The Breadwinner

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Breadwinner Movie Poster Image
 Parents recommendPopular with kids
Powerful, intense animated tale of life under Taliban rule.
  • PG-13
  • 2017
  • 94 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 14 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 18 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Promotes the importance of perseverance, literacy, storytelling, and knowing your history. Also shows how difficult it is for girls and women to live in extreme societies where they're routinely mistreated, harassed, and disrespected. Teaches the power of close family ties and the fact that women and girls can contribute as much to society as men and boys.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Parvana is curious, intelligent, and courageous. She's willing to put herself in danger to help her family. Her father quietly defies the Taliban by continuing to teach his daughters how to read and about the country's ancient history and legends. Shauzia is a good friend to Parvana and also risks the extreme consequences of pretending to be a boy. Parvana's mother finds strength in protecting her children.


Frequent tension and danger. Male Taliban soldiers and followers threaten Parvana's father. Later, the Taliban brutally removes him from their home. Her mother is cruelly beaten; the actual beating takes place off camera, but her bruised black eye and feet are visible. Men/soldiers threaten and pursue Parvana and push and strike her, even though she's dressed as a boy. Parvana strikes a young Taliban follower with a gun and fires into a hiding spot. Chaos and violence erupt at a prison; armed men seem to be shooting at prisoners, and one man is shown shot in the shoulder (it's unclear whether he survives). A man pulls a knife on Parvana's mother and sister and, in a fraught scene, seems to be willing to kidnap their baby brother. A story-within-the-story features skeleton ghosts, attacking jaguars, and an evil elephant king.


References to very young women being married off (it's made clear that those in charge think women have no role other than as daughters, wives, and mothers in the home).


Insults and threatening language like "crazy," "undercooked," "enemy of Islam," "old man," "stupid girl," etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Breadwinner is a beautifully animated drama from the co-director of The Secret of Kells that's set in post-Taliban Afghanistan. Based on the young adult novel by Deborah Ellis, it centers on an 11-year-old girl who's forced to pretend she's a boy after her father is imprisoned. The movie heartbreakingly captures the violent, anti-women, anti-intellectual, and even anti-literacy stance of the Taliban regime. Women are harassed and beaten for not covering themselves properly, being in public without a husband/father, and drawing attention to themselves. Taliban soldiers and followers intimidate and threaten characters and keep one imprisoned. A few mild insults pepper the dialogue ("crazy," "stupid," "enemy of Islam," etc.), but it's the realistic violence that's most likely to upset younger viewers. There's also a story-within-the-story in which skeleton ghosts, attacking jaguars, and an evil elephant king figure prominently, but it's not as frightening as the mistreatment of people (particularly girls and women) under Taliban rule. And, ultimately, themes of perseverance, curiosity, and courage prevail.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bysrhocox August 26, 2018

Excellent movie for any kid - especially girls

My daughter, almost 8 loved this movie and asks to watch it again and again. The main character is courageous, strong but vulnerable as she tries to help her fa... Continue reading
Adult Written byChrisPR1986 November 3, 2020
Teen, 13 years old Written bya bored student February 28, 2021
Teen, 13 years old Written bySalaamReview February 14, 2020

Absolutely mind blowing

This is the best movie I have ever seen!! The movie not only represents women power, but shows how men are not the problem, it’s the influence of that makes sen... Continue reading

What's the story?

Based on Deborah Ellis' 2000 middle-grade novel, THE BREADWINNER follows curious, storytelling 11-year-old Parvana (voiced by Saara Chaudry), who helps her father, an amputee former teacher, peddle goods in a market in Kabul, Afghanistan. Taliban soldiers and followers harass him and eventually imprison him for being "an enemy of Islam." Without a father to care for them, the family -- which includes Parvana; her older sister, Soraya; their baby brother; and their mother -- is left without any means to make money or even purchase goods in the market. So Parvana decides to cut her hair and disguise herself as a boy in order to leave the house, provide for her family, and attempt to find and speak to her father in prison. Much to her surprise, Parvana discovers that a former classmate, Shauzia (Soma Chhaya), is also pretending to be a boy to make a living. Can the two girls successfully avoid Taliban attention?

Is it any good?

This gorgeously animated but unflinching tale of a young girl's courage under Taliban rule is a poignant, important reminder about the violence that girls and women face in extreme patriarchies. The story of a girl disguising herself as a boy is a familiar one, but The Breadwinner puts a unique spin on it, because Parvana doesn't do it to fight, like in Mulan, or to learn, as in Yentl, but simply to survive. Not only are all mothers and daughters supposed to stay at home unless they're accompanied by husbands or fathers, but even men are restricted in their abilities and schooling (many can't even read). What's extraordinary about Parvana is that she's brave, yes, but she's also committed to carrying on her mother and father's love of ancient Afghani folktales and legends. This leads to a stylized story-within-a-story that Parvana tells her brother about a boy named Sulayman who saves his village from the evil elephant king, despite being young and naive.

The fable, which has a different look than the rest of the film's animation, mirrors Parvana's own role in rescuing her family from certain doom. Her perseverance under unthinkably tense conditions is remarkable; it's an inspiration for her melancholy mother and sheltered older sister. The movie's subject matter might be too intense and the violence too realistic for very young viewers, but tweens and young teens aware of, say, Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai's story, should find it fascinating and educational. Like Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon's previous big films (The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea), The Breadwinner blends folklore with realism and ultimately shows how children are far braver than some might think.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the depiction of realistic vs. fantasy violence. How are both portrayed in The Breadwinner? Is one more difficult to watch than the other? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How do the characters demonstrate courage, curiosity, and perseverance? Why are these important character strengths?

  • What's the movie's message about how women and girls are treated? How does that treatment vary around the world?

  • What did you learn about Afghanistan from this film? Did watching the movie make you want to read the book it's based on -- or learn more about the ancient (or recent) history of Afghanistan?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love strong female characters

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

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