The Pianist

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
The Pianist Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Powerful true story of a Jewish pianist has brutal violence.
  • R
  • 2002
  • 150 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 14 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 23 reviews

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

Positive Messages

The brutality of the Nazi occupation and subsequent racism, degradation of European Jews, and the Holocaust that followed is shown in graphic detail, a necessary reminder that this must never happen again. In times when humanity as a whole is shown at its worst, there are individuals and groups who stand up to evil and fight it with every means at their disposal. Music, and art as a whole, has the capacity to transcend war and hatred. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Wladyslaw endures incredible suffering and degradation as a Jew in Nazi-occupied Warsaw but manages to retain his dignity and sanity to survive. He demonstrates perseverance and courage. The Polish Resistance to Nazi occupation is shown through the actions of the characters who do their best to protect Wladyslaw and hide him from the Nazis and through those who fought back and died in the cause of freedom and liberation. 


Graphic violence portraying the onset of the Holocaust. A family watches in horror as Nazis in the building across the street roll a man in a wheelchair onto a balcony and throw him off. A woman is shot in the forehead. Jews are shot in the head while lying down. An injured man lying on a road is run over by a tank. Wartime violence: battles with machine guns, explosions, bombed buildings. 


Uses of "f--k" and "s--t." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Alcohol drinking in restaurants, wine drinking at dinner; no one acts drunk. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Pianist is a 2002 Oscar-winning movie about a young Jewish musician living in Warsaw desperately trying to make sense of the Nazi invasion of his country and the subsequent degradations, the creation of the Warsaw Ghetto, and the madness that led to the Holocaust. There is graphic violence, but unlike so many movies in which violence is shown simply to add surface-level excitement to an otherwise formulaic Hollywood blockbuster, the violence is intended to reveal a glimpse of the real-life horrors European Jews endured at the hands of the Nazis during World War II and to leave audiences with the conviction that atrocities and genocide such as this must never happen again. Nonetheless, the violence is graphic: Men and women are shot in the head for little to no reason, a man in a wheelchair is tossed off a balcony, a man lying injured in the road is run over by a tank. There is also the wartime violence of machine-gun battles, bombed-out cities, explosions, and casualties. Profanity includes "f--k" and "s--t." The movie should inspire thought and discussion on the extremes of evil and good in humankind, the individual acts of heroism undertaken by those whose names will never make the history books, and the transcendent and unifying nature of music and art.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJEDI micah October 24, 2012


I rarely watch R rated movies, but my dad and I wanted to watch it. It is really, really intense! The Nazis are practically killing everyone in their path, by s... Continue reading
Adult Written bybitesizemoviereview August 6, 2012

Brilliant movie--violence random, brutal and realistic

This is a brilliantly acted survival story, chronicling the life of a talented Polish Jewish pianist during the Nazi occupation. I loved how it looked at the Ho... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byDmose May 7, 2019

I am in high school and I feel it is too violent to share it class

I feel it is very violent. I know after seeing this movie I didn’t sleep for a week because of the horrible thing this movie shows.
Teen, 13 years old Written byerraggarn98 January 25, 2012

What's the story?

THE PIANIST is the emotionally devastating true story of Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody), a Jewish pianist in Poland caught up in the horrors of World War II. The Nazis invade Poland, confine Jews to a ghetto, and eventually ship them off to concentration camps. There is heartbreaking and graphic violence. Yet, director Roman Polanski delivers this difficult message in a very thoughtful, skillful way. Just when the audience is on the verge of becoming numbed by the grim life in the ghetto, the pianist escapes for a day and walks through the bright flower stalls in the crowded market outside the ghetto. It reminds the viewer of how far the pianist has fallen from a "normal" life, but it gives the viewer the same brief respite that it gives the pianist. Just when the Nazi brutality against the Jews seems unbearable, a music-loving German soldier treats the pianist kindly while Jewish victims prey on each other.

Is it any good?

The most effective parts of the movie are the small, vivid, almost unbearably poignant human moments. In one, a family awaiting a transport train that will take them away to a concentration camp combines all their remaining money to buy a single caramel, which they carefully divide into four tiny portions. The Pianist is an intense movie that is best for high school kids and up.

Roman Polanski, himself a survivor of the Holocaust who lost many family members, powerfully conveys the epic journey of a man who is transformed by a series of events from an elegantly dressed, highly cultured musician to a scavenging, debased shell of a human being.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why movies such as The Pianist, which is based on a true story, are so important. Are there any current events you can think of that are similar to the plight of Jews in World War II?

  • In so many movies, violence serves no purpose but to provide a burst of excitement, to create action, to keep the audience entertained. How is this movie different? What do you think is the purpose of showing graphic violence in this movie? 

  • While most people are familiar with what transpired during the Holocaust, what specifics did you learn that added to your understanding of World War II, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the brutal and unspeakable genocide? As the true story of a Jewish musician who lived through such a terrible time, how did this movie personalize these events? 

  • How does Wladyslaw demonstrate perseverance and courage in The Pianist? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history

Character Strengths

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