Soul Surfer Movie Poster Image

Soul Surfer



Earnest sports biopic tugs at heart despite clichés.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 105 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie's strongly positive message is that you can get over the worst of tragedies with perspective, self-determination, and the support of friends and family.

Positive role models

Bethany is a very positive role model, choosing to respond to enormous loss and tragedy with grace and kindness both for herself and others. Instead of dwelling on what she doesn't have, she focuses on what to give to others.


A shark attacks a young surfer. It happens quickly but ferociously, with lots of blood and some gore.


Flirting, girls in bikinis.


"Jerk" and "oh my God."


Brand names and logos for surfing sponsors, including Rip Curl and Red Bull. Spam.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this inspiring true story about a promising young surfer who was attacked by a shark could give tween and teen viewers lots to think about, from trying to figure out their purpose in life (even at a young age) to trying to come to terms with adversity. With the exception of the attack itself -- which, although quick, unfolds in a gory, violent manner -- the movie is squeaky-clean, with no iffy language, sex, or alcohol or drug content. And the main character is an extremely positive role model, responding to tragedy with grace and kindness instead of bitterness.

What's the story?

Based on true-life events, SOUL SURFER chronicles the life of Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb) in the weeks leading up to the shark attack that resulted in the loss of one of her arms -- and the months of healing that followed. Her parents (Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt) struggle to keep her strong even as they learn how to process the overwhelming feelings. Bethany ultimately has two challenges to face: getting back on the board with confidence and joy and coming to peace within herself over the tragedy.

Is it any good?


To be honest, SOUL SURFER gets off to an iffy start, full of cheesy shots of beachy fun in the sun. The characters, especially Bethany's parents, seem one-dimensional and unrealistically saintly; they just don’t seem real. But the minute tragedy strikes -- and does it ever -- the movie finds its footing. It roots its way into your conscience with its determined (but not pushy) message about digging into your soul -- could that be the reason for the title? -- for the wherewithal to continue.

None of the actors are all that complex here, except perhaps for Hunt in one scene of utter anguish. Even Robb, who plays Bethany, feels a bit hollow. Still, the movie works. First, the camera angles showcase the waves and the surfers who ride them at their glorious best. Credit also goes to Soul Surfer's unabashed earnestness: Yes, it’s a message movie, but the message burrows deep enough under your skin to make the movie, given its utter conventionality, unexpectedly stirring. Bring tissues.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's messages about facing life’s challenges. Do you think you'd be able to respond to a life-changing tragedy the way the main character does? How do you think she manages it?

  • What does Bethany learn from her experience, and what does she teach others?

  • The movie is based on a true story. Do you think that means everything happened exactly the way it's shown here? Why might filmmakers change some facts while making a movie?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:April 8, 2011
DVD/Streaming release date:August 2, 2011
Cast:AnnaSophia Robb, Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt
Director:Sean McNamara
Studio:Columbia Tristar
Topics:Sports and martial arts, Great girl role models
Run time:105 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:an intense accident sequence and some thematic material

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written byMovieteenwatcher April 29, 2011


My sister likes this movie but she thought that it was violent when the shark bites off her arm and it's very sad and depressing. She is a good role model (Bethany) by being determnined that she will be able to surf again and never gives up her dream.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 11 years old May 3, 2011


I loved this movie! It shows that you can overcome things, even when hope is lost and all odds are totally against you. AnnaSophia Robb was excellent in this movie and portrayed Bethany well. The shark attack was very brief, if you blinked you would miss the actual shark. However, my 7 year old sister was a little scared, so I would reccomend this for ages 9+. This movie was very inspiring, it teaches you to chase your dreams. The role models in this movie were great, from the pastor, to the father, to Bethany herself. I also liked the Christian element in this movie :)
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 10 years old April 14, 2011

good for kids who can handle a little blood and sharks

first of al this is one of the best movies ever!!!! so bethany and alanas dad bro and herself. go out and surf a little then alana and bethany are just sitting on thier surfboard then all of a sudden the shark jumps up and grabs her arm and pulls her under. alana screams and they all rush her to the reef as they swim you see alot of blood. alanas dad raps his shirt around her arm and alana starts throwing up. while the brother calls the hospital and ambulance and beths mom . bethanys dad is laying in the hospital about to get knee surgery when the nurse runs in and screams "stop the surgery there is a teen surfer you just got attacked by a shark" so one thing leads to another and they doctor tells him its bethany so he tries to jump up but they hold him down. mean while alana and her family lay bethany on a surfboard and put her in the back of the truck. beths mom and brothers follow the ambulance. they finally get bethany to the hospital and by this time thier are nurses and doctors trying to get her into the room then you see them shock her and that is the end of the attack. then later one alana has a scary dream about it .then after a few weeks when bethany is home someone calls out her dad . they had cuaght the shark so they wanted to see if it was the one that attacked her so the stick the surfboard (the one she was attacked on and had the bite taken out of it) in its mouth and see it is a perfect fit and her dad starts crying.but over all this is the best movie ever!!!!!!!!!!!!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models