The Color Purple



Powerful tale of survival with wrenching scenes of abuse.
  • Review Date: August 2, 2005
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1985
  • Running Time: 152 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

There are many messages in this Alice Walker adaptation, from the way women and African Americans were treated in the first half of the 20th century to the importance of keeping your dignity under the most difficult circumstances. Racism, sexism, marriage, sex, parenting, it's all explored in this multi-decade story. The movie has an underlying feminist theme about the importance of strong, unconditional relationships between women.

Positive role models

The female characters are resilient in their ability to survive and maintain their dignity under oppressive circumstances. On the other hand, given that this movie is set in the first decades of the 20th century, there are many racist and sexist characters who treat women and African Americans like second-class citizens -- but they're clearly in the wrong.


The story is full of verbal, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. From the very first scene, when a 14-year-old girl painfully gives birth to a baby fathered by her own father, the abuse is near-constant in the young girl's life. In one of the movie's most emotional scenes, two sisters are painfully separated by an abusive man. The sex is usually disturbing and non-consensual. A barroom brawl leads to many characters punching each other and breaking furniture. One character almost slits another's throat with a straight razor, but is stopped in the nick of time.


Although there's no graphic sex, there are many references to sexual relationships, including adultery. One early sex scene focuses on close-ups of faces and a shaking headboard. Another conversation about sex contrasts a wife's miserable "grin and bear it" experience with a mistress' pleasurable one with the same man. Two female characters laugh, kiss, and caress each other, and the scene ends with the implication that they go on to make love, but it's not shown.


Strong language is infrequent, but there is an occasional "s--t," "damn," "hell," and "ass," as well as the exclamation of "Jesus!"

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults drink to excess and socially in several scenes in homes (usually at meals) and at nightclubs. Two male characters are shown drunk in a few scenes, and a few of the men smoke cigarettes and cigars.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this intense drama is the adaptation of award-wining author Alice Walker's novel The Color Purple and deals with serious themes -- incest, marital abuse, overt racism and sexism -- that are not appropriate for young children. On the other hand, mature teenagers will benefit from seeing the movie, as it will open their eyes about the difficulties women -- especially black women -- experienced in the early 20th century. Many scenes include glimpses of violence and abuse, all against women, but here are also positive messages about the importance of women's relationships with other women, the power of the sisterly bond, and the human capacity to overcome oppression.

What's the story?

In this inspiring, wrenching drama based on Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Whoopi Goldberg plays Celie, a Southern woman who has been abused all her life. Her current abuser is her husband, Mister (Danny Glover). Various women in her life slowly help Celie find strength in herself. Eventually, correspondence with her sister in Africa gives Celie the courage to stand up to Mister. THE COLOR PURPLE marks director Steven Spielberg's stab at a serious historical drama after the much lighter fare of the first two Indiana Jones movies.

Is it any good?


This movie isn't for the weak of heart. It deals with real, traumatic issues, including child abuse, sexual abuse, racism, and sexism. But for teens who can weather the subject matter, the story of a woman's journey from abuse to independence is inspiring. There's a great deal to admire in this sweeping epic, starting with the simple fact that complex African-American characters like those presented here are rarely seen in American movies. Goldberg, nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, shines as the abused Celie, as does Glover as her brutish husband. Oprah Winfrey made a memorable impression as the strong-willed Sofia even before she was a household name.

The movie brings out radically different responses in viewers. Those who like sentimental material tend to be extremely moved by the story. But other viewers find the movie overly grandiose, with scene after scene designed to be gut wrenching. Part of the problem lies in the transfer from the page to the screen. The filmmakers never quite solve the problem of adapting such dense literary material, moving from high point to high point in an attempt to cover the full sweep of the novel. Internal thoughts are delivered as stilted voice-overs, a poor device filmmakers resort when they see no other way to work a character's personal psychology into a movie.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the abuse scenes. What feelings did they bring up in you? How did Celie's relationship with Sophia help her survive? How can family members help one another survive and heal from traumatic experiences?

  • Talk about film adaptations of novels. What makes these kinds of adaptations successful? What are the pitfalls? Do you think this was a successful adapation?

  • Talk about how times have changed since the era in which this story was set. Has anything remained the same?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 1, 1985
DVD release date:April 24, 1991
Cast:Danny Glover, Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg
Director:Steven Spielberg
Studio:Warner Bros.
Run time:152 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:emotional intensity, violence and mature themes

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Educator and Parent of an infant year old Written byFosterFan October 2, 2011

Female empowerment + anti-racism= Great film.

The Color Purple is Whoopi's. She owns, makes and elevates it. Maybe a little over-sentimental, but it's undeniably powerful. That being said, the movie does contain some material that is not appropriate for kids. Racism and sexism are the film's main troubles, and Celie beats them all. There's semi.explicit sexual content, some foul language, horrific violence against women, smoking and drinking. But the ending is, by all means, extremely moving. If your kids are mature enough, you should consider watching it with them and discussing issues of race, violence and respect for women.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent of a 10 year old Written byGenral Greg August 10, 2010

A Great Film for a More Mature Audience

This was a great film that deals with many issues, most of them not appropriate for children. However, for the more mature, older teen, there are very positive messages, such as standing up for yourself, the power of family, redemption, etc.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 17 years old Written byalainacutie April 9, 2008

a good book

I had to read this book for a college english class and I thought it was very appropriate. I think it might be harder for kids of a younger age to read jsut because it doesnt use proper english. Although there are some iffy issues, I think its things that kids will learn sooner or later. I think 10 and above or even 13 would be a good age for this book. I think it gives you an idea of what it was like back in those times in the south. For some younger kids it may have too many mature issues so I would suggest reading it first or even reading it with your kid and going over the issues discussed. Overall, I think it was a good read.


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