The Pianist



True story of a Jewish pianist; OK for older kids.
  • Review Date: May 20, 2003
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2002
  • Running Time: 150 minutes

What parents need to know


Intense violence, characters killed in Holocaust. Explosions. Total devastation of towns after bombings.

Not applicable

Very strong language.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking


Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is clearly not a movie for children. However, in addition to being an excellent work of art, it's an instructive movie for teenagers who take for granted the comfort and stability of their world. War isn't glamorous, and the most principled and courageous people are among its first victims. This is an excellent movie about survival, fate, and values. It's a very worthwhile movie for young adults. Parents should know that the movie has strong language and graphic and horrific violence, including casual murder of Jews.

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?


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.

The most effective parts of the movie are the small, vivid, almost unbearably poignant human moments. In one, a family awaiting a transport train which 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.

Families can talk about...

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

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 27, 2002
DVD release date:May 27, 2003
Cast:Adrien Brody, Emilia Fox, Thomas Kretschmann
Director:Roman Polanski
Studio:Focus Features
Run time:150 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:violence and mature, upsetting themes

This review of The Pianist 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.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

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 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 Holocaust from many perspectives and did not portray all Jews as having the same reactions to the violence they saw in the Warsaw ghetto. Some Jews wanted to respond with violence, others were more submissive to the Nazis. Likewise, some Nazis were more brutal than others. A Nazi officer actually helped the Jewish protagonist survive toward the end of the movie. The R rating is due to the movie's realistic portrayal of the Nazi's random brutality. Many people are shot for no apparent reason. The worst moments of violence are when the Nazis throw a man in a wheelchair off a balcony, and when a child trying to crawl under the ghetto wall is beaten to death (we don't see the Nazis beating him, just the expression on the child's face). These two moments are what makes the movie R-rated, I think. The other shootings are PG-13 acceptable. There is no sex at all, which is refreshing for an R-rated movie. There are a few f-bombs, but they are okay in this context (it's the Holocaust, peoples' lives are being destroyed--it's not a Bruce Willis action flick). This movie is a beautiful and heart-wrenching depiction of the human will to survive during the Holocaust. Five stars. For full review, please check out bitesizemoviereviewdotblogspotdotcom
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Teen, 13 years old Written byerraggarn98 January 25, 2012

Amazing movie...

Watch it
What other families should know
Too much violence
Teen, 13 years old Written byMovieReview17 May 25, 2013

AMAZING, but some parts were not for young children

~Violence~ this movie has a lot of violence. One scene involves a German Nazi picking random Jews, telling them to crouch down, and shooting them in the head. ~Language~ In this movie, the Nazi's call the Jews many terrible things. A few Jewish men say some things about the Nazis also. ~Positive Role Models/Positive Messages~ many people help the main character, Wladyslaw Szpilman, to run away from the Nazis and survive the war. This is a very positive message because the people are helping him even though they might get in trouble. The people helping him also realize that if they do get into trouble, it will not be as bad as the trouble the Pianist would get into. Near the end of the movie, there is a Nazi that secretly gives the Pianist food and helps him to survive. Overall, this movie is one of the best movies I have ever seen. I rated it iffy for 13 year olds because there are some scenes that are disguisting, bloody, and/or sad. Enjoy the movie!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass