The Piano



Charged tale of a woman's awakening for older teens and up.
  • Review Date: February 28, 2006
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1993
  • Running Time: 121 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable

A graphic finger chopping scene.


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

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:November 12, 1993
DVD release date:January 20, 1998
Cast:Harvey Keitel, Holly Hunter, Sam Neill
Director:Jane Campion
Studio:Artisan Entertainment
Run time:121 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:moments of extremely graphic sexuality

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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.

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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 1 and 9 year old Written bySteffauri516 March 12, 2012

Beautiful story, too sexual for kids

I saw this movie several years ago and fell in love with it. I love period movies, and there were so many underlying complexities and symbols in the plot, it was perfect. However, there is quite a bit of sexual content and nudity present. There is also a bit of swearing, but nothing too major, depending on how strict you are on how much is too much. (only words like d**n and h**l are present, but when the Maori natives are speaking, their words are subtitled and there are swear words in there.) In one scene, George, the male protagonist is seen cleaning the piano in a full-frontal nude shot. He and Ada also have sex, and this scene is shown/uncensored. There is also a forced near-sex scene, where George rips Aeda's dress and kisses her neck as she pushes him away. There are also hints to Flora (the daughter) watching them do so, and teaching the other children to mimic the actions with trees. There is also an extremely violent scene of domestic violence/abuse between Ada and her husband Stewart. He threatens her with an ax, hits her, shoves her into walls, and finally uses the ax to chop off one of her fingers for seeing George, and the blood spurts out onto her daughter's face. This movie is lovely for mature/older teens and adults; I would say around 16 and older, just because some of the content in the film may be too intense or inappropriate for younger teens, and especially children. Beautiful story, intense situations, but a wonderfully enjoyable movie.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
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. No. In my personal opinion i did not like this movie at all, i can see how other people think it is brilliant. But i thought that there was far to much sexuality in it. Frankly i found it to be nearly revolting. The main character Ada, is clearly a seriously deranged woman, and i felt truly sorry for her child. I think that if you like this movie or not depends on what kind of person you are. In my own perspective i found it to be very disturbing.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Adult Written bymoviemadness July 5, 2011

Mediocre -Mature Teens and up

The Piano is a deep, heavy, disturbing, and dimensional film. The main character is a tortured, manipulative, and obsessive woman whose deep attachment to her piano utterly consumes her. Her relationship with her husband is nonexistent and her young daughter is left on her own (or to serve as interpreter/errand girl for her mute mother). The film's heavy themes, shocking violence, gloomy desperation, sexual predation, and intense erotic character make it unsuitable for even most teens. Until they are ready to deal with complex, erotic, and violent themes maturely, they are not ready for the Piano.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex


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