The Man from Snowy River



Family-friendly Western with moments of harsh conflict.
  • Review Date: September 29, 2011
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Western
  • Release Year: 1982
  • Running Time: 102 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

There are several positive messages in the story: that girls can be as useful as men; that it's not your birthright that determines who you are but your character and your choices; that family means unconditional love, not suspicion and doubt; and that love can bloom even among couples from vastly different upbringings.

Positive role models

Jim and Jessica are both independent, clever young adults who have an innate sense of justice and a love for horses. They also see beyond each other's status and forge a friendship that blossoms into one based on their mutual interests and respect. Jim risks his own life to save Jessica, while she agrees to keep his injury to herself so he can keep his job.


A parent dies early in the movie; Jim is thrown off a horse that then knocks him unconscious. Jim punches some of the other horse hands for insinuating things about his relationship with Jessica, and it turns into an all-out brawl. At one point a man points his shotgun and another man breaks a bottle, but no one is killed -- just bruised and injured. A father slaps his grown daughter on the face. Jessica is stranded on the side of a cliff after a storm. A horse is shown dead in the aftermath of a storm.


Mild flirting between Jim and Jessica culminates in a few kisses and declarations of love.


Some salty language, including "darn," "damn," "hell," and one "bulls--t."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The Harrison employees are shown drinking, either in a saloon or in their quarters. A foreman tells Mr. Harrison that they're all hungover and unable to work; when they're woken up, they're all dazed and confused. At dinner, an adult woman asks for a drink, which mildly scandalizes the men in her presence.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this family classic is a coming-of-age Western and includes a few violent or disturbing scenes (a father dies, a young woman is slapped by her father, a group of cattle hands brawls in close quarters). Expect a few strong words ("damn," "bulls--t"), too. There's a slow-building romance and some taunting language about women and poor men, but otherwise this is a tween-friendly tale about wild horses and a young man and woman who fall in love despite the odds stacked against them.

What's the story?

Set in late-19th-century Australia, this family drama follows Jim Craig (Tom Burlinson), who lives with his father, Henry, in the pristine hills of Snowy River country, where stampedes of wild horses routinely gallop through the land. After Henry is unexpectedly struck and killed, Jim is told he's too "green" to take over his own land and is forced to take a job with Mr. Harrison (Kirk Douglas), an American cattle baron who's made a fortune in Australia and is the talk of the country for his pure-bred colt worth 1,000 pounds. As Harrison's youngest employee, Jim strikes up a tentative friendship with Harrison's lovely daughter, Jessica (Sigrid Thornton). While Harrison and his crew of drivers and hands attempt to herd cattle off the hills, Craig and Jessica attempt to break the colt. But when Harrison returns and discovers that his daughter is smitten with a lowly cattle hand, tempers flare, the colt is freed, and Jim must prove he's above suspicion to secure the woman he loves.

Is it any good?


Back in 1982, this family-friendly Western -- complete with A-list star Douglas and a sweeping score -- put the Australian film industry on the map and made American audiences take notice. Decades later, parts of the movie feel overly sentimental (the music is especially cheesy every time Jim and Jessica gaze at each other and heavy handed at the mere possibility of violence). But it's still a charming and feel-good film, especially for audiences who like stories about self-starting young heroes who don't let their perceived station in life get in the way of their ambition or their sense of duty. Jim has a remarkable belief in honor and what's right, even if Harrison treats him like a lowly employee.


The cinematography and the horse sequences are especially beautiful, as are all the sweeping shots of the snow-capped hills. Like the sequences of The Lord of the Rings that feature New Zealand's beautiful landscape, this film highlights the gorgeous Australian hill country with a tenderness that makes the land another character in the movie. One of the best parts of the tale is Douglas' double duty as the rich and powerful Harrison and his estranged brother, Spur, who's a peg-legged hermit convinced that there's gold to be found in the hills. The romance is mostly an exercise in longing looks and good-natured pranks, but it strikes just the right note of chaste fluttery for tween viewers. Families who appreciate animal tales will love this classic drama.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's message about class and ambition. Why does Mr. Harrison spurn Jim, even though he, too, is a self-made man? What about the mentions of a woman's place? Are they sexist or just accurate for the time period?

  • Compare this film to others featuring horses. How is this one different? Is the emphasis on one horse or the horseman? Name some other movies that feature horses in a starring role.

  • Nowadays movies are more likely to feature talking animals than animals in their natural state. What kind of animal movies do you prefer?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 5, 1982
DVD release date:May 28, 2002
Cast:Kirk Douglas, Terence Donovan, Tom Burlinson
Director:George Miller
Studio:Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Topics:Horses and farm animals
Run time:102 minutes
MPAA rating:PG

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Parent of a 10 year old Written byGwennyKay August 13, 2014

A beautiful Western with no bloodshed - amazing!

This is the best family movie ever. I'm not saying the little kids will get everything but the rest of the family will love it. The plot is fairly simple: after the father dies in an accident, young man goes to work on a ranch, falls in love with the rancher's daughter, breaks the spirited colt, saves the cows, rescues the daughter and is an all round brave, smart, clever, hard-working fellow. Great scenery and late-1800's ranch setting but no gunshot and no killing! Best of all are the horses. Lots and lots of beautiful horses.
What other families should know
Great role models
Written byAnonymous October 3, 2014

Good first western is too raunchy for preteens

This has a LOT of swearing (including the f-word) and there is a scene of violence as well as some thematic elements and peril (a girl gets stuck on the side of a cliff. It's still pretty good though.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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