Savannah Smiles Movie Poster Image

Savannah Smiles



Slapstick adventure sweet, but treats running away lightly.
  • Review Date: December 8, 2011
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1982
  • Running Time: 105 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Love eventually outweighs greed for two criminals who come to appreciate the innocence of and attachment to a child. The idea that children need love and attention is an important theme.

Positive role models

The criminals change their evil ways after their experience with the sweet and innocent Savannah. Her parents are not as attentive as they should be.


The film begins with an outdoor prison break with rifle shots and explosions. Alvie robs a corner market with a gun, which Boots shortly after uses to accidentally shoot out one of the tires of their getaway car. Rifle shots later in the film, but no one is hurt. 

Not applicable

Infrequent uses of "hell," "bastard," "damn," and "bitchin'." 


Budweiser cans and signage are prominent throughout the film. 

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Alvie is seen drunk with empty beer bottles around him at a bar; the next day he experiences a painful hangover. Alvie chews tobacco. Beer is consumed at a picnic. 

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this sweet but dated story treats the apparent abduction of a child lightly -- something that might strike modern-day parents as uncomfortable or inappropriate. There are some heartwarming moments that may bring out some tears. Also expect occasional mild profanity ("hell," "bastard"), some rifle play, beer and chewing tobacco, and lots of Budweiser signage.

What's the story?

Feeling neglected by her parents as they plot her dad's senatorial campaign, 6-year-old Savannah decides to run away from home. She escapes during a game of hide-and-seek with friends in a park by hiding in the backseat of a stolen car driven by Alvie (Mark Miller) and Boots (Donovan Scott), two bumbling escaped convicts. As they hide from the authorities, Savannah charms this wayward pair, and they must decide if their growing love of her playful innocence outweighs their greed for the reward money being offered.

Is it any good?


It's hard to believe that a film about a little girl running away from home and falling in with two felons could be both wacky and heartwarming, but this one succeeds. Many consider SAVANNAH SMILES to be a classic film of the early 1980s. While it's arguable whether or not the film has stood the test of time, or whether 21st century kids will appreciate a film loved by parents when they were kids, Savannah Smiles is, at its core, a sweet film about how the love of innocent children is more powerful than greed or ambition. 

The plot isn't exactly the most original or unpredictable; the characters aren't the deepest; the action not the most realistic; but despite this, Savannah Smiles holds period charm for nostalgic adults, and these adults might just convince their kids to give it a shot. (And they might want to have a conversation about the perils of running away while they're at it.)

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how Savannah was inspired to run away, in part, from watching a Little Rascals episode where Alfalfa announces that he wants to run away from home. Has there ever been a time when TV or movies influenced a questionable decision you made? Does it happen often? 

  • How realistic is Savannah's story? How would the themes of running away and abduction be treated differently today?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:May 1, 1982
DVD release date:September 26, 2006
Cast:Donovan Scott, Mark Miller, Pat Morita
Director:Pierre De Moro
Studio:Anchor Bay Entertainment
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and underdogs
Run time:105 minutes
MPAA rating:PG

This review of Savannah Smiles was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 13 years old Written bySockyChibi<3 July 9, 2012

makes sense...on some levels.

When I first heard about this film, I was speechless. What went through that girl's head?! From a tv show, GIVE ME A BREAK!!! But what I mean is, it totally makes sense that she was ignored, and neglected, and didn't know what else to do, but...yeah, I get it. I never watched this movie before, really-_-Hey, the girl's also from "The Parent Trap 2"..I think. And, correction: Alfalfa didn't announce running away, Spanky did, and I happen to know this because I've seen the episode, and I'm a die-hard "Little Rascals" fan.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Educator and Parent Written byadamswifey December 24, 2015

best movie!

this is my all time favorite movie ever. Savannah Smiles is a movie i remember watching as a kid. i remember loving it then and i still own a copy because it's such a good film. for the most part, it's clean. mild language - at most (maybe damn - once). nothing worse than that though. no sex, nudity, blood, etc. some younger kids may be a little saddened by some parts - particularly the end. but they did a nice job of making anything that might appear "scary" into funny instead - slapstick. it is worth saying that the main character is a little girl who runs away and returns unharmed - possibly happier. that isn't the best message to children and when i show it to my kids, i plan to have a talk with them about how unrealistic that is. it's worth a watch. this movie is absolutely charming and a great family film! BTW - the main actress is no longer alive. sadly, she passed away at a young age.
What other families should know
Great messages


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Family Media Agreement