The Big Year

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The Big Year Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Sweet travelogue/comedy is tame but not aimed at kids.
  • PG
  • 2011
  • 100 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 11 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The movie's central positive take-away is that it's good to set goals and work toward them, no matter the pace or the glory. Also, sometimes the goals change as you change -- and that's OK; we're all works in progress.

Positive Role Models & Representations

One of the main characters is hyper-focused on winning, even if it costs what matters most. But the two other birders are seeking balance and focus on the joy of their pursuit.


Some fighting among family members. Two characters get into a car crash caused by lack of sleep.


References between a husband and wife about needing to have sex to make a baby. Some flirting and kissing. References to birds' mating behavior.


"S--t" is used, and there's one (nearly) silent mention of "what the f--k." Other words include "suckers," "damn," "ass," "hell," "goddamn," and "crap."


Many logos and brand names are visible, including Apple, 3M, Motorola, Microsoft, TripAdvisor, Snyder's pretzels, Dell, BlackBerry, iPhone, Oreo, Bergdorf, Nissan, Miller Lite, and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some social drinking, but not really to the point of inebriation.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this good-natured comedy about birding enthusiasts may initially disappoint fans expecting the usual shtick from co-stars Jack Black and Owen Wilson. But they'll get over it, because what's left is an offbeat, gentle, but still hilarious movie about finding your bliss ... with balance. (There's lots to learn about birds, too.) Although the movie is rated PG, and the content is mild overall -- there's some swearing (including "s--t") and some sexual references -- this movie is more likely to appeal to older tweens, teens, and adults than younger kids.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJEDI micah March 29, 2012


This movie is alright. I was actually suprised, though, about the amount of language in this movie, was is rated PG. Parents, this movie is on pause if your kid... Continue reading
Adult Written byMummy Roo January 20, 2014

Love this movie - family favourite!

This has become one of our all time favourite movies. Funny, but not overdone. The 3 mains are just great. beautiful scenery, great music and good plot. My 10 y... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old December 30, 2014

Aims more for teens and adults.

This movie is not a PG movie, or should not be. There is very strong language like s**t, hell, damn, asshole, son of a bitch, the middle finger, and a briefly q... Continue reading
Kid, 8 years old April 18, 2021

Funny movie about bird watching

Funny birding movie inspired me to watch birds. While being goofy it also has some inappropriate parts or things like choices that can be stressful.

What's the story?

Contractor Ken Bostick (Owen Wilson) holds the record for a so-called "big year" in bird watching, having spotted 732 feathered species around the globe. He's anxious to preserve his place as birding king, even if it means forgoing baby-making duties with his wife (Rosamund Pike). But the competition is breathing down his neck, namely amiable Brad Harris (Jack Black), a computer techie with a big heart, a disapproving dad (Brian Dennehy), and an ever-supportive mom (Dianne Wiest). Brad can barely afford to try for the record, but he wants to anyway. And then there's mogul Stu Preissler (Steve Martin), who decides it's really, truly, finally the time to retire so that he can indulge in his favorite pastime -- and make birding history, too. Competition, hilarity, and, in some cases, lifelong friendship ensue.

Is it any good?

It's hard to imagine Jack Black and Owen Wilson in a quiet movie (Steve Martin is less of a stretch), but here they are. The title is a decoy, really; though THE BIG YEAR could have gone big (and gone home as yet another obnoxiously loud film), it instead delivers subtlety and soul. So what if it's not laugh-out-loud funny? Yes, it could have used a few more major moments, and the competition could have been amped up for deeper laughs. But what we get instead isn't a bird of the same feather; instead, it's one that -- wait for it -- soars.


In all earnestness, expect to be surprised at how educational The Big Year feels (just wait for the scene showing how the bald eagle mates). But what differentiates the movie from a National Geographic special are its three leads, all of whom exhibit exquisite control over their comedic gifts. They've each found a way to mute (in a good way) their individual sensibilities -- Black's rocker-in-your-face-ness, Martin's sometimes too-cosmopolitan wit, and Wilson's aw, shucksness -- that, when let loose, sometimes overwhelm. Sure, each character's romantic counterparts seem incidental, and the film occasionally borders on identity disorder with its travelogue elements (did we really need to see quite so many countries and cities?). Otherwise, it's a delight.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's messages. What is it saying about friendship? About competition?

  • How does the movie handle each character's obsession? Is it an accurate depiction of how a hobby can consume? Have you ever had an interest that "took over"?

  • How does this movie compare to the stars' other films? Who do you think it's most likely to appeal to? Why?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love quirky characters

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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