Sleepy Hollow

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Sleepy Hollow Movie Poster Image
Very gory, violent take on classic tale.
  • R
  • 1999
  • 105 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 19 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 72 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

No real positive messages in this movie. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

In this incarnation of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," Ichabod Crane is a police detective who advocates more humane treatment of criminals and applies scientific techniques to find clues in murder mysteries. 


Gore and blood. Frequent decapitations, with severed heads rolling in all directions. Corpses. A man killed with a spike through the chest. There is a tree that bleeds and is filled with decapitated heads. Heads on spikes and swords. An ax murder. A witch slices off the head of a bat. 


Brief scene of people having sex in a forest; no nudity, not graphic. Reference to fornication. 


A few "damns" and "hells."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One of the characters drinks alcohol from a flask. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sleepy Hollow is a 1999 Tim Burton-directed horror movie in which Johnny Depp plays an Ichabod Crane reimagined as an 18th-century detective sent to investigate a series of mysterious decapitations taking place in a rural upstate New York village. 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. A witch slices off the head of a bat. There are some references to the occult and of characters selling their souls to Satan. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 5, 9, 12, and 14-year-old Written byfamily_time July 29, 2010

12 & 15 year old get their first taste of an R-rated movie.

This is one of the few R-rated movies you'll find with no explicit language, so this was our 12 & 15 year old's first one. They loved the movi... Continue reading
Adult Written bybroadwaybaby April 9, 2008

It's nothing like the cute Disney adaption, but what did you expect, really

The characters ring true, all the way from Miranda Richardson's Crone to Christopher Walken's classic Headless Horseman, to Johnny Depp's squeami... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byJ2a4c6o8b October 7, 2014

Sleepy hollow review

Although this movie lacks cursing,sexual references and excessive violence, there is one problem you might have with it: the gore. A few characters do get thei... Continue reading
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...

What's the story?

Johnny Depp plays the honorable but easily frightened Ichabod Crane, not a schoolteacher in this version 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 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-Revolution times. The themes of science vs. supernatural and appearance vs. reality appear throughout the movie as Crane must understand his own past 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.

Talk to your kids about ...

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

  • In the original "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," Ichabod Crane is a teacher, but in this movie, he is reimagined as a New York City detective sent to the upstate New York village of Sleepy Hollow to investigate a series of mysterious murders by decapitation. Why do you think some filmmakers take liberties when adapting classic stories into movies?

  • This movie was directed by Tim Burton, a director with a well-known style. How does this movie fit in with his overall style? Who are some other directors with distinct styles of moviemaking? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love scares

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

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

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

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate