Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Stepmom Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Contrived yet effective family weepie.
  • PG-13
  • 1998
  • 124 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Two characters are shown living together without being married.


A family member dies of cancer.


An authority figure counsels a 12-year-old girl to call a boy at school "limp d---." There are a few other curses, as well.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults smoke cigarettes and drink cocktails, though not to the point of drunkenness. Susan Sarandon's character smokes marijuana to deal with her chemotherapy.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this film tackles some very grim topics: divorce and death. Though the characters are shown grappling realistically with real problems and doing the best they can in bad situations, the mere fact that the mother in the movie is dying will be too much for younger and very sensitive children. There is some light swearing, drinking, and a character smokes pot to deal with chemotherapy.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAdrianScott. January 22, 2020

Divorce Sucks

This is an insightful film about a family trying to deal with the reality of divorce, integrating families and dealing with parents parenting separate in a cre... Continue reading
Adult Written bywonder dove May 22, 2012

Well done with a few strong themes.

Really nice movie about a family coping through hard times. It's not totally "family" material because there are references to a 12 year old girl... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old July 31, 2020

Julia Roberts

Sad drama is still an acceptable family movie.
Kid, 10 years old July 28, 2020

extremely sad but great family film to watch with your older kids

This is a great family film but because of the swearing, and sexual references this film may be a bit edgy.

Sexual content
It is mentioned in the movie that a... Continue reading

What's the story?

Jackie Harrison (Susan Sarandon) is unhappily divorced from Luke (Ed Harris), who's now shacking up with fashion photog Isabel (Julia Roberts), with the two kids shuttled in between the two homes. At first Isabel and Jackie are bitter rivals, and the kids side with Mom. But when Jackie develops fatal cancer, Isabel has to start taking up the slack in the Mommy role.

Is it any good?

At every step of Stepmom, audiences feel director Chris Columbus pulling the strings. The plot twists are as contrived as the swelling strings that fill the soundtrack, engineered in some Hollywood lab to jerk the tears right out of you. And yet it works, mostly due to the stellar acting on display.

Julia Roberts is predictably glowing, Susan Sarandon is confident and real, and the little nippers (Jena Malone and Liam Aiken) are so genuine that it's easy to forget that you're being pulled this way and that by the filmmakers, like a puppet on a string. It's manipulative. But there's enough polish on the film that it works. Ultimately, this is depressing but entertaining, a solid choice for a rainy night when no one feels like laughing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the characters cope with divorce and a death in the family. Do you think their reactions are realistic or too Hollywood? For kids who have experienced either event, what's missing in this movie? Is there a movie you can think of that's more realistic?

Movie details

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