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The Pilgrim's Progress

Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
The Pilgrim's Progress Movie Poster Image
Violence, mature concepts in faith-based animated adventure.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 108 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 3 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Many viewers will consider movie's overall message -- that a journey to faith is a worthwhile endeavor -- to be overwhelmingly positive. But messages that may have seemed correct in 1678 might ring odd today. A scene with scary characters associated with the law seems to be telling viewers to be afraid of the law and those who uphold it. A man abandons his wife and children to make his journey, which may confuse or upset young kids. Other messages are more positive: idea that contentment, love are more valuable in times of hardship because it's then that they're really needed.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Women and people of color are mostly absent. One character, Hopeful, appears to be a man of African descent, is a positive and sympathetic character. But characterization of the villains may strike some viewers as questionable, with many given darker skin, hair, eyes (heroes are mostly fair, with light eyes). Such visuals often signal whether character is good or bad, since it can be hard to tell from their actions. 

Violence & Scariness

Frequent violent/scary scenes, including multiple battles with dragon-like winged creatures that fly, spit fire, gnash giant teeth. Christian is chased by fierce lions, nearly drowns in mud, yelling "Help me!" while he disappears beneath surface (someone soon pulls him out). Two giants capture Christian and his traveling companion; they keep them in a cage and starve them for days, hoping to convince them to "do themselves in." Piles of skeletons all around the cage. A character is sentenced to death, burned at stake; viewers see edge of flames as Christian yells out his name. 

Sexy Stuff

Women at a carnival wink and leer at Christian flirtatiously. 

Language

No cursing, but lots of insulting language, including "mad man," "lunatic," "fool," "liar," and "stupid-headed man." One hectoring wife is particularly cross with her husband, calling him a "good for nothing oaf" and "blithering fool."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Earthly temptations are briefly symbolized in the form of a carnival stall full of bottles with a sign reading "Liquor." 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Pilgrim's Progress is an animated adaptation of the same-named 1678 book, which is an allegory of Christian faith. The story uses a man's journey to a far-off "celestial kingdom" to represent the journey from sin to salvation. Some viewers will consider the movie's ultimate message -- that any journey ending in faith is worthwhile -- to be positive enough that they can ignore the less-positive themes and examples: chiefly that main character Christian (voiced by Ben Price) abandons his wife and family to make his journey. Other scenes imply that laws are anti-Christian (the faith, not the character), which may cause some consternation for rule-abiding parents. Several scenes are violent enough to scare young or sensitive viewers. Christian is chased by fierce lions and dragon-like creatures who spit flame; in one extended battle, Christian is hurled around, set on fire, and crushed against the ground. A man is sentenced to death and burned at the stake (viewers see the edge of the flames), and two men are captured by giants and urged to suicide; skeletons are strewn around their cage. There's one scene with flirting and one with liquor bottles symbolizing earthly temptations. Characters use insults like "lunatic," "fool," and "good-for-nothing oaf," but there's no swearing. Women and people of color are in short supply, and villains often have dark complexions, hair, and/or eyes, while heroes have light eyes and hair. Parents may have to explain some of the movie's biblical/Christian references, but children won't have trouble picking up the story's messages about faith and a steadfast journey toward it. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10 year old Written byKaitis1Mom April 20, 2019

The Way to the Celestial City

Great movie! There are definitely some dark parts, dark characters; but that’s the way it is on the Christian journey. Wish it played for more than two days. Wo... Continue reading
Adult Written byambelilar April 19, 2019

My kids loved it

This movie provides a ton of food for thought and discussion, so it's definitely a good movie to watch with your kids and be prepared to discuss the topics... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old April 27, 2019

Amazing

I think this is an excellent movie for all families. There is nothing very scary and no bad language. There is a liquor sign at the fair but I think most kids... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byshiinymoth April 24, 2019

An okay adaptation of a classic Christian allegory

My family and I read the childrens’ version of this book over the school year. We really enjoyed it and I plan to read the adult version soon. It was fantastic... Continue reading

What's the story?

Based on John Bunyan's same-named 17th-century novel, THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS centers on Christian Pilgrim (voiced by Ben Price). Christian makes an allegorical journey from his hometown, the "City of Destruction" (in other words, the human world), to the "Celestial City" (i.e., Heaven) after he chances upon a particular book that sounds a lot like the Bible. Leaving his family behind, Christian passes through many terrible obstacles and meets lots of frightening individuals, all intent on stopping him from reaching his final destination. Will he find the place he seeks, a land of utter contentment and happiness where he can experience the "fullness of joy in the presence of the king"? It's going to take 108 minutes to find out. (Spoiler-potential note for parents: The second half of the 1678 book records Christian's family's journey to the celestial kingdom, but this movie ends when he finds his destination.)

Is it any good?

Transforming 17th-century literature into modern animated family fare isn't easy, so viewers' opinions of this movie are likely to vary according to how much they know and enjoy Bunyan's book. Those who've read the Christian classic are rather thin on the ground these days, but plenty know at least the story's outline. Children, who are most likely to have encountered The Pilgrim's Progress only in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series (in which the book was one of the very few permitted for Sunday reading, along with the Bible) may need help with the main concept: that this is a metaphorical hero's journey, in which everything real and literal is actually a stand-in for something else. Without that understanding, the film basically follows a guy on a long walk who stops to have lots of hard-to-follow conversations -- not a particularly juicy setup for a movie, particularly one aiming to be a sort of Christian adventure story. 

The movie works best when Christian is facing down some of the strange characters he meets on his journey: a menacing stone mountain that stands for the Rule of Law; a pair of bickering giants intent on convincing Christian and traveling companion Hopeful to kill themselves; the dragon-like Apollyon, which morphs between a winged creature and the honcho of Christian's hometown. Most of the movie's straight-on action/battle scenes involve the Apollyon, including one conflict that takes up a full five minutes. At least during these moments, parents won't have to whisper explanations of metaphorical biblical concepts as the "straight and narrow path" or the "place of deliverance." Yet when things do get livelier in this movie, they're often too mature for little kids, as when one of Christian's friends is summarily executed. Kids may also be confused by Christian abandoning his family early in the movie ("You mean this dad up and left because of something he read in a book? And that's a good thing?"). (Spoiler alert!) At the movie's end, Christiana learns that her husband is still alive, which the movie presents as a joyous moment -- yet she's still stuck alone in a tiny, doomed village with presumably no way to support her family. Mr. Bunyan, is a rewrite possible? 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the concept of a hero's journey. What does that mean? What elements are necessary to turn a trip into such a journey? What type of people usually go on such journeys in movies? What are they seeking? Does it matter to the story? 

  • Viewers may notice that characters tend to have nontraditional names in The Pilgrim's Progress -- as they did in the original book. What do you think the author was trying to convey by choosing names like Despair, Hopeful, and Obstinate? 

  • What did you notice about representation in this movie? How are villains drawn/portrayed? Heroes? What does the comparison between the two suggest or imply?

  • Do you think this movie is only meant for viewers of faith? Why or why not?

Movie details

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