The Iron Giant

  • Review Date: November 23, 2004
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1999
  • Running Time: 86 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Touching robot-kid friendship tale with great messages.
  • Review Date: November 23, 2004
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1999
  • Running Time: 86 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Gracefully utilizes both plot and characters to share messages about behavior, life values, and important issues.  “You are what you choose to be,” and “Don’t care what anyone else thinks” are verbalized and illustrated several times.  “Guns kill; things die; it’s a part of life,” is portrayed by the errant shooting of a deer, along with “Souls don’t die; all good things go on forever and ever.” Set in the late 1950s, the government’s reaction to the Iron Giant reveals the paranoia and fear that were pervasive during the Cold War. At the film’s end, the robot is given an urgent moral dilemma: should he use his abilities as a weapon to destroy everyone and everything in his path, or should he allow himself to be destroyed in order to save his own goodness… his “soul.”

Positive role models

Hogarth Hughes, the young hero, is seen as resourceful, courageous, curious, compassionate, and intelligent. Though he sometimes ventures outside of his mom’s comfort zone, and even his own comfort zone, he is always well-intentioned and honorable. Hogarth’s struggling single mother is portrayed as concerned, loving, and hard-working. The movie’s villain, a high-ranking U.S. official, is depicted as ruthless, ego-driven, paranoid, and a threat to the heroes.

Violence & scariness

Cartoon action sequences play throughout:  Boat in storm, man overboard, but escapes; a huge robot (the Iron Giant, who turns out to be one of the film’s heroes) eats metal, destroys a power station, tromps across the landscape, chasing the young boy hero and frightening people. Sparks fly, buildings fall. A deer is shot and killed. The robot is hit by a train, threatened, and shot at countless times by a squadron of armed military. To defend himself the robot creates havoc with some spectacular shooting and firing power of his own. Some spooky music accompanies old black-and-white TV footage.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable

“Hell,” is said three times, an “omigod,” and one “butt.”


Mentions of Twinkies, Mad magazine, Action Comics, and Superman.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Set in the late 1950s, a secretary smokes a cigarette at her desk; a government official smokes a pipe throughout.  A laxative is used to obstruct the progress of the movie’s villain, with predictably humorous results as he continually needs to find a bathroom (as subtly depicted, this plot line will probably go over the heads of younger children).

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie provides the commensurate cartoon action that most kids love: a giant robot under attack; buildings, trains, and cars crashing; futuristic weapons firing; Hogarth, the boy hero, creeping through a dark forest looking for “trouble"; a boat caught in a storm; spooky music; and an arrogant, mean-spirited villain who threatens everyone and everything that is important. It also includes a poignant moment when a deer is shot. The filmmakers bring a point of view to the events, hoping to instruct, explain, and furnish thought-provoking ideas through which kids can view the action (i.e. “guns kill,” the collateral damage of paranoia, and taking responsibility for our choices). Set in the 1950s, one character smokes a pipe throughout and one character smokes a cigarette. Hogarth gives the villain a dose of laxative which humorously results in trips to any bathroom he can find.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Set in rural Maine during the late 1950s, THE IRON GIANT centers on 9-year-old Hogarth Hughes (voiced by Eli Marienthal), who lives with his waitress mother, Annie (Jennifer Aniston). One night, he discovers a huge robot in the woods, munching on whatever metal he can find, including the town's electric substation. Hogarth is frightened, but takes pity when the robot is enmeshed in wires, and turns off the power so that the robot can escape. The robot turns out to be the world's best playmate, whether cannonballing into the swimming hole or acting as a sort of amusement park ride. His origins remain mysterious, but his reaction to Hogarth's toy ray gun suggests that he may have served as a weapon of some kind. Local beatnick Dean McCoppin (Harry Connick, Jr.) lets Hogarth hide the robot in his junkyard, but government investigator Kent Mansley (Christopher McDonald) thinks that the giant is part of a communist plot, and presses Hogarth to turn him in. Mansley calls in the army, and suddenly the robot and the surrounding community are in real danger.

Is it any good?


This is a director's cut of a wonderful film that has so much humor and heart that it is one of the best family movies around. The script, based on a book by England's poet laureate, Ted Hughes, is exceptionally good. The plot has some clever twists, and some sly references to the 1950s to tickle the memories of boomer grandparents. Setting the story in the 1950s puts the government's reaction to the robot in the context of the red scare and Sputnik.

It may not have the breathtaking vistas of some of the best Disney animated films, but it is lively and heartwarming and the characters, both human and robot, are so engaging that you might forget they are not real. The robot, created with computer graphics, is seamlessly included with the hand-drawn actors, making the illusion even more complete.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what makes real friendships.

  • What did you think about the ending? Do you think it had to be that way? What was the alternative?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 1, 1999
DVD release date:November 21, 2004
Cast:Cloris Leachman, Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Aniston, Vin Diesel
Director:Brad Bird
Studio:Warner Bros.
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Friendship, Robots
Run time:86 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:tension and potty humor

This review of The Iron Giant was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 12 years old June 20, 2010
a great kids movie for 5 and older. I watched it when i was 8 and loved it, and i still do. some things u might now want your kid to watch although. Violence includes guns and tanks. One scary scene where the iron giant almost dies. Some surprising language too. people say d--mit is yelled once and h-ll, g-d, and screw are also said.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Great messages
Great role models
Parent of a 6 and 8 year old Written bypamother March 11, 2010

Great movie, but too scary for under 7

Good story, lots of suspense particularly at the beginning
Parent of a 5, 8, and 10 year old Written byCrimsonBuckeye March 2, 2010

Great movie, but parents beware

I loved the movie and the ultimate message, but I was very disappointed in the unnecessary use of profanity (d@mn, h3ll). I was also put off by the ultimate threat of nuclear destruction toward the end of the movie. This is a development I was not prepared for and had to explain to my kids. Really, this was the most frightening aspect to them, not the robot with its guns blazing. Thankfully, my youngest didn't quite get the impending doom. While the robot does the right thing in this dangerous situation, parents should be aware of the nuclear threat aspect.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Great role models


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