Parents' Guide to

The Cider House Rules

By Nell Minow, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Thought-provoking movie has violence, mature themes.

Movie PG-13 1999 126 minutes
The Cider House Rules Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

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

Community Reviews

age 15+

Based on 4 parent reviews

age 16+

Lushly told coming-of-age story with some complicated themes

The film was adapted by the novel's author and it is interesting to see what was changed from page to screen. The resulting film focuses on Homer Wells, an orphan who leaves "home", gains new experience, falls in love, and finally returns to steward the orphanage as he was groomed to do by his surrogate father, Dr. Wilbur Larch. Of course, complicating the entire story is the fact that Dr. Larch believes in granting women illegal abortions if they desire them and he teaches Homer, who objects morally, the same practices. "You must be of use" he says to his foster son in many lessons along the way. As such the story deals frankly with the question of abortions and there is considerable discussion of them (procedures are not shown but Homer is seen disposing of aborted babies). There is also some mild violence, knives and fists, with some fairly subdued blood. But of course Homer also falls in love and so his relationship with Candy Kendall, the "widowed" girlfriend of WWII pilot Wally (Homer works for Wally' family picking apples), is an aspect of the story. There is a brief scene of the couple having sex outdoors while clothed and a later post-coital scene of Candy fully nude and shot from behind. Coupled with the somewhat subtextual rape and incest of two other characters, the sexual content is not really for the younger set. I wouldn't call anything done in the movie (sex, violence, language) overdone or excessive but it does seem to be just enough all around to earn a viewing for late teens and beyond. 15-16 might be a safe entry point here and it's one to consider because this is an excellent movie that won two deserving Oscars in 1999.

This title has:

Great role models
Too much sex
age 15+

Beautiful film

John Irving is an incredible writer. His stories tug at the heart and his characters are unforgettable. I think it's hard to capture Irving's genius on film, and this is a beautiful adaptation. Because of the film's mature themes involving abortion and incest, it's best for older teen audiences, but there is a lot to prompt meaningful family discussion (if you're into that kind of thing!). The performances of Michael Caine and Tobey Maguire, in particular, are wonderful. Have the Kleenex handy...

This title has:

Great messages

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (4):
Kids say (2):

Rules are the theme of this stirring movie. Many of the characters break rules, from the rules on the wall (against smoking in bed and climbing on the roof) to the laws of the state (abortion, licensing requirements, prohibitions on drug abuse), to rules that most people would consider fundamental principles of morality (prohibitions against dishonesty, betrayal of a friend's trust, incest, and, for some people, abortion). In some cases, viewers will think that breaking the rules was the right thing; in others they will not. Notice that there are rules that characters take seriously, like the rules that Mr. Rose explains to Homer about how to pick apples. One of those rules is to be careful not to pick an apple bud, because then "you're picking two apples, this year's and next year's," a rule which may have a deeper meaning to Homer given his views on abortion.

And compare the way that Candy lets life make decisions for her with a "wait and see" approach to Homer, who makes decisions based on his values, including the importance of having a purpose. They have very different reasons for getting together -- he loves her, but she "just can't be alone."

Movie Details

  • In theaters: December 10, 1999
  • On DVD or streaming: August 15, 2000
  • Cast: Charlize Theron, Michael Caine, Tobey Maguire
  • Director: Lasse Hallstrom
  • Studio: Miramax
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 126 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG-13
  • MPAA explanation: mature thematic elements, sexuality, nudity, substance abuse and some violence
  • Last updated: January 26, 2023

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