A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie has some thoughtful and meaningful views on life and death that some viewers may find comforting, and others may find sad or disturbing. The ghosts that Cole sees are of people who died violently and they are gruesome, even shocking, in appearance; you'll see a shooting, a suicide, a poisoning, people hanging, and more. Some of the dead are children, one killed by her own mother.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Bruce Willis plays Dr. Malcolm Crowe, a gifted therapist who specializes in children. The night he receives an award for his work, a former patient breaks into his house and shoots Dr. Crowe and then himself. Months later, Dr. Crowe is still very shaken. He feels that he can't communicate with his wife. He is treating just one patient, a boy named Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), who reminds him of the patient he believes he failed. Malcolm gradually wins Cole's trust, and Cole confides that he sees "dead people." At first, Malcolm thinks this is a symptom of deep psychological disturbance, but then he comes to believe that Cole really does see the spirits of people who have died and he must find a way to make that experience less terrifying for him.
Is it any good?
This is one of the rarest of movie treats, a thinking person's thriller that is genuinely haunting. You're lucky if you see a movie that you are still thinking about it hours later. Its ultimate conclusion is stunning but, in retrospect, inevitable. Parents should not be misled by the PG-13 rating. This movie is in some ways far scarier than the R-rated The Blair Witch Project. Parents should be cautious about allowing children under high school age to watch it, and should be prepared to talk to kids about the movie, because even teens may find it upsetting.
Osment is truly sensational, one of the finest performances ever given by a child. Willis complements him perfectly, and the interaction between the two of them is deeply touching. This movie has some thoughtful and meaningful views on life and death that some viewers may find comforting, and others may find sad or disturbing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about ghost stories. What makes this one particularly gripping? How does the director scare you without going for over-the-top violence?
Families could lead into a discussion on loss. Have you lost someone important to you? How does the thought about losing someone make you feel? Where do people go when they die?
Families could talk about the importance of communication.
- In theaters: August 18, 1999
- On DVD or streaming: March 28, 2000
- Cast: Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette
- Director: M. Night Shyamalan
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 106 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: language, scariness, and some grossness
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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