The Maze Runner



Dystopian tale offers high-stakes action, mystery for teens.
Popular with kidsParents recommend
  • Review Date: September 19, 2014
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 113 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie encourages challenging authority and questioning complacency -- to take risks when necessary and to defend the powerless.

Positive role models

Thomas is an exemplary role model because he's willing to risk his position in the group, his safety, and even his life to help lead the others out of the Maze. He makes friends and alliances easily and is able to stand up against authority, voice his doubts, and question why the boys have complacently remained in the Glade when they should have been searching for a way out of their imprisonment. Alby is a kind and generous leader who wants to do what's best for the members of the Glade, and Min-ho and Newt are both courageous and curious members of the group.


Violence is on par with the source books and similar YA-based dystopian thrillers. Teens rally together to kill huge, mechanized, spider-like monsters called Grievers. Characters die from being stung or otherwise killed by the Grievers; others die after being shot or speared, and a whole roomful of adults is found dead. The scenes of the Grievers killing the boys are particularly frightening and horrific.

Not applicable

Occasional language includes "s--t," "a--hole," "son of a bitch," "bastards,"  "damn," and "oh my God!"

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The guys in the Glade drink an unspecified drink that's strong and makes Thomas scrunch up his face, but it's unclear whether it's alcohol or not.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Maze Runner is based on the first novel in James Dashner's best-selling young adult trilogy. The movie, like the book, is a cross between Lord of the Flies, Ender's Game, and The Hunger Games and should appeal to fans of the books and of star Dylan O'Brien (Teen Wolf). There's more strong language ("s--t," "a--hole," "bitch") in the movie than in the book, which featured mostly made up curse words like "shuck" and "klunk." Unlike many other popular teen movies, The Maze Runner doesn't highlight a central romance (at least in this installment), but it definitely includes the same amount of intense violence -- some of it teen on teen, some of it creature on teen, and much of it weapons based. Characters die, and the scenes in which the mechanized Grievers kill the boys are particularly disturbing. Main character Thomas is a great role model, helping his friends and standing up to authority when necessary.

What's the story?

THE MAZE RUNNER is a dystopian thriller based on James Dashner's best-selling YA book trilogy. The action starts immediately, with an elevator taking a scared teenage guy, Thomas (Dylan O'Brien), up into the unknown. When the doors open, he's introduced to the Glade, a mysterious all-boy commune surrounded by an even more mysterious Maze that changes every day and is home to killer mechanized bugs called "Grievers." Every month, the elevator delivers supplies and a new amnesiac resident. None of the imprisoned boys can remember anything but their names, with the newest guy being Thomas. He learns that the Glade residents are divided into groups with specific jobs -- builders, farmers, healers, and the bravest of the group, the runners who go out into the Maze hoping to map it. Thomas' arrival coincides with a series of strange occurrences, the strangest of which is the too-soon arrival of another "greenie," a girl (Kaya Scodelario) who has a note attached to her. ("She's the last one ever.") Realizing that their prospects of surviving without any more supplies are slim, Thomas convinces a small group to face the dangers of the Maze and look for a way out of their bizarre captivity.

Is it any good?


As adaptations go, The Maze Runner is quite faithful to the book, which should please its loyal readers. But those who haven't read the book may be dissatisfied with the lack of fully developed characters and overly compressed pacing. The story's types and tropes will seem familiar to anyone who's seen other YA-based dystopian movies: the super-precocious protagonist who can do exceptional things (in this case, accomplish in three or four days what the rest of the guys couldn't in two or three years); the sense that the adolescents are pawns of cruel, unfeeling adults; the violence that leaves teens dead; and the idea that no one really knows what's going on. Unlike Divergent and Hunger Games, which explain what happened to the post-apocalyptic society from the start, The Maze Runner is more of a pin-hole mystery -- you find out little by little what's actually happening until the very end, and even then, it's just a primer for a second installment.

O'Brien has always been a standout actor (he routinely steals the show on Teen Wolf). Here he's good at the connections with the other guys, all of whom are played well by the cast of young actors -- particularly head runner Minho (Ki Hong Lee), leader Alby (Aml Ameen), second-in-command Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), and the youngest of the Gladers, chubby and charming Chuck (Blake Cooper). The problem is that there's not much depth to the many supporting characters because the movie focuses solely on Thomas, whom the audience doesn't know (he doesn't know himself) but still has to root for, since he's the only one willing to break rules to get out of the Glade. Then there's Scodelario, a nuanced young actress (Wuthering Heights) who's wasted on the tiny role of Teresa, the only girl ever to be sent to the Glade (this isn't Peeta and Katniss or Tris and Four). The action sequences are genuinely heart-pumping (and violent), but the overall story falls a bit flat once it's clear that the Lord of the Flies aspect is secondary to the mystery of who or why these boys are in this horrible prison. Those hoping for a satisfying solution will have to keep their fingers crossed that a second movie will be made ... or just resign themselves to the fact that some of these first books work as standalone stories, and some have to be experienced in their entirety to make sense.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the popularity of movies based on dystopian YA novels. Why do you think these adaptations are so appealing?

  • For those who've read the Maze Runner book, how does the movie compare? Was it faithful, or did the movie go in a different, unexpected direction? What was left out that you missed, and what was added that you enjoyed?

  • There's more language in the movie than in the book. Do you think language is as important concern compared to violence and sex? Why or why not?

  • How did the movie's violence impact you? How does it compare to what you've seen in other, similar movies?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 19, 2014
DVD release date:December 16, 2014
Cast:Dylan O'Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario
Director:Wes Ball
Studio:Twentieth Century Fox
Topics:Adventures, Book characters, Friendship, Great boy role models
Run time:113 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images

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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written bytmrrun September 20, 2014


I read the book a few years ago and have been waiting for the movie ever since. Was it worth the wait? YES! It was amazing and they did a fantastic job translating it into a movie. However, I did go before my 11-year-old brother to see if it was okay. I gave it a no. It was very intense and a lot more violent than The Hunger Games or Divergent. Kids may find many of those scenes disturbing, including young teens stabbing, shooting, and spearing other teens. The creatures in the Maze also make graphic scenes where teens get eaten or stung, making them go insane. In one scene, after being stung, a character is put into the Maze, surely going to be killed, and is puking up blood. Another scene at the end shows dead, bloody bodies everywhere and a character shoots herself in the head off camera. Also shows a person having a surgery for a disease and a brain is getting pulled out of a head. Overall, the violence was disturbing in most of the film. There was also a lot of swearing, including s--t and a--hole, much more than what was in the book. There was no sex in the film but I wouldn't recommend this to anyone under 13 or 14. The movie was amazing overall however, and I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the books!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Teen, 15 years old Written byJflores14 September 20, 2014

Booked based film is shocking and overly violent

This YA best seller based movie is a violent a disturbing film, that said it is very entertaining! Content: Violence: the whole movie includes stabbing, fistfights, punching, monsters attacking and killing children, kids killing kids, suicide, gory remains of children, gruesome results of disease, a boy spits up pools of blood, etc. (highly disturbing) Sex: none Language: 10 or so uses of hell and about as many uses of s**t. A** and b*****d are used once or twice. Klunk is used as a made up profanity. My rating: PG-13: extreme violence and gore, thematic material, disturbing images and material, and language- all involving teens
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Educator and Parent of a 2, 5, and 7 year old Written byDr_Irhuma December 20, 2014


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