The Red Turtle

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Red Turtle Movie Poster Image
Beautiful word-free drama about castaway who finds love.
  • PG
  • 2017
  • 80 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 4 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

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Intended to entertain more than educate, but has core themes/lessons about nature and the environment.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about the importance of companionship, love, and family. It also stresses the unpredictability of nature and why humans should be good stewards of their environments. Most of all, the story promotes empathy and the intimacy of a love that ages but never dies.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The man learns from his mistake and anger. He protects/takes care of the turtle woman for the rest of their lives. The man and woman are loving, attentive parents to their young son. The son is a curious, kind boy who loves his parents and the island but also wants to discover his roots and go out to sea.

Violence & Scariness

The man's attempts to go out to sea are foiled by an unseen beast (eventually revealed to be the red turtle) that destroys his rafts. The man angrily hits the red turtle with a stick and pushes the turtle onto its back. The turtle's death scene is sad. The way the woman emerges from the turtle might be a bit creepy for some younger viewers. A huge storm destroys the family's shelter; for a moment it's unclear whether all three survived. The son decides to return to sea. In a tearful final scene, the old couple parts ways one last time.

Sexy Stuff

Caressing, hand holding, embracing, and implied lovemaking (because of the baby boy). The woman emerges from the turtle nude.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Red Turtle is a gorgeously animated, dialogue-free drama. The magical realism story may confuse younger viewers: A dead red turtle transforms into a human woman, who becomes the mate of the very man who caused the turtle's death. There's some peril and violence in this castaway story, including a few scenes in which a wooden raft is destroyed, an upsetting sequence in which a man cruelly causes an animal's death, and scenes in which a natural disaster hits the island. There's also a central love story between the stranded man and the turtle woman, with implied nudity (her long hair covers her body, but she's obviously naked at first), embracing, hand holding, and implied off-camera baby-making (although that's likely to go over kids' head). This collaboration between first-time feature director Michael Dudok de Wit and Japan's storied Studio Ghibli has themes of empathy and love, as well as strong messages about the importance of companionship and family.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8 and 10-year-old Written byJlyndvorak March 2, 2019

Poetic, lovely film

First of all, this film may not be for every parent... my hubby “didn’t get it”. But my kids really liked it (boys, ages 7 and 9), and have the taste for your... Continue reading
Adult Written byKristopher H. May 19, 2018

Great for curious children and engaged parents

We don’t typically let our 2 year old daughter watch films, so I was interested in finding something that doesn’t constantly flash to different scenes. This is... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byDogb November 15, 2020

Beautiful Movie with Artful Story

The Red Turtle is a beautifully animated movie with a heartbreaking story of a man who washes up on a desert island, presumably after some sort of ship wreck. W... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old May 7, 2017

The Red Turtle.

The Red Turtle was a good movie, although I didn't understand all of it, and it was very sad. I loved most of it, like how the people walked around their i... Continue reading

What's the story?

THE RED TURTLE is a wordless animated drama that follows an unnamed castaway who washes ashore on a tropical island. He finds fruit, water, and bamboo and attempts to build a raft to escape. But he's foiled by an unseen beast that destroys the raft. Twice more he builds rafts and tries to escape, finally discovering that his nemesis is a giant red turtle. When the man sees the red turtle on his island, in a burst of rage, he hits it with a bamboo stick and pushes it onto its back. Guiltily, he realizes the turtle has died. But the next night, the turtle's shell cracks, and, magically, it transforms into a beautiful woman. The man and the turtle woman instantly connect. She sets her empty shell out to sea, and he gives up trying to leave the island. Years later, they have the son who grows up happy but feels a pull to explore the sea beyond their island home.

Is it any good?

Gorgeously animated, this wordless story about a stranded castaway pays tribute to what's most important in life: companionship, love, family, and the stewardship of nature. The man on the island starts off like Tom Hanks in Cast Away, desperate to get off the island. But unlike other stories about shipwrecked heroes, this main character loses his compulsion to escape once a companion magically appears. At that point, the island, like the turtle, transforms from something frightening and even predatory into something beautiful and welcoming -- a home instead of a prison.

It's clear why director Michael Dudok de Wit managed to impress Studio Ghibli into producing his debut feature. Yes, it's wordless (although there are plenty of little groans, grunts, and sounds), but it's still incredibly expressive. The animation is stunning: The evocative expressions on the three characters' faces, the vivid seascape, and the tiny gestures the humans make toward one another and the sea creatures that share their island home are all lovely. The final third of The Red Turtle will resonate especially well with parents, as they witness the inevitable way the son wants to launch out on his own. Some viewers may fixate on the magical realist way the turtle the man killed became the woman he loved for the rest of his life, but it's actually a fitting tribute to how love can grow out of even the bleakest of circumstances.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the peril/violence in The Red Turtle, particularly between the turtle and the man and nature and the man. Why do you think the man felt justified in hurting the turtle? How did he make up for it? How much scary stuff can young kids handle?

  • Does the fact the movie doesn't have any talking make you pay closer attention to the visuals and the score? Who do you think the movie's intended audience is?

  • How does the story promote empathy? Why is that an important character strength?

  • What do you think the filmmaker is trying to say about the human need for companionship and the relationship between humans and nature?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animation

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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