Steel Magnolias Movie Poster Image

Steel Magnolias

Three-hanky special, but with lots of laughs, too.
Parents recommend
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1989
  • Running Time: 118 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Women may seem to rule the roost, but this is genteel Louisiana -- gender roles are firmly in place. Very few people of color appear. However, a major theme is compassion.

Positive role models

These women gossip mercilessly -- as one says (using the famous quote) "If you haven't anything nice to say, come sit by me."

Not applicable

Shelby's fiancé surprises her when she's bathing.


Plenty of scatological epithets, and one crusty woman curses a blue streak.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Steel Magnolias handles some mature material, including a mother watching her adult daughter die. Plus there are plenty of scatological epithets, and one woman curses a blue streak. The women also gossip relentlessly. Women may seem to rule the roost, but this is genteel Louisiana -- gender roles are firmly in place. Also, very few people of color appear. But this is ultimately an emotional, heartwarming story about friendship, family, and lifelong bonds.

What's the story?

An adaptation of Robert Harling's play, STEEL MAGNOLIAS highlights the unwavering friendships that unite a group of Louisiana women as they confront loss and heartache. The story opens on the day of Shelby's (Julia Roberts) wedding to Jackson, a handsome Louisiana lawyer who assures her that he'll take care of her, despite her frail health. Shelby is diabetic, and has been warned that she shouldn't have children. Her mother M'Lynn (Sally Field) has hovered over her daughter for years, intervening whenever her blood sugar dipped. Shelby decides to have a baby despite the risk; her mother is appalled, but remains supportive. She ends up relying upon the salt-of-the-earth women that frequent the local beauty salon for support her through life's challenges.

Is it any good?


This movie put Julia Roberts on the map and earned her an Oscar nomination, but Sally Field steals the show and there are many other memorable performances. As two rich, rival widows, Olympia Dukakis and Shirley MacLaine are delightfully snippy, despite their deep friendship. Dolly Parton shines as a "beauty technician" and lovelorn philosopher -- her salon is the backdrop for the best scenes. And Daryl Hannah is a timid beauty school graduate who grows into her own, nurtured by these strong women.

While the main storyline is a sad one, ending with a powerful death, Steel Magnolias is really about the friendships that sustain us through life's highs and lows. This movie has plenty of heart and offers a powerful picture of kindness and compassion between women. Adolescent girls may find the friendship theme especially compelling, as they begin to depend on friends' support through their own crises, from heartbreak to the dynamics of family relationships.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about whether Steel Magnolias is a "chick flick.' What does that term mean, and is it derisive?

  • Do you think there's something powerful about movies targeted just to women -- or are you offended by the idea that a movie about women's lives and friendships would only appeal to other women?

  • How do the women in Steel Magnolias demonstrate compassion? Why is this an important character strength?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 15, 1989
DVD/Streaming release date:December 28, 1999
Cast:Daryl Hannah, Julia Roberts, Olympia Dukakis, Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine
Director:Herbert Ross
Studio:Columbia Tristar
Character strengths:Compassion
Run time:118 minutes
MPAA rating:PG

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Adult Written bytechsuz April 9, 2008

Lots of language and inappropriate for young children

This PG movie would be PG-13 if it were made today. Lots of language, male nudity in locker room and other material. Definitely not suitable for young children.
Parent of a 1, 3, 12, and 16 year old Written byNikkiV May 12, 2009

great family movie

this is a great movie for families. definitely about building strong relationships and dealing with difficult situations in a positive way.
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 13 years old Written bysuitelife April 9, 2008