Peter Pan

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Peter Pan Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Stereotypes mar otherwise jaunty Disney adventure classic.
  • G
  • 1953
  • 76 minutes

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 53 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 49 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Wendy demonstrates the value of having someone who cares about you and looks after you, even if it seems like the Lost Boys have a lot of fun doing whatever they want. Wendy also proves that sometimes you do have to grow up and mature.

Positive Messages

Several obvious themes in the movie, like growing up, maturing, and taking responsibility. The take-away is that imagination is important, and that as long as you have an imagination, you'll always have a magical, child-like quality. That said, there's also cultural insensitivity and racist stereotyping, as well as sexist takes on relationships between female characters.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Wendy is a responsible big sister who tries to protect her brothers when they're in Neverland. Despite his motto to never grow up, Peter is brave and ultimately takes responsibility and helps Wendy, John, and Michael return to their parents. Tinker Bell realizes the error of her misguided jealousy and saves Peter's life, though for most of the movie she's incredibly mean to  Wendy. The mermaids are depicted as manipulative. The movie portrays Native Americans in  racist way, with references to "Red Men," "Injuns," and "savages" and implied cannibalism.

Violence & Scariness

Captain Hook often points his hook and shoots his gun toward people. A crocodile "tick tocks" menacingly in the water. The Lost Boys are ready to attack Wendy and her brothers with slingshots, stones, and other crude weapons. Peter and Hook sword-fight more than once. Tinker Bell is viciously jealous and tries to hurt Wendy. Hook orders the kids to walk the plank, but they survive. Mr. Snee keeps talking about slitting people's throats. The kids are tied up several times -- first by the "Indians" and then by Hook's pirates. Hook gives Peter a bomb that explodes but doesn't hurt anyone because Tink sacrifices herself. An all-out brawl develops between the pirates and the Lost Boys. Hook falls into the mouth of the alligator and repeatedly ends up in its jaws.

Sexy Stuff

Tinker Bell is jealous of Wendy, who in turn acts jealously when Peter pays attention to Tiger Lily. The mermaids are also jealous of Wendy and push her into the water. Tiger Lily and Peter rub noses, and then she gives him a kiss on the cheek, which makes him blush red.


Insulting and misogynistic language like "wench," "stupid," "imbecile," "coward," "cod fish," "bloomin'," and "idiot." Characters occasionally make sexist remarks like "Girls talk too much!" and "A jealous female can be tricked into anything." The "Indians" are referred to (and refer to themselves) as the "Red Man" and are literally and figuratively drawn from racial stereotypes: Their appearance (feathered headdresses, face paint, etc.) and speech (grunts, stilted English) upholds an exoticized and stereotypical view of Native Americans. A song calls them "Injuns." At one point they tie up the Lost Boys around a big soup pot, as if they were cannibals. Wendy uses the word "savages" in reference to both the Lost Boys and the tribe.


Part of a Disney franchise; nothing in the movie, but plenty offline.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The Chief passes a peace pipe to the kids, who smoke it and make ugly faces or turn green. Mr. Smee drinks from a liquor jug a couple of times.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Peter Pan is Disney's classic take on J.M. Barrie's story of the Boy Who Won't Grow Up. It's a tale of courage, magic, and imagination -- and a reminder that growing up means taking responsibility -- but also occasionally a disturbing, violent story of what happens when kids must fend for themselves. There are some very dated racist and sexist stereotypes and themes -- from the "What Makes the Red Man Red" song and the depiction of Chief and his tribe to the way all the girls are jealous of each other and Peter's affections. Peter even says "Girls talk too much," and Captain Hook alludes to how "jealous girls" are easy to trick. These cultural relics have aged poorly; make sure to talk about why they're problematic with your kids.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 3-year-old Written byKarrie73 December 31, 2009
Far too sexual. The female characters, with the exception of Wendy, are terrible role models for girls. They are mean, spiteful, rude, angry, jealous and sexual... Continue reading
Adult Written byamykate77 April 9, 2008

We didn't even finish it.

We have a four year old whose grandparents' take great pride in purchasing Disney movies for. Our son was so excited to get Peter Pan, but as usual, we to... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byghammond November 1, 2011

one of the best child films

its a fantastic film, three year old boy can't stop watching it, and 6 year old girl is just as engrossed. all saying it is to sexual or too violent read t... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byTiffy6666 May 1, 2011

Suitable for all ages

Most adorable Movie ever!! I've been watching it with my now 5 year old sister since she was 2 and still love it! :) Some of the adult reviewers are way to... Continue reading

What's the story?

PETER PAN is the Disney version of J.M. Barrie's classic book about the boy who would never grow up. Wendy, Michael, and John Darling, three London children, meet Peter Pan, a boy who can fly. He's been drawn to their warm, comfortable home -- and to Wendy's stories. He sprinkles them with fairy dust, and they fly off past the "second star to the right," where he and his friends the Lost Boys live in a magical place called Neverland. There the Darling children help rescue a Native American princess and fight pirates led by Captain Hook, before returning home to wave good-bye as Peter returns to Neverland without them.

Is it any good?

The animation in Peter Pan is as lively as its energetic hero. The scenes set in Victorian London are beautiful, and the shift in perspective as the children round Big Ben and fly off to Neverland is sublimely vertiginous. Most children see Peter as that wonderful ideal, a child with the power to do whatever he pleases for as long as he pleases.

The story does have moments that are whimsical but also very odd: The nanny is a dog; the crocodile that ate Captain Hook's hand keeps following him for another taste; Peter loses his shadow; the Lost Boys have no parents (and, unlike Peter, no special powers, fairy guardian, or unquenchable spirit). Some children may find this engaging, but some may find it troublesome or worry about what happened to Peter's parents and whether he'll be all right without them. They may also be sad that the story ends with Peter bringing the Darling children home and then going back to Neverland without them.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the idea of never growing up. Have you ever thought that you didn't want to grow up? Have you ever thought that you'd like to be a grown-up right now? What would you do if you were an adult?

  • What kinds of stereotypes do you recognize in the movie's depictions of girls (and Native Americans)? How do they make you feel? How do they affect your enjoyment of the movie?

  • If you are Native American, do you feel the movie's depictions accurately reflect your culture and heritage? How do they make you feel? Why are accurate depictions of people in media important?

Movie details

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Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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