The Piano

Movie review by
David Gurney, Common Sense Media
The Piano Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Charged tale of a woman's awakening for older teens and up.
  • R
  • 1993
  • 121 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 2 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

A graphic finger chopping scene.


Male and female full frontal nudity, consensual and forced sexual situations.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Piano is a complex adult drama with sexual relationships driving its plot. George is shown fully nude from the front in the beginning of a sex scene between him and Ada. In addition to a rather graphically staged play depicting violent acts, Ada's husband attacks Ada with a real axe, chopping off her finger -- a scene accentuated by blood squirting on the face of Ada's nearby daughter. He also holds George at gunpoint. While the language is not often explicit, the emotional intensity of the husband's rage is obviously heavy.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMichael O. September 22, 2017


Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin are splendid in Jane Campion's enchanting and original story of a man who will not listen and a woman who can not speak. One o... Continue reading
Parent of a 14-year-old Written byFraser67 April 6, 2014

Signing Communication and Society

The show from the society how they blend in their cultures with Maori in 19th Century. Interesting theory somehow. It was the shame how much they have learned... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byshadowexile6 February 3, 2011

Far to much sexuality

I have to say, i love Bright Star, the other movie Jane Campion had done that i have seen, so i decided to watch this movie, assuming it would be just as good.... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bylelexy2000 January 9, 2010

too sexual

there is too much sex in that movie. and i love anna paquin so i would like to really like to see that movie because it's anna paquin's oscar winning... Continue reading

What's the story?

THE PIANO tells the story of a mute (by choice) Scottish woman of the 19th century, Ada (Holly Hunter), and her daughter Flora (Anna Paquin) as they move to New Zealand for Ada to fulfill the obligations of a marriage that her father has arranged. Her husband Stewart (Sam Neill) is awkward and stilted in his interactions with her. He doesn't appreciate her connection with the piano that she has brought with her from Scotland, which leavers her open to the affection of a Maori neighbor, George Baines (Harvey Keitel), who does understand the connection and uses the piano as a way to get close to Ada.

Is it any good?

Writer/director Jane Campion's The Piano is a poetic film, rich with metaphor, recurring visual motifs, and a masterful score by Michael Nyman. Watching this film for its story alone may leave many viewers wanting. The true core of the film is the impressionistic rendering of the sexual awakening of the repressed Ada at the hands of George Baines. The pace is slow, as time is taken to focus on the lush scenery of the New Zealand forest and the elaborate clothing and decorations marking the time period and its conservatism.

For those with the patience, this is a rewarding film filled with great performances. In fact, Holly Hunter won the best actress Oscar for playing Ada -- proving that a great actress doesn't need spoken dialogue to express herself vividly -- while Anna Paquin won the supporting actress award for her role.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why it's important that Ada chooses not to speak, acting as a mute, despite having no physical disability preventing her from doing so. How does Stewart treat Ada and her piano? In contrast, how does George treat her? Is it right for George to blackmail Ada into sexual situations with him? Are Stewart's reactions to George and Ada appropriate or understandable? What function do the Maoris have in the film?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

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

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

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

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate