The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Tolkien tale isn't as great as LOTR, but better for tweens.
  • PG-13
  • 2012
  • 166 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 49 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 219 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Stands out for positive messages.

Positive Messages

As in The Lord of the Rings, the message of The Hobbit is that even the smallest person can make a huge difference. Gandalf even says "it's the small things that keep the darkness at bay" in reference to Bilbo's involvement in the dangerous mission. Gandalf advises Bilbo that it's not knowing how to take a life that takes courage but knowing when to spare one. The dwarves' quest reminds viewers of the importance of home, kinship, and belonging somewhere. Curiosity, perseverance, and teamwork are major themes.

Positive Role Models

No one except Gandalf thinks that Bilbo can be of much help, but Bilbo rises to the occasion by summoning his courage when the time calls for it -- except for the fact that he fulfills his destiny as a "burglar" by stealing Gollum's precious ring. Thorin is dedicated to his fellow dwarves, and they in return revere him as their faithful leader.


Less violent than The Lord of the Rings, but there's still some carnage: a battle between the dwarves and the dragon leads to the dwarf king being decapitated, an orc leader's arm amputated, and a multitude of dwarves and their property destroyed. There are several close calls when Bilbo, Gandalf, and the dwarves are pursued or nearly die on their journey across Middle-earth, usually by orcs and their beasts. The orc leader is a frightening sight -- particularly with his claw-like prosthesis, and he's bloodthirsty. A group of goblins/orcs tries to kill the group as well.


Slang use of "jaxie" (meaning "ass").


Although there are no product placements in Middle-earth, the Tolkien books and Peter Jackson film adaptations have spawned a ton of merchandise: apparel, video games, LEGO toys and board games, role-playing games, special movie tie-in editions of the books, and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The dwarves are a voracious lot -- even more than hobbits. They ransack Bilbo's pantry and consume large quantities of drink (and food). Gandalf and Bilbo smoke the mellowing pipeweed.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, director Peter Jackson's adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's stand-alone quest through Middle-earth, is less violent than the scarier Lord of the Rings trilogy. But there are definitely some frightening sequences, like the battle between the dragon and the dwarves of Erebor, during which one character is decapitated, another has an arm amputated, and there's mass destruction. The group of Bilbo, Gandalf, and 13 dwarves is often tracked and pursued and nearly killed several times, but they manage to avoid death -- at least in this installment. Bilbo (like Frodo and his friends in the LOTR movies) again shows that size doesn't matter when it comes to making a difference.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 7 and 10-year-old Written byafenrick December 31, 2012

Too violent

I'm fairly permissive when it comes to movies as I think they provide a springboard for conversation. That being said, The Hobbit was simply much too viol... Continue reading
Parent Written byWill work for coffee December 2, 2013

A little too scary for the younger kids but great for the pre-teen group!

The kids watched this with Grandpa last weekend - ages 7, 9 and 11. The older two really enjoyed it but it was much too scary for the 7 yo and he left the room... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byWayward Girl December 15, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is AMAZING!!! I CANNOT wait until Hobbit 2!!!

Just saw this with my family yesterday! My parents haven't let me seen the original trilogy, but they know I am a huge fan of the books, and they decided i... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bySlytherin Queen September 24, 2018

The book was better and they could of made the movie better- From a hardcore LOTR fan

Don't get me wrong, I love LOTR, but they could have made this movie better. There were multiple unnecessary scenes, including the ones with the pale orc a... Continue reading

What's the story?

Peter Jackson's first installment in his three-part adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY starts off with an eleventy-one-year-old Bilbo Baggins (played once again by Ian Holm) narrating the tale of how he, a mellow hobbit from the Shire, ended up enmeshed in a dangerous quest. Sixty years before The Fellowship of the Ring is formed, a considerably younger Bilbo (Martin Freeman) sets off an the titular Unexpected Journey with his friend Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) to help 13 dwarves reclaim their homeland -- the kingdom of Erebor, which was taken over by a killer, gold-seeking dragon that forced the dwarves into exile. The motley crew, led by Gandalf and the smoldering heir to the Erebor throne, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), encounter two-and-a-half hours of conflict (most notably with the bloodthirsty orcs) with a brief respite found in the elven homeland of Rivendell, where Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) offers Gandalf her unconditional support.

Is it any good?

Despite issues with length and pacing, there's no denying this is a production worth seeing, especially with kids new to Tolkien's detailed universe. As a novel, The Hobbit skews younger than The Lord of the Rings, so it's only natural that the film is also more accessible for tweens -- just have them look the other way for a few of the darker battle sequences. The story is simple enough, and the visuals are dazzling (the 48 frames per second rate is neither as spectacular or headache-inducing as rumors would have you believe). The acting is admirable, including the return of our favorite wizard, Gandalf, Lady of Lorien Galadriel, and head elf Elrond (Hugo Weaving). Unfortunately, the dwarves all sort of blend together in a tangle of hair and mischief, with the notable exception of the broody Thorin and his swashbuckling nephews, Fili and Kili (Dean O'Gorman and Aidan Turner).

The main issue with Jackson's adaptation is that the run time is brutal, even for hardcore fans of Jackson's epic LOTR trilogy. Whereas that trilogy made sense as three separate movies -- considering it was the adaptation of three books -- The Hobbit isn't a substantive enough work to demand three movies, even with Jackson pulling extra material from Tolkien's indices. The fabulous visuals and impressive action sequences reminiscent of the trilogy are bogged down by an overlong and overly thorough first quarter that could have used a considerable edit job.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Hobbit compares to The Lord of the Rings. How are the stories similar (a hobbit joins a dangerous quest), and how are they different? Which adventure do you prefer?

  • For those familiar with the book, how does the movie adaptation differ? If you haven't read the book yet, does the movie make you want to delve into Tolkien's classic? Why do you think Tolkien's fantasy tale has withstood the test of time?

  • What does Bilbo learn about himself throughout the journey?

  • How do the characters in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey demonstrate curiosity and courage? What about perseverance and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

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