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Parents' Guide to

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie

By Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 8+

Muppetry coaxes campy '90s hit out of its shell.

Movie PG 1990 93 minutes
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 8+

Based on 12 parent reviews

age 7+

A Surprisingly Thematically Strong Family Action Flick Great for Kids

Having first seen this movie in Theaters when I was 8 and having since studied film, I cannot fathom the difficult task of what these filmmakers set out to achieve, and somehow nailed (mostly). The movie tells a surprisingly dark and aggressive tale of of non-violence while centered around something as massively bonkers as Turtle Ninjas (literally invented as a joke one-off comic spoofing tropes in comics in the early 1980s). However, it actually worked, and unlike most movies and shows from decades ago, the messages are still very poignant. Now, the movie does suffer from some pitfalls, the biggest one being that the villains are glorified in a way commonly shown in the first two acts of crime movies - The movie is mostly about a wave of degenerate, trouble-making youth being rallied under a single leader, and the images of these kids doing things like underage smoking, drinking and gambling (even making out) feels like an angsty 13-year old's internal music video. However, the movie does a very careful job showcasing that all of this is at the expense of others. We see innocent people getting robbed and mugged, parents distraught as their children run away to cause trouble, and by the end of the movie, these degenerate youth are able to see the errors of their ways. This is why I recommend the movie for children - It shows that things like stealing & fighting have genuine consequences that hurt those around you, and while you may think you hate those around you, those you choose to leave behind are torn apart. [ Caveat, this message might not work so well with children in abusive households, as it depicts being a troublemaker as being as much about choice as it does about upbringing, if not considerably moreso ] These are some pretty powerful messages for a child to learn, and the Show-Don't-Tell rule of cinema is in full force. In particular, the climax of the movie is a fight against Shredder and portrays the violence in a vastly less glorious light, with all five participants getting notably hurt as the fight goes on. And one thing that is nice is that the defeat of Shredder is cathartic, but it's not just accomplished by brute force - they don't just get fired up and focused and beat him into submission. So even the fun depiction of violence is turned onto its head to showcase a more brutal and unpleasant depiction, so even this element is portrayed as something where the Reward isn't worth the Risk, or the pain. Additionally, they even showcase The Turtles themselves as being less effective against a superior foe when they get increasingly angry (one line earlier being "Anger clouds the mind"), showcasing an alternate approach to the central theme that letting your darker side to dominate your actions will only bring you down. As a movie, the story is basic but certainly functional, the movie has immensely moody and atmospheric lighting but isn't scary by any means, the characters are well enough constructed and performed, and the work done on the Turtles' faces, from a technical standpoint, is quite excellent. It's just a good movie with some good messages by the end.

This title has:

Great messages
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
1 person found this helpful.
age 9+

90s Turtle flick based off a series that was still airing at the time

Parents need to know that this film had started the 90s off “with a bang!”. New York City's four most famous reptiles had made it to the big screen, and they are ready to loosen their shells and karate kick Shredder's “you get the picture”. Our villain is cruel and vicious, unlike his cartoonish counterpart. Sorry kids, no sign of Kraaang, Rocksteady or Bebop here. Much as you'd expect, April O'neill is the prime target of The Foot Clan, and guess who protects her from them; you'd guessed it, the Ninja Turtles! Unfortunately, the Turtles's banter can be irritating at times, making you wish the movie was more about their master, Splinter the Rat, former pet of Hamato Yoshi. For a martial arts comedy for children, there is a fair amount of combat violence, hence the PG rating. The main antagonist is crushed at the end (but somehow survived). There is no blood visible, but some scenes may be too intense for young or sensitive kids. As for language, a few instances of “damn” near the beginning, but that's as bad as it gets. The film is a perfect classic for all ages, though some children, mainly young boys ages 4-8, may imitate some fight scenes performed by our protagonists. Reminder: Kids, don't repeat anything you see on TMNT. Also, not to mention, the Turtles, mainly Michelangelo, consume WAY too much pizza, which isn't a healthy food. Why can't they eat more like Splinter? At least sushi is real food. (I, myself, eat chicken from K.F.C. on the daily bases.) Reminder: Kids, too much junk food isn't good for you. Stick to real vegetables, fruits, meat, and the occasional dairy.

This title has:

Too much violence
Too much consumerism
1 person found this helpful.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (12 ):
Kids say (18 ):

This dated movie is best for diehard TMNT fans only. It was inevitable a live-action Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie would be made, with actors in suits. The abundant martial arts violence caused some controversy at the time (in Britain this "family film" was actually censored from children), and in the era before Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, critics pretty much condemned all kung-fu movies, from Bruce Lee to Jackie Chan, as R-rated bloodbaths. Just the idea of a kids' karate film raised doubts (though the Karate Kid movies were allowed to get away with it, go figure). Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movies made the fighting reptiles more comical and slapstick action-heroes, tossing off wisecracks and never drawing blood despite their swords and daggers. However, an aura of menace and brutality settles over the film when it's human against human, especially the wolf-packs of boys vs. April and Casey Jones.

There's something of Pleasure Island in Pinocchio about the way the movie makes the street-gang lifestyle of the Foot Clan seem appealing; a cool secret headquarters filled with skateboarding, video games, music, girls, cigarettes, and brotherhood. Even though it's supposed to be a big lie, the impression is still like a recruiting poster. Splinter the Rat, on the other hand is by far the most noble character here. He's really such a Yoda-like standout paragon of wisdom and kindness you wish the movie were more about him. Rats never had such good PR. Love them, hate them, the Mutant Ninja Turtles opened the floodgates for kid-friendly martial arts flicks in the English-speaking world, and the subsequent Three Ninjas series was pretty much Turtle schtick with teenage non-mutant ninja humans. Imagine that.

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