The Music Man

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
The Music Man Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Glorious production with gorgeous music, dancing.
  • NR
  • 1962
  • 151 minutes

Parents say

age 3+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 12 reviews

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The joys and transformative powers of music are discussed through action, dialogue, and song. Con-artist characters learn to value honesty and love over greed and manipulation. Themes include compassion and integrity.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Professor Harold Hill, initially a scoundrel, grows to value honesty and love over dishonesty and manipulation. Marian Paroo is a librarian determined to uphold culture in a town that sees it as vaguely evil and distasteful. The adults, teens, and children of River City, Iowa, grow to see the transformative powers of music in their day-to-day lives.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff

An older woman laments the "smutty books" in the library. Harold's song about the "Sadder but Wiser Girl for Me" describes (in G-rated terms) his preference for women with some sexual experience.


Very tame references to "smutty books." A man is referred to as a "common masher." "Hell."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that there's not much that's objectionable for kids in this classic musical The Music Man. There's oblique speculation by the "Pick a Little, Talk a Little" ladies and by Harold and Marcellus about why the elderly gentleman donated the library building to the city but left the books to Marian, as well as criticism of the "raciness" of the books she recommends. Harold's song about the "Sadder but Wiser Girl for Me" describes (in G-rated terms) his preference for women with some sexual experience.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 3 and 6-year-old Written bykawilder March 24, 2010

A classic that never gets old!

This is one of my kids' favorites. The music is phenomenal and everyone sings them for days after we watch it - which is regularly. There's some sex... Continue reading
Parent of a 14-year-old Written bymetaphysics_nut July 28, 2020

Much better than the Greatest Showman

There are references to 'smutty books.' They say 'by God.' Harold is a philanderer. Just wanted to tell everyone. In case they were going to... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old June 18, 2021

Entertaining musical from the 60s

This film is ok not as good as I thought it would be it portrays native Americans as Indians and that would be considered racist to today’s standards and I thou... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bylovetoread14 November 17, 2020

Fun, good music, but long

This story is basically about a con man trying to woo the town librarian. It was kind of weird that suddenly Marian was madly in love with him in the end, the m... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE MUSIC MAN, trouble comes to a small Iowa town when con man "Professor" Harold Hill (Robert Preston) arrives, posing as a salesman of band instruments and uniforms. Hill happens upon an old friend, Marcellus Washburn (Buddy Hackett), and is ready to run his favorite scam on the folks of River City. He plans to sell the town on the idea of a boys' band, with himself as leader, get them to order instruments and uniforms, then skip town with the money. But first he must convince the skeptical citizens, including reserved librarian and music teacher Marian (Shirley Jones), who lives with her widowed mother (Pert Kelton) and her shy little brother Winthrop (Ronny Howard). Hill is able to dazzle the town, even Marian. Despite evidence that he does not have the credentials he claims and her certainty that he is not what he pretends to be, she finds herself softening toward him and protecting him. Because of her, he stays too long, and he is arrested. But somehow, the boys force a few sounds out of the instruments, enough for their proud parents. And Harold stays on -- it turns out that all along, deep inside, what he really wanted was to lead a band.

Is it any good?

Robert Preston brought his award-winning performance as Harold Hill on Broadway to the screen in this impeccable film, perfect in every detail. In addition to the glorious production, with some of the most gorgeous music and dancing ever filmed, there is a fine story with appealing characters in The Music Man. Marian learns about the importance of dreams from Harold, and he learns about the importance of responsibility from her.

Marian is eventually able to see through Hill's fake exterior and recognizes the positive effect he has on people such as Winthrop and herself. When Harold realizes Marian can love him in spite of his past, for the first time he's able to move on from the notion of himself as a thief and a liar. Each finds the core of the other, allowing both of them to heal and take the risk necessary to make their dreams come true. And, because this is a musical, they live happily ever after.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Music Man was originally a hit Broadway musical. What do you see as being the challenges in taking a Broadway production and translating it onto the screen? Listen to the songs "76 Trombones" and "Goodnight, My Someone" again. They are very much alike, as you can tell when they are sung together. What did the composer want to tell you about the people who sing them?

  • Why do you think Winthrop is so shy at first. What makes him change?

  • How are the values of a typical Midwestern town of the early 20th century conveyed in this movie? Why were the parents worried about their children playing pool? What do parents worry about today?

  • How do the characters in The Music Man demonstrate compassion and integrity? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love musicals

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

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