The Kid Who Would Be King

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Kid Who Would Be King Movie Poster Image
 Parents recommendPopular with kids
"Goonies" meets "LOTR" in fun but sometimes scary adventure.
  • PG
  • 2019
  • 120 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 54 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 37 reviews

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Promotes idea that anyone who's pure of heart and noble in character (i.e., brave and compassionate) has potential for greatness, not just those with royal blood or special background. Encourages loyalty, honoring those you love, persevering and overcoming challenges, doing the right thing, working as a team, telling the truth. Also a major theme about importance of not leaving people behind, standing up to bullies, empathizing/seeking middle ground with others that could turn them from adversaries to allies. You shouldn't have to change who you are to get ahead. Also, even when world seems like an unstable place, there's hope for change -- especially in motivated young people.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Alex is courageous, compassionate; he stands up to bullies who are bigger and older to defend his best friend. Bedders is kind, summons his courage to join Alex as a knight. Kaye and Lance redeem themselves for their bullying, selfish ways. The kids all learn from their mistakes, learn how to work together. Merlin is a quirky but helpful guide and mentor; he can't always save the kids, so he does his best to teach them how to succeed on their own merits. Morgana is clearly evil; she's said to represent greed, entitlement, vengefulness. Diversity within main cast.


Shape-shifting villain Morgana is incredibly creepy in every form, especially as winged, demonic-looking creature. Her armed dark army is also scary: Horse-mounted mud creatures with fiery eyes, weapons (like ring wraiths in Lord of the Rings); they attack the kids, even invade Alex's home. Creepy skeleton warriors, evil trees attack the kids. Suspenseful chases/big battles between Morgana/her army and kid knights and schoolmates; at one point, Merlin looks done for. Morgana breathes fire, destroys a lot of the school, while kids use homespun weapons to defeat her. Apocalyptic vision of future if kids don't succeed. Lance and Kaye start out as bullies who pick on Bedders and Alex, taunting, threatening, pushing them, making Bedders hang upside down, etc. Alex gets in a fight with Lance, who later wants to retaliate with Kaye as backup. Alex falls in a construction site, looks injured. School kids throw food/items at "Mertin." Alex reluctantly points his sword at his mom to get out of house. Animated battle violence in opening backstory sequence. Talk of instability throughout world: fear, crisis, division. Kids argue.


When young Merlin first arrives, he briefly walks around naked with a blurred-out bottom. No romance. Merlin needs to consume "beaver urine" as part of his reviving potion.


Infrequent use of words/phrases including "damn," "hell," "oh my God" (repeated a few times very quickly), "God's socks!," "thank God," "godforsaken," "what the hell," and "what the flip." Insults/rude words like "Lego mini-figure boy," "stupid," "shut up," "hate," "Percy Jockstrap," "ignorant buffoon," "liar," "cheat," "bully," "nothing." Morgana calls the kids "meek," "greedy," "callow."


Google Translate, Fiat, Mario Kart, YouTube, Led Zeppelin T-shirt, Uber.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Talk of a father who used to drink to the point of anger/excess.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Kid Who Would Be King is a modernized twist on the Arthurian legend of the sword in the stone. It centers on a relatable, regular English schoolboy named Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis), who's chosen to wield Excalibur and save the world. The movie is tween friendly (it's kind of like The Goonies crossed with Lord of the Rings), but families with younger kids should be aware that the villains -- evil Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson) and her minions -- are creepy, dark, and quite scary. Several violent battles/confrontations involve the destruction of a school, tense chases and pursuits, gouts of fire, and lots of swordfighting/weapons and close-range combat. While none of the kids is seriously injured, there are plenty of close calls. Characters also argue and deal with fairly intense bullying. There are a few uses of words like "damn," "hell," and "oh my God," as well as insults ("ignorant buffoon," etc.), but nothing overly salty. One character briefly walks around naked, but nothing at all graphic is shown. Families will be able to discuss several positive messages in the story, including teamwork, perseverance, courage, loyalty, and more.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJoTechYt January 31, 2019

Not for kids, but for teens.

Morgana (who is the villian) is shown with roots and without clothes. You can see that the roots form to her body and they barely cover anything. Merlin is show... Continue reading
Adult Written byRBM05 January 29, 2019

Rating too soft. Violent, sexual for young crowd

I went with my barely 9yr old son who was covering his OWN eyes because he was so frightened and then covered his own eyes again at the sight of Morgana (can... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byLlamaFartsSmellGood August 9, 2019

To all those dramatic chumps saying it's rated R and terrifying

This is a great movie for kids older than 10. But mostly you really just need to know your child and what they get scared of and what they don't get scared... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bySushiChristianKitten December 26, 2019

Very intense, but good

This movie is AMAZING!!! It's a suspenseful fantasy that will keep viewers on the edge of their seats until the end. There are some intense scenes, like wh... Continue reading

What's the story?

THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING opens with an animated overview of the Arthurian legend, quickly getting viewers up-to-date on King Arthur; his evil sister, Morgana; the wizard Merlin; the Knights of the Round Table; and the importance of the magical sword Excalibur. The action then switches to modern-day England, where 12-year-old Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) saves his best friend, Bedders (Dean Chaumoo), from their school's two biggest bullies: slightly older Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Dorris). After running away from the bullies, Alex ends up falling into a construction site and sees a dusty old sword stuck in a stone, which he manages to dislodge. The appearance of Excalibur brings Merlin (Angus Imrie), in teen form, to Alex's town. The odd, lanky teen explains that Alex is the new true king -- and that he will need to rally a group of fighters to defeat the wicked Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson), who's gaining strength to resurface and reclaim not only the sword, but all of Great Britain, as her birthright.

Is it any good?

Director Joe Cornish gives Arthurian legend a modern, crowd-pleasing twist in this version by choosing a kind, courageous "everyboy" to be the once and future king. Ashbourne Serkis (actor-director Andy's youngest child) plays Alex as an earnest, brave 12-year-old who can't quite believe that the magical sword belongs to him. The diverse group of kids who end up battling evil has a certain kinship to the ensemble in Cornish's clever (and decidedly more grown-up) debut, Attack the Block -- except, here, instead of aliens, these kids are trying to defeat a medieval sorceress who's trying to take over the United Kingdom.

The film is slightly longer than it needs to be, but Alex's drive to do what's right is charming, and the young Merlin's quirkiness (don't be surprised if young viewers attempt his constant snapping and clapping) is endearing. Patrick Stewart makes a few appearances as the "old" version of Merlin, adding an extra layer of legitimacy to the proceedings. The sword training and fight sequences are just violent enough to feel edgy, but they're not so dark that older elementary-aged viewers won't be able to handle them. Kids will be delighted by the young knights' adventures, and parents will appreciate how the Arthurian code promotes truth-telling, honoring loved ones, and perseverance. There's also an admirable theme of turning rivals (in this case, the bullies) into allies with empathy and kindness. In a world with too many divisions, that's a message that everyone should internalize.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in The Kid Who Would Be King. Is it necessary to the story? Does fantasy violence affect viewers differently than realistic violence? How much scary stuff can kids handle?

  • Which characters do you consider role models? How does Alex demonstrate perseverance?

  • How does the film portray bullies and bullying? Does it feel realistic? What drives the bullies to change their ways? Do you think you could stand up for a friend the way Alex does for Bedders?

  • If you're familiar with other books or movies about King Arthur and Excalibur, how do you think this version stacks up?

  • What do you think of the message that people can be born of humble means and still be extraordinary?

Movie details

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