Movie review by
M. Faust, Common Sense Media
Poltergeist Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
One of the all-time great haunted house movies.
  • PG
  • 1982
  • 114 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 53 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 215 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Despite frightening ghostly activity, the dedication the parents show to saving their children still stands out as positive.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The children are brave and the parents committed to saving their family.


A character rips the flesh from his face (though eventually we see that he's hallucinating). A young boy is attacked by a ghost-inhabited tree. Near-constant sense of fear and peril.


Mild swearing.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The parents are seen smoking marijuana and are apparently regular users.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Poltergeist touches on many things that are frightening to kids (and some adults), including scary shadows in the dark, monsters in the closet, and separation from family. A character rips the flesh from his face (though eventually we see he's hallucinating). A young boy is attacked by a ghost-inhabited tree. A girl is taken from her parents and held in a netherworld where she's menaced by a character it's intimated is evil. The parents are seen smoking marijuana, and are apparently regular users.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bywonder dove July 5, 2013

I get chills every time I watch it!!!

Best horror movie ever created! This movie is insanely good! It's fun, scary and super entertaining...never a dull moment. The effects were done really wel... Continue reading
Parent Written bySinfoniarc October 22, 2010

A Classic Mild 80s Horror Film

I'll confess that this movie scared me to death as a kid (I'm 30 years old if that helps). This movie didn't even phase my 6 and 9 year old. Havi... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bykurt5677 October 9, 2019
Teen, 14 years old Written byDuckCommander13 June 16, 2015

Excellent 80's Movie

Poltergeist is an excellent movie for older kids to transition into horror films like The Conjuring. There is a bit of mild language including 7 uses of s***, 4... Continue reading

What's the story?

Written and produced by Steven Spielberg, POLTERGEIST is one of the all-time great haunted house stories, as a family's "perfect" suburban home becomes the target of a ghostly invasion. Steven and Diane Freeling (Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams) and their three children are happy in their new home in a California housing development built by the company Steven works for. They don't notice at first that 5-year-old daughter Carol Ann is receiving messages from voices that speak to her through empty channels on the television set. But Diane soon begins to see more physical evidence of a ghostly presence, one that moves things around the kitchen. The unseen beings grow more malevolent, inhabiting a tree that attacks son Robbie. And when they take Carol Ann away, the Freelings call in a team of experts, including a diminutive psychic who holds the key to the other world.

Is it any good?

The story of a family assaulted by ghosts is still compelling. Well-written characters played by a strong cast make up for once top-of-the-line special effects that now look a bit cheesy. Kids raised on movies of the '90s, with their seemingly limitless digital effects, probably won't be too terrified by the ghosties on display here, which look dated by comparison.

But the most frightening parts of Poltergeist arise from our empathy with the characters. Everyone in the family is sympathetic, likable and believable, which helps involve us emotionally in the movie. And the film doesn't abuse the fact that we've come to care about them: We're scared at the ordeal they face, but they all come through OK, saved by their love for one another.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what makes Poltergeist so scary. Are the effects, the ghosts and other things that you see, that are so frightening? Or is the situations?

  • Did you identify with the little girl who was taken away? What about the little boy attacked by a tree?

  • Did this movie make you think of the times when you were little that you thought there were monsters in the closet or under the bed?

  • Why do people like watching movies that frighten them?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love scares

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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