The Journey of Natty Gann Movie Poster Image

The Journey of Natty Gann

Compelling adventure too violent for some kids.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Natty does some things because of her poverty: She breaks into a movie theater to watch a movie, steals food, and helps some kids steal a cow and car. Men gamble on a dog fight.


A man who picks up Natty hitchhiking attempts to sexually assault her. A train derails and sends Natty flying. Some punching, rock-throwing, slapping, explosions, and a serious fall from a tree. Dogs are shown fighting with bloodied mouths and Wolf attacks two men. Natty skins a bunny and cooks it. Vigilantes torch a shanty town and beat the homeless people there.


Natty and Harry kiss once.


A few uses of "hell," "son of a bitch," "d--m," and "s--t."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Connie smokes cigarettes and drinks liquor. Natty and her friends share a cigarette. Harry smokes cigarettes. The lumberjack foreman smokes a cigar.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie is set in the Depression and depicts the bleakness of extreme poverty. Natty's mother is dead and her father leaves her because he found work across the country, so Natty must fend for herself. While there's considerable violence -- from a bloody dog fight to a man who tries to assault Natty when he offers to give her a ride -- the scarier moments aren't portrayed as graphically as they could be. Even when a train derails, Natty walks away with only a few scrapes.

What's the story?

Despite having lost a mother as a child, Natty Gann (Meredith Salenger) lives happily with her union-thumping dad in a hotel. The family is content but poor. But when Natty's dad Sol (Ray Wise) gets the chance at a job across the country, he reluctantly takes it, promising to send for Natty as soon as he gets money. Left alone with only the mean landlady (Lainie Kazan) who plans to turn her in to social services, Natty decides to find her dad on her own. Natty doesn't know where in Washington state he is or have a dime in her pocket, but she joins the bands of tramps and orphaned kids trying to make it on their own in one of the roughest times in American history.

Is it any good?


In an odd way, THE JOURNEY OF NATTY GANN has more in common with Lassie Come Home and Homeward Bound than teenage coming-of-age movies. It's not about an inner journey, really. It's about a cross-country adventure and the strength and fun that Natty finds along the way.

There are definitely some tense, scary moments on her journey. Natty's saving grace is that she finds parent figures along the way, from a wolf who offers her his kill to Harry (John Cusack) who teaches her how to ride the rails and offers her his meager can of beans when she's hungry. Because of Harry's fatherly kindness to Natty, it's a little off-putting when a romance blooms between the two.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the Great Depression affected their grandparents and great-grandparents. How realistic were some of the scarier things in the film, like kids orphaned by parents who left to get work?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 27, 1985
DVD/Streaming release date:May 21, 2002
Cast:John Cusack, Lainie Kazan, Meredith Salenger, Scatman Crothers
Director:Jeremy Kagan
Studio:Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Topics:Adventures, Great girl role models, History
Run time:101 minutes
MPAA rating:PG

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 10 years old June 13, 2013

OMG Best Movie EVER!!!!!

I absolutely loved his movie, it is my favorite movie of all time!!!! There is a bit of language, and some violence, but Natty Gann is strong and stands up for herself. I think her wolf is just adorable, and Harry is a friendly nice guy. The reason I say ten and up is because I don't think kids younger then me should be exposed to words like that, let them swim in their little tiny tidal pool for just a biiiiiiit longer!
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Parent Written bycaring February 22, 2012

Message about love and committment.

I am 45 and this was my first time watching and hearing about the movie. I enjoyed it. I have two sons, 9 and 15, and I want them to see it.
What other families should know
Great messages
Parent of a 7 and 8 year old Written byMSAN October 5, 2014

May need to pause it a few times

This movie is one of my childhood favorites and my kids loved it, too. You may need to pause it and explain a few scenes (the dog fight and shanty town, etc.). There is mild swearing but nothing too foul. Courage, endurance and the strength of love are key components of the movie.
What other families should know
Great messages