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The Land Before Time

Movie review by
Common Sense Me..., Common Sense Media
The Land Before Time Movie Poster Image
Original baby-dinosaur buddy tale has scares, sadness.
  • G
  • 1988
  • 70 minutes
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 5+
Based on 27 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 30 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Introduces various species of dinosaurs, providing simple-to-understand information about species, habitat, family, and survival.

Positive Messages

Promotes teamwork, unselfishness, interspecies tolerance, resourcefulness, and perseverance. Clear references are made to "the circle of life." Although he's told that dinosaurs stick with their own kind, Littlefoot is a friend to everyone. Individual strengths are important to the group's success and survival. Illustrates power of family relationships throughout animal kingdom. Additional themes include compassion and courage.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Littlefoot is friendly to everyone, sticks to his task, and makes wise choices. Parents are shown as responsible, caring, and wise. Baby pterodactyl Petrie finds flying too difficult but with courage finally achieves it. Stubborn Cera thinks she doesn't need any help from anyone else but sees that she does need her friends and they need her, too.

Violence & Scariness

Frequent cartoon action and violence: Carnivorous Sharpteeth (Tyrannosaurus rex) are predators who continually chase, menace, and attempt to kill the young heroes. Little Foot and company are faced with separation from family, earthquakes, rock slides, falls, volcano eruptions, fire, and constant fear of the predators. In one, early fierce battle, Little Foot's mother is killed. The little dinosaur grieves for her. His sadness and belief in her spirit play an important part in his journey.

Sexy Stuff

Original movie generated an active franchise, which includes television, DVDs, toys, related merchandise.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Land Before Time is a funny, character-rich story with adorable heroes to root for as they make a long journey to find a land of plenty. The film offers lots of introductory information about dinosaurs -- species, the planet as it was when they lived, their fight for survival. Kids who watch this movie should be clear and comfortable with pretend violence versus real violence. The young dinos face scary, sharp-toothed, roaring predators who chase them with an intent to kill in multiple sequences. They are at risk from natural disasters as well: earthquakes, a volcanic eruption, rock slides, and fire. The sad death of a parent after a battle early in the film and the separation of several young dinosaurs from their families are important to the story. None of the young heroes is hurt, and the tale is happily resolved. Released in 1988, this film became a full-fledged toy franchise with DVDs, television, sequels, and a wide variety of associated products.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 3 year old Written byAmberwrista December 10, 2009

Why do all kids' movies involve a parent dying?

Started watching this with my almost 4-year-old sister. She loved the first few minutes with the cute baby dinosaurs, but soon it turned scary as the T-Rex chas... Continue reading
Parent of a 3 year old Written byACabral7805 March 16, 2010

Classic movie for kids

I loved this movie when I was a kid and my 3 year old loves it now. Some parts are a little scary- when littlefoot's mother is killed by sharptooth. I don... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old March 23, 2011


Man. I really miss Judith Barsi. I remember those commercials i watched on recorded VHS Tapes. RIP Judith Barsi 1978-1988
Teen, 15 years old Written byNectaria December 3, 2009

What's the story?

In THE LAND BEFORE TIME, while scores of dinosaurs are on the move to find food during a massive drought, a baby long-necked dinosaur is born. His mom and grandparents coo and ahh and name him Littlefoot (Gabriel Damon). When a rambunctious little three-horned dinosaur named Cera (Candace Hutson) tries to engage the newborn in play, Littlefoot's family discourages him from consorting with her kind of dinosaur. But the kid dinosaurs must unite when a ferocious T. rex kills Littlefoot's mother and an earthquake creates a massive schism separating them from loved ones. Littlefoot and Cera are joined by Petrie, Ducky, and Spike in their journey to the Great Valley, where food and families are sure to await them.

Is it any good?

This movie is a very simple, nicely animated story that gives kids some perky characters to follow and shows them the earth as it was when dinosaurs roamed. Viewers see how changes in the earth's climate forced dinosaurs to roam long distances to find food and how earthquakes, volcanoes, and even other dinosaurs made survival difficult. Solid, well-illustrated messages (the "circle of life" is affirmed, anticipating the central precept of The Lion King), as well as comedy and camaraderie, make The Land Before Time a delightful family-friendly film with a happy ending, so long as the kids are ready for the darker elements as well.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about dinosaurs in The Land Before Time. When did they live? What happened to them? Why are we so fascinated with them?

  • Why is friendship so important to the characters? How do they each contribute to their group?

  • Follow up watching the movie with a trip to the natural history museum. What else can you find out about dinosaurs?

  • Which dinosaur is your favorite? Why?

  • How do the characters in The Land Before Time demonstrate perseverance and teamwork? What about compassion and courage? Why are those important character strengths?

Movie details

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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For kids who love dinosaurs

Our editors recommend

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