The Omen (1976) Movie Poster Image

The Omen (1976)

Gory original Satanism saga; popular but plodding.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Horror
  • Release Year: 1976
  • Running Time: 111 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The forces of evil here are portrayed as much stronger and better-organized than those who represent good, who seem mostly clueless or marginalized as fanatics. Ambassador Thorn and his wife are decent people and caring parents -- not that this counts for much in the end. It's poignant that Thorn doesn't just fall for the first allegations that Damien is demonic, but puts off the truth as long as he can.

Violence

Deaths are grotesque and explicit, with a man skewered (the corpse left standing upright) by a falling lightning rod, a woman committing suicide by hanging in public, another fatally falling, and an especially notorious decapitation. There is a violent, ultimately fatal beat-down between a man and a woman, and a man is shot trying to kill a child.

Sex
Not applicable
Language

God's name in a mostly hellfire-and-brimstone context.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a classic horror feature, with a child complicit in his (adoptive) mother's own death and evil triumphant in the end (with the qualifier that it was conceived as just the first in a series of films, so it's just the opening installment, not the whole story). It casts a small boy in an especially negative light as the literal antichrist, for whom the only fair treatment, according to this, is a ritual execution by knife. The gory deaths and injuries, including decapitation and impalements, were considered shockingly explicit in their day.

What's the story?

In Europe, U.S. ambassador to Britain Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) spares his wife Katherine (Lee Remick) from the tragic news that she's lost her first-born son in childbirth by substituting an orphaned baby. The boy is brought up in their wealthy English household as Damien (Harvey Stevens), a quiet kid around whom weird and scary things seem to happen. A priest warns Thorn that Damien is Satan's spawn. As the creepy incidents pile up, Ambassador Thorn, with the help of a reporter and few other allies, starts investigating Damien's shadowy origins, and begins to uncover that he's been conned by an underground conspiracy of devil-worshippers into adopting the legendary antichrist. This incarnation of all evil will usher in the End of the World.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

This 1976 shocker is sturdily built but predictable, with its extravagant death scenes tending to stand out more so than the lugubrious narrative. The plot sounds pretty compelling indeed, but in cinematic terms it mostly translates as a string of spectacular deaths (usually in horrendous accidents that are not exactly Acts of God) for anyone who poses a threat to Damien -- with lots of "dead" space in between, as Thorn struggles to confirm/deny the omen-ous truth. Characterizations don't go very deep, but horror fans will appreciate the new ground this film broke.

As far as themes, there's the sense of a modern, secular world in which the bulwarks of traditional Christianity are absent or weak. This means even decent people like the Thorns are powerless when an unseen but very hands-on devil and his minions take the offense.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why this movie was popular. Do you think it's a "religious" film in any sense? How does it compare with the Left Behind book-and-movie-and-radio blockbuster series? You can look up the Bible passages and interpretations this movie cites to see how Hollywood played fast-and-loose with Scripture, and maybe study what historians have to say about Satanic lore and its popularization by both church authorities and horror-storytellers.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 25, 1976
DVD/Streaming release date:June 20, 2006
Cast:Billie Whitelaw, David Warner, Gregory Peck, Harvey Stevens, Lee Remick
Director:Richard Donner
Studio:Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Genre:Horror
Run time:111 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:restricted

This review of The Omen (1976) was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Adult Written bydigitex30189 April 9, 2008

AMAZING!!!

Parents should note, that while this movie is celebrating its 31st anniversary this year, it's still pretty nasty. A priest gets stabbed by a falling lightening rod, a news reporter gets his head chopped off my a piece of glass that slides of off a flatbed truck (No blood, just inside view of neck) A nanny hangs hreself, and a boy's mother gets pushed out of a hospital window by the replacement nanny, and falls right through an ambulance (suprisingly, only a bloody nose, but still resulting in death). This movie should still be rated R and is not for anyone under 13, but if your child is scared easily, 16. Please note: IT IS STILL VERY VIOLENT BUT IT IS AN AMAING MOVIE!!! 5 STARS!!!
Parent Written byPlague January 8, 2010

The Omen

Great movie! Not much scary as it is creepy. The killings are graphic, but the story itself is well made.
Teen, 14 years old Written byRivern October 1, 2010

The Omen - A Classic (Horror?) Film

This is by far the absolute best movie I have ever seen in my life. Now, the violence isn't as graphic as CSM and some others say, and to be honest, it's quite cheesy. I don't fully understand why people believe that this is a horrible movie; it's just the opposite. It's basically about an American Ambassador who learns that his wife's baby son died and seeks to adopt another from a priest, pretending that the baby he used to replaced the other. Yet, the priest never told him that the babe was in fact born from that of a jackal, making it an important part of the movie. After a few years have gone by, he learns to his horror from the priest that his son is the literal anti-christ, and that he must destroy it before it can mature into adulthood. With the help of a photographer, he embarks on a bit of a quest to see if what the priest tells him is true. Now, yes, this movie is quite dark and has quite a few scenes of violence. The worst two are a nanny with a noose around her neck jumping off a multi-story building, snapping her neck halfway down and swinging/breaking through a glass window. The other is a man being decapitated by a glass pane on a truck, the reddish insides of his neck and head shown in a semi-graphic manner while you can see his head flying and blood spewing about. (to be honest, it looks like a mixture of ketchup and tomato juice) I would recommend this movie to older teens (15, 16) and older. Suggested MPAA Rating: Rated R for Disturbing Violent Content and Images.
What other families should know
Too much violence