The Lion King

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Lion King Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Visually stunning remake is darker, more violent.
  • PG
  • 2019
  • 118 minutes

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 75 reviews

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 85 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

This isn't an educational film, but it does have lessons about honesty, communication, responsibility, and the individual versus the greater good.

Positive Messages

Focuses on ideas of family, love, duty, sacrifice. Mufasa's willingness to save Simba exhibits unconditional love. As Simba grows up, he comes to understand that he has a responsibility to his father's kingdom to take his place. All living things are connected to each other and rely on each other; you have to respect the balance of nature and all of its creatures. It's perfectly natural to be scared; what matters is how you handle your fear. Courage, humility, perseverance are clear themes; Mufasa tells Simba that "a true king's power is his compassion."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mufasa is a wise, loving father and a caring leader who does his best to keep the pridelands safe and teach Simba about his responsibilities as his heir. Simba makes mistakes and acts impulsively (sometimes disobeying his father) but also learns to face his fears, tell the truth, and assume his responsibilities as a leader. He demonstrates courage, perseverance, and humility. Sarabi, his mother, is also selfless and loving. Nala is caring and a courageous lioness. Timon and Pumbaa are loyal friends who rise to the occasion despite their laid-back philosophy; Pumbaa refuses to tolerate bullies or let them make him feel bad about how he looks. Zazu is loyal. Scar is clearly a villain; he's selfish, deceitful, and manipulative.

Violence & Scariness

Frightening scenes include very lifelike scenes of animals hunting and fighting fiercely; key characters die. Realistic animation intensifies the violence, even for viewers familiar with story. Claws and teeth. Animals snarl at, attack one another. Potential spoiler alert for anyone who isn't familiar: In one particularly upsetting sequence, Mufasa is pushed off a ledge and then trampled to death by stampede of wildebeest; Simba screams in fear and sadness (scene is later revisited in flashback), later curls up by Mufasa's body. Hyenas chase, terrorize, try to kill two lion cubs, later fight with Mufasa, who injures, if not overtly kills, several hyenas. A lion and a herd of hyenas keep trying to kill a bird. Hyenas are depicted as snarling scavengers always ready to pounce. Simba falls over a cliff while being chased; the hyenas think he's dead (he's not). Vultures circle around a young, tired cub. Two lions fight nearly to the death. The hyenas jump on and kill a lion. Fire starts and spreads during the climactic battle scenes. The elephant graveyard is creepy and ominous. Scar has some blood on his fur while eating a kill.

Sexy Stuff

Nala and Simba fall in love as young adult lions. They're shown hugging and rubbing against/petting each other.

Language

"Farted," "pathetic," "that's insane," "stupid," "chubby," etc.

Consumerism

No product placement in the movie itself, but, as with all Disney films, there are plenty of off-screen merchandise tie-ins, including apparel, toys, games, fast-food figurines, even a Broadway musical.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Lion King is an extremely realistic computer-animated remake of Disney's beloved 1994 original. Because of the realism (you'll likely forget you're not watching real animals some of the time), the violence is definitely more intense and potentially upsetting here than in the more cartoony classic. The insatiably hungry and scavenging hyenas, the terrifying and tear-jerking wildebeest stampede sequence (which ends in a tragic death), and the claw- and teeth-filled fight scenes are undeniably scary, even for those who know what to expect. That said, there's plenty of humor, too, including potty jokes from Pumbaa and Timon (the original movie's implied "farted" is said loud and proud in this version of the pair's "Hakuna Matata"). And it has clearly positive themes and messages: Parents and kids can discuss issues regarding family, friendship, loss, responsibility, and community. The all-star voice cast includes Donald Glover (adult Simba), Beyoncé (adult Nala), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Scar), Seth Rogen (Pumbaa), Billy Eichner (Timon), and the venerable James Earl Jones reprising his inimitable role as King Mufasa.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMom9906 July 19, 2019

Not well done

I was disappointed because the male lion voices sounded very unconvincing and bored! The lionesses were not much better. The male lions mane's were very sh... Continue reading
Adult Written byMom of two kids July 18, 2019

Loved, loved, loved it! Take your kids!

The Lion King was magical, very true to the original but even better! I took my two sons, ages 4 and 10. We all LOVED it! (I thought it might be scary fo... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old July 21, 2019

OUTSTANDING!!! A little scary though.

I saw this with my 4 and 6 year old cousins but they’re pretty brave so I would recommend it for most kids 5 and up. There are a few kind of violent scenes of l... Continue reading
Kid, 8 years old July 17, 2019

Magnificent intense and dark disney adaptation

Parents need to know that 2019 Lino king is a magnificent adaptation from Disney's classic 1994 Lion king. There is a lot of great role models and a great... Continue reading

What's the story?

The story of THE LION KING remake is nearly identical to the 1994 original: King Mufasa (voiced by James Earl Jones) and Queen Sarabi (Alfre Woodard) of the pridelands have a baby cub they name Simba (JD McCrary) and present to the other animals as their future king. As a young cub, Simba is adventurous and allows his jealous Uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to convince him to engage in risky, life-threatening behavior, like venturing into hyena territory and practicing his roar in the vicinity of a stampede. When (spoiler alert!) Mufasa is violently killed after saving Simba from the rampaging wildebeests, Scar encourages Simba to run away and then ascends to the throne himself with help from the hyena pack. Meanwhile, Simba befriends a comedic duo: feisty meerkat Timon (Billy Eichner) and his warthog best pal, Pumbaa (Seth Rogen), who have a "no worries" approach to life. Later, as a nearly grown lion, Simba (Donald Glover) is reacquainted with an old friend who forces him to confront whether he can return home and challenge Scar.

Is it any good?

With its impressive visuals and well-cast voice ensemble, this remake is charming but darker and more Shakespearean than the original. Disney's live-action adaptations have yielded mixed results, but this one benefits from the legendary music, the gravitas of Jones' voice as Mufasa, and a stand-out cast across the board. Ejiofor's performance as Scar is particularly wonderful, which is no surprise, considering his classical dramatic training. Glover and Beyoncé have good voice chemistry in the final act of the movie, and she -- as you'd expect -- is perfectly fierce sounding. And Eichner and Rogen are quite funny as the latest incarnation of Timon and Pumba ... until it's time for Rogen to sing, and then audiences might wonder why an actual singer wasn't hired. Since a big part of the joy of the movie is the musical performances, Rogen's casting is a bit of a head scratcher. But he mostly makes up for his lack of singing prowess with his comedic timing and banter with Eichner.

The realistic animation is technologically astounding, but it intensifies the violence to an unexpected degree. The snarling hyenas are positively creepy, even though they, too, occasionally have lighthearted one-liners. And there's a greater horror in seeing Mufasa's demise unfurl here than in the original animation. This remake is also more overtly Shakespearean, with its Hamlet-like themes and characters. Bottom line? While entertaining and enjoyable, this remake doesn't offer much memorable original content aside from Beyoncé's new song, "Spirit," and a few lines of dialogue. Despite its stunning effects and all-star cast, the movie doesn't fully live up to the hype of modernizing the classic for a new generation.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence and scariness in The Lion King. Does the realistic animation affect the impact/intensity of the violence? Why or why not?

  • Why doesn't the idea of "hakuna matata" or "no worries" always work? Can anyone get through life without a little worry and conflict?

  • Which characters are role models? How do the characters in The Lion King demonstrate courage, perseverance, and humility? Why are these important character strengths?

  • For those familiar with Hamlet, what did you think of the story's Shakespearean elements? Does Scar's English accent add to that sense? Why do you think only a couple of characters have English accents?

  • How do Mufasa and Scar represent two opposing kinds of rulers/governments?

Movie details

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