Sleepy Hollow

  • Review Date: July 31, 2005
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1999
  • Running Time: 105 minutes

Common Sense Media says

There are lots of slasher movies better than this.
  • Review Date: July 31, 2005
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1999
  • Running Time: 105 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable

Extremely gory and creepy and scary.


Brief and inexplicit scene of people having sex.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some drinking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a very, very gory movie, with many headless corpses, lots of spurting blood, heads being sliced off and bouncing to the ground, various other murders, a couple of "boo!"-type scares, and of course characters perpetually in peril. The heads all show up eventually, too. There is a brief but non-explicit scene of a couple having sex, several very gross moments, and a scene of torture in an Iron Maiden.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Johnny Depp plays the honorable but easily frightened Ichabod Crane, in this version not a schoolteacher but a sort of 18th century detective, committed to the use of science and logic. He is sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate a series of murders attributed to the Headless Horseman, the ghost of a bloodthirsty Hessian soldier, who steals the heads of his victims because his own was stolen from his grave. Crane insists that the murderer cannot be supernatural, until he sees it himself. Still, he analyzes the evidence to find the secrets that link the victims together and the human force driving the Headless Horseman.

Is it any good?


SLEEPY HOLLOW is less the Washington Irving story than it is Scream set in post-revolutionary times. The themes of science vs. supernatural and appearance vs. reality appear throughout the movie, as Crane must understand his own past in order to see the truth. He describes himself as "imprisoned by a chain of reasoning." He keeps coming back to a toy given to him by his mother, a spinning disk with a bird on one side and a cage on the other. As it spins, the bird appears to be inside the cage, an optical illusion, and, not by coincidence, the very illusion (persistence of vision) that makes viewers think that the people in the thousands of still pictures that make up a movie are really moving.

Depp plays Crane with the right haunted look and rigid posture. But the ludicrousness of some of the plot turns and the exaggerated fright reactions leave him with the most outrageous eye-rolling since Harvey Korman's imitation of a silent film star. Indeed, the movie frequently brings to mind those sublime "Carol Burnett Show" movie parodies, especially when the villain ultimately finds time for a detailed confession as the planned final victim is waiting for the Headless Horseman to arrive. The wonderful Christina Ricci is wasted in an ingenue part.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about whether gore is ever necessary in a film. Is gory the same thing as scary?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 19, 1999
DVD release date:May 23, 2000
Cast:Christina Ricci, Christopher Walken, Johnny Depp
Director:Tim Burton
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Run time:105 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:graphic horror violence and gore, and for a scene of sexuality

This review of Sleepy Hollow 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

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.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

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

Kid, 12 years old April 13, 2009

He he he he he he he!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I found this movie absoloutley hilarious and the balance between comedy and horror was perfect. I couldn't stop laughing when the head rolled down the hill.
Teen, 14 years old Written byMichikorabbit2 December 25, 2009
I don't get this site. It pans some of my favorite movies... Whatever. You know what's weird? I scrolled through the members' reviews, and most of them gave the movie 4 or 5 stars, while "common sense" says that "there are lot of slasher movies better than this," and gives it two stars. You know what? I'm calling bull. How can you dismiss this as just a slasher film? This is more of a murder mystery! Are you just against the movie because of the gore? But you know, whatever floats your boat. Enough against the faceless people that run this site who will most likely never read this review. I believe this this was an awesome movie, my family and I see it every Halloween. If you like Tim Burton, watch this. If you like Johnny Depp, watch this. If you like horror movies, watch this. I'm not saying that this is my favorite movie, but it is very good. And I don't just like it because I'm a Tim Burton fan. This movie has a great atmosphere, you really feel a sense of foreboding throughout. Plus, after seeing it a couple times, you really pick up on some extra things going on in the background. And maybe it's because I'm terrible at foretelling the outcome of movies, but I was caught by surprise by the ending. Any horror and mystery fan will love this!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Teen, 13 years old Written byA.M. June 21, 2010

Great Movie

I had to see this because I love Johnny Depp, Tim Burton, and Danny Elfman. It was suprisingly good, being one of the only horror movies I have allowed myself to see (I'm more of an adventure-fantasy guy). I'm no parent, but the blood looks fake, and so do the severed heads. It's not that bad. Give it a look to watch on Halloween or Thanksgiving.
What other families should know
Too much violence


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

Digital Compass