Simon Birch



Tearjerker is touching but too intense for younger kids.
  • Review Date: July 8, 2009
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1998
  • Running Time: 114 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Kids and adults belittle the lead character’s dwarfism. The town pastor even says “Simon Birch is not a normal person.” However, Simon sacrifices himself and ends up becoming a hero and saving the lives of many, showing that character matters more than size. Good messages about forgiveness, too.

Positive role models

The clear role models are Rebecca and Ben, who demonstrate acceptance of differences and embracing of diversity. Also, Simon Birch, the lead character, is himself a positive role model as he is strong in his beliefs, loyal to his friend, courageous, and smart and funny, as well.


Sad accidental death of one character from being hit by a baseball. A bus accident where children are in peril, and a main character dies saving everyone.


Repeated discussion of Simon’s best friend being born out of wedlock. Also, there are mentions of an adolescent girl’s breasts and a scene where Simon grabs them, although the audience doesn’t see the actual touch.


Profanity including "s--t" and "bastard."

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Simon’s father, the religion teacher, and the pastor all smoke.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the lead character, Simon Birch, is a dwarf who is the subject of continuous intolerance and ridicule by adults, children, and the local religious leader. The film depicts the 12-year-old boy as a child who is wise beyond his years and believes that God has made him small for a higher purpose. Simon’s best friend, Joe, was born out of wedlock and is also an outcast in the community. Language includes words like “s--t” and “bastard,” and there are references to an adolescent girl’s breasts. An accidental death at the hands of Simon leads Joe on a search of his biological father. There's a bus accident where children are in peril, and a main character dies saving everyone. The movie is based on John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany, and fans of the book should know that the movie is very different.

What's the story?

Simon Birch (Ian Michael Smith) is a happy 12-year-old boy, despite the fact that his parents pay no attention to him because they’re disgusted by his dwarfism. His best friend, Joe Wenteworth (Joseph Mazzello), was born out of wedlock, and the boys bond over being outcasts in the community. Simon believes he’s an instrument of God and is awaiting his higher purpose, while Joe grapples with accepting his mother’s new boyfriend. The movie is based on John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany, and fans of the book should know that the movie is very different.

Is it any good?


This is an excellent film that depicts the power of friendship and forgiveness, embracing diversity, and discovering true parental love. Simon and Joe are best friends who deal with and overcome life’s cruelest moments. Joe’s mother and her boyfriend are completely accepting of Simon’s dwarfism and, subsequently, Simon spends a lot of time at their home, especially since his own parents don’t care about him. When Simon accidentally kills Joe’s mother, Joe learns to forgive his friend. Joe goes on a quest to find his biological father and learns what it takes to earn the title of Dad. Adoptive families in particular will be heartened by his surprise conclusion. Simon also comes to the rescue when he discovers that his size has its benefits.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the movie portrays children with physical challenges and the reactions of the physically-abled community. What does your own religion and culture tell you about those with physical disabilities and those with higher callings?

  • Discuss child neglect, the death of a parent, and how guardianship works. What message does the movie send about the difference between a biological parent and an adoptive parent?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 11, 1998
DVD release date:May 18, 1999
Cast:Ashley Judd, Joseph Mazzello, Oliver Platt
Director:Mark Steven Johnson
Studio:Hollywood Pictures
Topics:Book characters, Misfits and underdogs
Run time:114 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:language, emotional thematic elements, and an accident scene.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Parent Written byAnsara November 23, 2013

Rape as high comedy

A virulent subtext of this movie is rape, and rape as comedy. The scene in which that obnoxious little angel Simon Birch grabs a girl's breasts and drags her against her will into the "manger" with him is - like all such scenes in movies - designed to make every male in the audience feel comfortable at the expense of making every female feel uncomfortable - to make every male feel powerful at the expense of making every female feel powerless. This is a far more overriding powerful and destructive message than any positive messages the film has to offer. If there were a racist or anti-Semitic subtext to a film, would we cheer it on as much? Why is rape viewed as high comedy? Because if people can be made to laugh at something, it softens it and makes it more acceptable to them. If you want your little boys to grow up with a culturally inculcated sneering view of girls as things to take and trash, by all means show them this movie. And if you want your little girls to grow up as compliant rape victims, show them this movie. The girl whose breasts he grabs visits him in the hospital and (of course) kisses him. What kind of message does that give girls and boys? That aggressive sexually abusive behavior will always be not only forgiven but rewarded? Remember that it is 50 year old white male script writers who are projecting their own fantasies off onto children in these movies and forcing kids to act out those fantasies. And in the alternate reality devised by these men, rape is okay in any of its forms and girls must learn to be compliant. That's the script these guys hand our kids, folks.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Kid, 12 years old October 20, 2013


My school had us all watch this movie- I cried at the end. It was wonderfully made and had some solid messages about forgiveness and loss. There's some questionable content, but this is definitely one of those movies which positive content outweigh the innaproppiate content. Some characters smoke, but it's not too noticable. There is talk of sex, and the main character shouts "Boobs!" In the middle of a play. Foul language is common, but nothing is said that is any worse than the s-word. Some parents may be concerned that the main character dies in the end, but he dies in a very heroic manner. Also, a supporting character dies when she is hit by a baseball.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 17 years old Written byZoocreature345 May 19, 2014

Terrible Movie

I thought this was horrendously awful. This is just a horrible, nasty, mean, hate-filled movie. I did not laugh once. I did not even crack a smile. I also hate it because it's a family movie. Despite its good intentions, this movie could be messing up your kids. The pastor especially i think is really despicably unlikable. The stuff he says to this kid is not only bad, I personally think it would scar most kids. You're supposed to want this guy to accept Simon, and, at the end of the day, I really don't. I thought he was a horrible character. Overall, Simon Birch is an awful movie. Don't bother watching it.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing


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