The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Sequel bolstered by brave elves, scary dragon, big spiders.
  • PG-13
  • 2013
  • 161 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 18 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 116 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The story continues with its message that even the smallest and seemingly weakest can have courage when it counts. Dwarves are small but strong warriors. Bilbo gains his confidence even as he cultivates his attachment to his secret ring. The importance of helping others is paramount to the story: two elves defy their leaders to help creatures they don't even particularly care about; a man helps the dwarves in a moment of need. Additional themes include curiosity, teamwork, and perseverance.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Many of the characters face difficult decisions. Bilbo must use his stolen ring to be invisible and help the dwarves. Thorin wants to lead his fellow dwarves to their homeland, but he's willing to sacrifice Bilbo's life if necessary; Tauriel disobeys the elvenking's orders in order to help the dwarves and fight the orcs; Bard helps the dwarves but doesn't want them to awaken the dragon that could lead to his lake town's destruction. Tauriel, a captain of the guard, is even more skilled than Eowyn and Arwen from the LOTR trilogy.


There a few jumpworthy moments courtesy of the orcs and the dragon Smaug. Audiences of all ages will be on the edge of their seats at least three times when dangerous, scary characters pop up on the screen. While it's not as violent as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, there are deadly confrontations between the dwarves and the orcs, the elves and the orcs, and the dragon and the dwarves. Orcs are killed (one is decapitated); one dwarf is pierced with a poisoned arrow and nearly dies; Smaug spews fire toward Bilbo and the dwarves and is buried in a sea of molten gold. Sauron is very frightening and smothers Galdalf with his evil darkness. Beorn is a skinchanger that changes from a giant man into a terrifying bear-like beast. Giant spiders are sure to creep out sensitive viewers.


Both Legolas and Kili are smitten with the beautiful elf Tauriel. Kili asks her if she isn't going to check down his trousers for weapons, because she might find something; she responds "or nothing." Kili and Tauriel hold hands.


Some insults including "coward," "rabble rousers," "shirkers," "usurper," "thief," "burglar," and a couple of humorous insults about Gloin's wife and son looking like a man or beast, respectively. One joking insult that seems like a curse word, but is in Dwarf language.


There aren't any product placements in the film, but the Tolkien books and Peter Jackson film adaptations have launched a huge amount of merchandise: clothes, video games, LEGO toys and board games, role-playing games, special movie tie-in editions of the books, electronics accessories, and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The dwarves have even bigger appetites than the hobbits. They drink on several occasions. There's a scene at a pub where there's drinking, and another where elves steal wine from the Mirkwood's cellar. In one scene elves appear passed out from drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Desolation of Smaug is the second installment in director Peter Jackson's three-part adaptation of The Hobbit. Unlike the streamlined adaptations of each of the three Lord of the Rings novels, The Hobbit is expanded beyond the source material with additional characters and story lines. While this series remains more tween-friendly than the more violent Lord of the Rings, there are still a few jump-worthy and frightening scenes, mostly dealing with the orcs, the dragon Smaug, and that most evil of beings, Sauron. Viewers with a fear of spiders may find some scenes difficult to watch. Bows are the weapons of choice, but hammers, swords, and other forged weapons are also used in the fight scenes (in addition to the dragon's built-in weapon of all-consuming fire).

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byvalentinD August 30, 2016

it was super with smaug

It's good for the old children but so scary for the young kids of less 8 years old.
Adult Written bychristian2011 December 15, 2013

Another exciting sequel to the 1st. Yet slightly more violent and dark.

The Desolation of Smaug, in my opinion, was even better than the first prequel because the antagonist Smaug was brilliantly portrayed and highly relevant to the... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byShowman movie13 January 19, 2020

Plenty of peril/action and violence

This movie was good, but I think this movie could have done a bit better. But besides that, it is really good! This definitely deserves big comments! Though the... Continue reading
Kid, 8 years old January 30, 2015

It's ok

Too much violence for little kids and a little scary

What's the story?

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG continues to follow the quest of dwarf heir apparent Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), and a motley crew of dwarves as they travel toward their abandoned kingdom of Erebor. Their journey is perilous, not only because they encounter deadly dark beings (a necromancer, a legion of orcs), militant elves who don't like dwarves, and a lake town full of hungry, upset humans, but because Gandalf leaves them to figure out if Sauron has returned, and because an angry killer dragon named Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) will never allow the dwarves to take back their treasure-filled kingdom without a fight.

Is it any good?

This second installment is a slight improvement over the first, even if some of the reasons it's better will upset Tolkien purists; some new characters were nowhere to be found in the book. But let's just say this and move on: The Hobbit three-parter is not The Lord of the Rings, and it will forever confound some critics as to why it a standalone book was divided into three nearly three-hour films, when one would've done just fine. One of the fundamental problems with The Hobbit is that there is a lot of traveling and not enough relationship building. There's not a sense of camaraderie and friendship the way there was in the nine-member Fellowship of the Ring.

But what does work in this film is the stopover at the Mirkwood, where the startlingly beautiful but cold elvenking Thranduil (Lee Pace) is a lovely foil to his hot-headed son Legolas (Orlando Bloom), who has an obvious crush on the gorgeous (and completely new to the world of Tolkien) captain of the guard Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). Laketown's heroic everyman Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) is well cast. The fight scenes (particularly those with Legolas and Tauriel) are, as always, one of Jackson's specialties, as are the middle-earth landscapes by his long-time cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, who knows how to immerse audiences into the beloved universe. Lastly, one cannot write a review of this movie without mentioning Cumberbatch's motion-capture performance as Smaug. With his resonant baritone (reminiscent of James Earl Jones), Cumberbatch imbues Smaug with an imperious, psychopathic rage and arrogance. It's fascinating and chilling and proof that these sorts of performances demand the finest of actors.

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 continues on a dangerous quest, deals with the precious ring), and how are they different? Which adventure do you prefer and why?

  • For those familiar with the book, how does this movie adaptation differ? If you haven't read the book yet, does the movie make you want to start Tolkien's classic?

  • Why do you think the filmmaker decided to insert a little bit of a romance/love triangle into the story? How about the reintroduction of Legolas?

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

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy worlds

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate