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Peter Pan

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

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 33 reviews

Kids say

age 5+
Based on 30 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Wendy will teach kids the value of having parents, 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

There are several obvious themes in the movie, like growing-up, maturing, and taking responsibility. It's also unclear whether Wendy, John, and Michael actually went on an adventure or whether they dreamt their time with Peter Pan. The message is that imagination is important, and that as long as you have an imagination, you'll always have a magical, child-like quality. The movie takes a very dated, stereotypical view of Native Americans (a good talking point for kids), but they're portrayed as Peter's courageous allies, which was controversial when the play was written. Women are catty with one another, and Tinker Bell measures her hips and scowls in disgust.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Wendy is a responsible big sister and tries to protect her brothers when they are in Neverland. Despite his motto to never grow up, Peter Pan takes responsibility as well and helps Wendy, John, and Michael return to their parents. Tinker Bell realizes the error of her misguidedly jealousy and saves Peter's life, though for most of the move she is incredibly jealous and mean toward Wendy. The mermaids are sexy and catty.

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 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 act stereotypically. 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.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The Big 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 both a tale of magic and imagination and 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 Big 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 weren't seen as a problem when the movie came out, but they certainly are now; if you can discuss them with your kids afterward, you can still enjoy the way Wendy reminds all the Lost Boys that they do need mothering and that growing up means taking responsibility.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bywhovian85 April 9, 2008
I haven't seen this movie in years, but I just feel that I have to defend the movie. First off Hook wants to kill Peter because Peter cut off his hand and... Continue reading
Adult Written bydontgoafftheheid July 11, 2014

You're all crazy!!!!

This film's a classic! Many have admitted watching it as a child...did it do you any harm? Could you attribute your crazy uni days to the fact a mermaid in... 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
Teen, 14 years old Written byDarkMidnight November 30, 2010

Strict much?

Oh no! Not a gun! I'm just going to throw away the whole movie! ... seriously. Guys don't you ever get a nosebleed from taking the high road all the t... 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 an Indian 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 brio). Some children find this engaging, but a few 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?

  • Talk about how girls and Indians are portrayed in Peter Pan. What kinds of stereotypes do you recognize? Can you still enjoy the movie even if you're bothered by the stereotypes? How has society changed since this movie was made?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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