a full bar, and trippy lotus flowers that all the patrons ingest (in the book, they play video and arcade games endlessly). Plus, the violence level is high for a PG-rated movie: Monsters are very frightning, especially the demonic ones -- like Hades aflame with skeletal wings and a fury sent to destroy Percy -- characters (monster and human) are impaled and slashed at with swords, and Percy's mom is crushed by a minotaur and taken to the underworld. After Medusa's head is severed, it's dragged along on the road trip to Hades.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 12-year-old Written byMom of 3 munchkins March 14, 2010

Fine for older kids, but not for those under 13.

This movie definitely should have been rated PG-13! I took my 12 1/2 year old nephew to see it, as he has read all of the books in the Percy Jackson series. N... Continue reading
Adult Written bytrevork February 20, 2016

Will disappoint people who have read the books

I have read the books and it is terrible. Nothing is like the book in this movie. Do not watch. I repeat do not watch.
Teen, 13 years old Written byNightsong May 6, 2014

Don't even bother watching if you liked the book.

Okay, before you read this review, know that I might be biased because I loved the book series and wanted the movie to be the same. Also, this is kind of long.... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old July 20, 2010

A Disappointment

First off, if you have read the books, the movie is going to be a total disappointment. The characters were warped- and the most noticeable way was their ages.... Continue reading

What's the story?

Seemingly normal (albeit dyslexic) D student Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) realizes that something is very wrong when he's attacked by a demonic beast during a class trip and whisked away by his mother (Catherine Keener) and friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) to a secret camp. He wakes up in an infirmary like no other, teeming with teens in Greek battle gear, as he remembers with a jolt that he fought and killed a minotaur ... but only after it took his mother to the underworld. Grover, now sporting the goat hooves of a satyr, leads Percy through camp explaining that he's actually half-god -- and his parent isn't just any god, but sea king Poseidon. But before Percy can even break in his new bunk, Hades accuses him of stealing Zeus' master lightning bolt. So Percy decides to go to the underworld to find the truth and save his mother. Grover and daughter-of-Athena Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) decide to go with him, armed with a magic map from senior camper Luke (Jake Abel) that will lead them to three special pearls -- the key to getting out of the underworld alive. Too bad Luke didn't warn them about what was guarding the pearls -- they'll have to fight Medusa (Uma Thurman), a hydra, and even lotus flowers to get to the underworld and back before the gods' petty fighting destroys the earth.

Is it any good?

Kids have been waiting for this movie adaptation for a long time; too bad they'll likely be disappointed, especially if they love the book series. The filmmakers had a great formula on their hands: Rick Riordan's fanastic story, which puts mythology in modern times, adds a bit of sass, and makes a hero of a dyslexic Everykid; Chris Columbus, the director of the first two Harry Potter movies, at the helm; some great monster special effects; and some great actors, even in the supporting roles (Pierce Brosnan, Thurman, Keener, Joe Pantoliano). But the script is a mess; too many liberties were taken with the original plot, which, with its search for the three pearls as the focus, now seems more like a Dora the Explorer episode with expensive special effects.

And the decision to make the main characters teens instead of tweens was a bad one. It keeps the three cross-country travelers from developing as friends on their quest. Annabeth is simply some hot girl who's great with a sword, and Grover puts all his energy into wooing the ladies. The book saga is a friendship tale at its heart, and that's just not here. And even if you're in it just to watch kids have fun slashing the heads off of a hydra or climb Mt. Olympus above the Empire State Building, the special effects work is uneven. The gods as giants look quite fake, making an important scene where Percy meets his dad fall flat -- but at that point most viewers will already be beyond being disappointed.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the book vs. the movie. So much was changed here -- the characters' ages, the plot, the places they visit, etc. Was it still the movie you were hoping for?

  • Talk about the scare factor. Did anything make you hide under your chair? What mythological monsters would you least like to see in the real world? Does fantasy violence have the same impact as more realistic violence?

  • Who are your favorite hero characters? Do they usually have humble beginnings, thinking they're nobody special, or do they always know what they're destined for? How many of your favorite heroes are girls? Boys?

Movie details

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