The Wicker Man (1973)



Adult chiller about modern pagans -- no Hogwarts.
  • Review Date: September 1, 2006
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Horror
  • Release Year: 1975
  • Running Time: 88 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

This is an especially troubling horror film in that "evil" triumphs, or at least the antagonists with lethal designs on the main character carry out their plans successfully. There is just a hint at the end that their punishment lies down the road. The hero is depicted as a firm, upstanding, and devoted Christian, though some of those very traits drag him to his fate.


Some tussling. A man is knocked out and tied up. A fire kills another (along with some animals), but little is shown directly.


Nudity (mostly female) in fertility rites, outdoor lovemaking, and a woman surprised in the bathtub. Frank talk about sexual symbolism, and topiary hedges that look like male genitalia. Bawdy singing.


Some profanity.


Advertising is one curse the cultists of Summerisle didn't rediscover!

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Social drinking; repeat visits to a jolly British pub.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a more intensely erotic film than the 2006 remake (though the newer, PG-13 version is more violent, thank you MPAA). While it shows up championed in lots of horror-movie reference books and fan magazines perused avidly by kids, this film is very adult in its themes and pace. There is much female nudity, sex (or attempted seduction), and a threat of human and animal sacrifice. Specific to religion, the conflict of Christianity and revived ancient pagan worship is the underlying theme.

What's the story?

THE WICKER MAN begins with the arrival by seaplane of a Scottish police Sgt. Howie (Edward Woodward) to the coastal settlement of Summerisle, following up on a letter that one of the local girls has disappeared. Villagers, however, deny the child ever existed. Howie observes that the church is long abandoned, children learn fertility rites and spells in school, naked couples make love outdoors at night, and men in the local inn sing a lewd ditty about the owner's sexy daughter (Britt Ekland). When Howie visits the local authority, Lord Summerisle (classic movie villain Christopher Lee in one of his best roles), the aristocrat explains that his ancestor, a science-minded agronomist, banished belief in Jesus from the island and calculatingly returned the impoverished peasants to their old Celtic lore of earth spirits and mysticism, centering the born-again-pagans around procreation and the annual crop of exotic fruits and apples that are Summerisles' economic base. Howie is now sure that the missing girl is a May Day human sacrifice to the gods to guarantee a bountiful harvest.

Is it any good?


This is not the sort of scary movie often targeted at kids with "boo!" moments, and nothing outwardly supernatural happens. Instead The Wicker Man is a disturbing suspense drama about religious ideas in deadly conflict. In this case, a remote British community has rejected conventional Christianity in favor of the ancient ways of Druid-style worship and ritual. Seen today, director's-cut or not, the movie plays like the worst paranoid fears of those parents who are against the Harry Potter stories on the grounds that impressionable types will be bewitched by their magical elements. Even some of J.K. Rowling's ancillary details -- toads, herbs, a macabre Hand of Glory candle -- make appearances (it should be a relief that Rowling clearly changed their meanings).

There's a "twist" ending that can be predicted fairly easily, but that doesn't make the movie's finale any less creepy or uncomfortable. Unlike Transylvania or typical Hollywood horror-movie haunts, Summerisle is an attractive setting and everybody seems cheerful, friendly and content -- as long as the harvest goes well. While we don't recommend The Wicker Man as family viewing, the religious angle, rare in run-of-the-mill horror films (and practically absent in the remake) provides a number of things that parents of mature offspring could talk about. One can propose The Wicker Man makes a pro-Christianity statement since it shows dire consequence for a society that goes the opposite way. But the outcome is pessimistic and doom-laden.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the religious element of this film. It's stronger here than in a lot of run-of-the-mill chillers (the remake included). Are the friendly people of Summerisle truly "evil" in the typical movie sense? And how and why would Judeo-Christian values and ethics made their behavior very different?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 1, 1975
DVD release date:August 21, 2001
Cast:Britt Ekland, Christopher Lee, Edward Woodward
Director:Robin Hardy
Studio:Anchor Bay Entertainment
Run time:88 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:sex, nudity, mature themes, violence, language

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  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 15 years old Written bydamoviecritic April 9, 2008

An excellant film

I greatly enjoyed The Wicker Man. The production values, acting, and storyline were excellant. I also found the question it was asking quite interesting: are "heathen" religions involved in government that kill one person anually truly worse than a christian government who slaughters them by the thousands. It is a fascinating watch. I must say that the reveiw of this film was hypocritical. MediaFamily said that this film was "red" giving it the same rating as Hostal and Saw. They condemm the MPAA for being more tolorant of violence then nudity. Well, if nudity was not a factor when rating a film, this would be PG. It is a slow, interesting film, but the only truly objectionable thing about the film is nudity and a relativly minor portrayal of "deviant" sexual behavior
Teen, 15 years old Written bycatherinejablonski October 24, 2014

I watched this very young, and see to have turned out all right.

i watch this when i was around the age of 8 or 9 (in retrospect it was probably unsuitable) and it only affected my slightly for a short while ( i may have been afraid of Scotland for a wee while), It is a very good movie but there is quite a bit of sex talk and naked woman, and of course the hole cult sacrifice thing, I believe it is a good movie so it worth it in the end.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Teen, 13 years old Written bycerealkiller189 March 25, 2012

Pretty eerie.

Ahh,there goes the MPAA again.Anyway,I'm not gonna linger on that.Saw this when I was 8 for really no apparent reason heard about it it's really not bad just that a lot of sex throughout not graphic but referenced and constant eerie themes,not for kids who get nightmares.
What other families should know
Too much violence


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