The Kite Runner

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
The Kite Runner Movie Poster Image
Best seller-based drama has harrowing moments.
  • PG-13
  • 2007
  • 122 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 7 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

A noble child sets an example for a more fearful boy. A single father is sometimes remote from his son, with high expectations. A childhood bully, Soviet troops, and Taliban members are all cruel and visibly odious. Very little attention is paid to women's lives under both traditional Afghani custom and extreme Taliban rule.


Central plot element is a homosexual rape (both victim and perpetrator are adolescent boys), briefly indicated by close-ups of a belt being unbuckled, pants pulled down, and the victim's face pressed against the ground. He looks frightened and pained, and his blood drips on the snow as he walks away. A bully threatens younger boys, a child uses a slingshot, and a boy throws pomegranates at his friend. War scenes include explosions, tanks, and soldiers with guns. A hanged man visible in the street, and kids throw rocks at each other. The Taliban stone a woman and man to death (mostly shown in long shot, but blood visible and it's very clear what's happening). Guns aimed at visitor. Fierce fistfight leaves participants bloodied and smashed. Hero appears with black eye, swollen face, and bloody face. Goat's head lies bloody in the dirt (cut off by Kabul butcher as part of routine preparation).


Discussion of "giving" orphans to a local Taliban leader (for sexual reasons that are hinted at, but not discussed in any detail) in order to save the remaining children.


Language includes several uses of "f--k," plus occasional instances of "hell" and "goddamn." Derogatory/racist references to the "hazara" (who are from the Black Mountain of Hazara region and are mostly Shi'a muslims).


References to U.S movies, like Bullitt, El Cid, The Magnificent Seven.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Frequent cigarette smoking, mostly by Amir's father. Some drinking at parties and a bar; a child serves drinks to adults at a party.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that although this often-harrowing drama set primarily in Afghanistan focuses on children's experiences, the themes are mature. Children are repeatedly in peril, and there's a disturbing, though not explicit, scene in which a young boy is raped by older boys (close-ups of faces and a belt being unbuckled indicate what's going on). Several scenes show warfare (explosions, gunfire, bloody bodies) during the Soviet invasion; others depict Taliban oppression (a public stoning, beatings, taunting of civilians). One hanged body is visible on the street. A brief tirade features several uses of "f--k" in a row; other language includes "hell" and "damn."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byrstevens863 January 18, 2019


This fiction novel was assigned to my 17 yr old in honors English. It painted disturbing images in his head over the evil that men can do. There was no need to... Continue reading
Adult Written byAntonia S. December 7, 2017

Should be rated a 15.

Lulled by the 12 rating I made the huge mistake of not watching this before choosing it for a film night with my daughters aged 11 and 14. The 11 year old has... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old June 27, 2015


I watched it with my dad. It's quite scary, so if you're a kid you can watch a few scenes, but not the whole movie. It can give you nightmares!
Teen, 14 years old Written byCloudIsC00L723 July 8, 2011

What's the story?

Based on Khaled Hosseini's bestseller, THE KITE RUNNER opens in 2000 in San Francisco, where an adult Amir (Khalid Abdalla) has lived for years. Having left Afghanistan as a boy, Amir is still haunted by memories of Kabul. His distress is only enhanced when his father's friend calls to say that Amir should come home, since "there's a way to be good again." Amir goes, seeking redemption for a past the film illustrates in flashbacks to 1978, when he was a champion kite flyer. In these scenes, Amir lives a life of privilege but also some confusion, never quite pleasing his father and resenting his own best friend, Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada), a superb kite runner from a lower social class. When Hassan is raped by a trio of local bullies who deride his ethnicity and underclass status, Amir runs away instead of standing up for his friend. When the Soviets invade, Amir and his father escape to America. But Hassan remains behind, an emblem of Amir's lost innocence, homeland, and capacity to "be good." When Amir returns to Kabul as an adult, he seeks redemption by finding Hassan's son, reportedly captured by the Taliban.

Is it any good?

Like the source novel by Khaled Hosseini, Marc Forster's film is frequently contrived and melodramatic. Yet it also focuses attention on the terrible consequences of war and tyranny. The film's brutal villains -- once someone's children, their "colors" filled in or not -- are stereotypical, at once homophobic and unhesitating to use homosexual rape as a weapon. But they're aided by essentially decent bystanders, who do nothing in the face of even the most personal instances of cruelty and abuse.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why part of the story is told as a flashback, from a child's point of view. How does that change the impact of the story? Also, the young actors had to leave Afghanistan after making this film because of the homosexual rape scene. What do your kids think about what it means to take risks for art?

Movie details

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