Pete's Dragon

Movie review by
Sarah Wenk, Common Sense Media
Pete's Dragon Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Offbeat live-action/animation mix with lots of drinking.
  • G
  • 1977
  • 128 minutes

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 8 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Intended to entertain rather than educate.

Positive Messages

Though the heavy drinking does seem to put a weird stagger on the material, most of this is Disney-safe, with the message about holding out hope and maintaining childlike innocence and optimism. Expectedly, most grownups, except the villains, don't believe that Pete actually has a dragon, and adult-authority figures tend to be buffoons.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Pete is a nice, honest orphan kid, though kind of one-note in that he’s mostly either being chased or chastising Elliott to behave. Pete never endorses Elliott using his strength or flaming breath against antagonists, and Elliott saves a bunch of townspeople in the end. On the other hand, a schoolteacher is depicted as a particularly nasty and negative character. Pete’s evil-but-dumb adoptive family, the rustic Gogans, are stereotyped hillbillies.

Violence & Scariness

Comical roughhousing, as Elliott (sometimes visible, sometimes not), knocks villains around -- usually into the water -- with his tail, or the bad guys get caught up in their own snares. A few "comical" songs in which the villains sing about either cutting up Elliott for medicinal ingredients or abusing/killing young Pete (roasting the boy "gently" on a BBQ, for instance).

Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Extravagant drinking imagery pervades, with Mickey Rooney's character as the town drunk. Other characters are repeatedly shown drinking or talking about drinking. Elliott the dragon himself drinks out of a flask. One guy, when he says he’s witnessed a dragon, is accused of being drunk -- and advised to have a drink and get over it. Raucous musical number in a saloon featuring rolling barrels and a final shower of beer suds (predicting the "foam parties" that would be popular with youth decades later).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Pete's Dragon combines animation with live action for what is generally a family friendly film. There are some problematic elements, especially with regards to alcohol. Extravagant drinking imagery pervades, especially with Mickey Rooney’s grandfatherly character. Other characters are repeatedly shown drinking or talking about drinking. Even Elliott the dragon himself imbibes of a flask. There are some fight scenes, though they are made up more of comical roughhousing than anything scary or violent. However, there are a few songs in which the villains joke about either cutting up Elliott for medicinal ingredients or abusing/killing young Pete, and there is a scene of a teacher hitting a student. Many of the adults, including Pete's abusive adoptive family are portrayed as buffoons, but overall, there are a number of positive takeaways from the story.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written bywholesomeandhelpful January 26, 2019

Drunk scenes, bar dancing, schoolroom whipping... otherwise would've been great for kids

This movie is so cute... would be great for 4 years old except for a bunch of weird content:
-four tramp-looking types pop up with scary faces and chase him thr... Continue reading
Parent of a 2 and 3-year-old Written byA P. October 29, 2010
I remember this movie from when I was young and I loved it. I rented it for my son, age 4 -- he loved it, although I had to fast forward thru quite a bit. Mic... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byTobiasgatfield November 20, 2020

Underrated Masterpiece!

Elliott, a magical and sometimes mischievous dragon, causes chaos in a Maine fishing village when he tries to help a young orphan called Pete escape from his ev... Continue reading
Kid, 8 years old March 17, 2020


Very, Very Good.

What's the story?

This Disney musical about a boy and his dragon centers on Pete, an orphan who has been sold to an abusive backwoods family. Pete is befriended by Elliott, a rotund, friendly, and often mischievous dragon. Together they run away to a small Maine town, where they meet Lampey the lighthouse keeper (Mickey Rooney) and his daughter Nora (Helen Reddy). Of course the bad backwoods family comes looking for Pete, and there is another complex subplot involving a quack doctor (Jim Dale) and his often-drunk sidekick (Red Buttons) who have their own plans for Elliott. There is a disastrous first day of school for Pete (in which his hands are hit with a stick by his teacher), many mishaps involving the mayor, and some wet cement that gets mucked up over and over again.

Is it any good?

The interaction of people and animation in PETE'S DRAGON is surprisingly good, but the movie itself falls rather flat. The biggest problem is the songs, which are utterly forgettable, which is not a great feature for a musical.

The story is a good one and there's a certain sweetness to the proceedings, but also a combination of predictability and noisy chaos that will make this better viewing for kids than for their parents. The message, about finding love and security in a crazy world, is a good one, and children will find this an entertaining and enjoyable viewing experience.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what they'd do with a dragon of their own. Would you want people to know about it or keep a secret? Does keeping Elliott a secret help or hurt Pete?

  • Does Pete's situation with the Gogons give an accurate portrayal of adoption? How does Pete create his own family?

  • Why does Dr. Terminus want Elliott? What are some real examples of endangered or extinct animals that are hunted for their medical (or perceived medical) advantages?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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