A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Humans are capable of terrifying things when their livelihood and community are threatened. In the wrong hands, religion can be dangerous and normalize the mistreatment of others. Nature should be both respected and feared. Goodness doesn't always triumph in the world.
Positive Role Models
Sergeant Howie is a pious Christian man who holds his beliefs firmly in the face of challenge and is quick to judge others. He can be gruff and rude but is determined in his pursuit of justice, even at the cost of his own safety. Lord Summerisle appears carefree and jovial but uses a religion he doesn't subscribe to in order to manipulate the island's inhabitants and maintain his position of power, encouraging people into horrifying acts.
Women are sexualized, with one target whistled and leered at as locals sing a song about her promiscuity. A teen boy is sent up to her to presumably lose his virginity. A prolonged scene sees her dancing naked in her room, and other examples of hypersexualization include a woman in the bathtub arranged to reveal as much as possible, and women often seen naked, whereas men are not. All characters are White, and authority figures, such as the police officer and the ruler of the island, are men.
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Violence & Scariness
A character is trapped inside a building with animals and set alight in a long scene: Human and animal screaming is heard as they burn. Tussling. A character is knocked out with an object, falls unconscious, and is tied up and gagged. A disemboweled rabbit is shown, and a piece of skin referred to as a child's umbilical cord hangs by a grave. Mentions of death, the disappearance of a young girl, and skinning a child. Another child falls out of a wardrobe, pretending to be dead. A severed hand is used as a candle, the fingertips burned. Sword fights and fake decapitation form part of a celebration.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Many couples have sex, including outside in a field and with noises heard through a wall. Women dance naked during fertility rites, a woman is seen naked in a bathtub, and another dances naked in her bedroom -- breasts and bare buttocks are seen. Frank talk with children about sexual symbolism, and topiary hedges that look like male genitalia. Bawdy singing with sexual references to erections and gigolos.
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Language includes "hell," "damn," "damned," and "bloody," as well as exclamations of "Jesus Christ" and "oh my God."
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Products & Purchases
Occasional brands seen in the shop and pub, including Heinz and Smirnoff.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters smoke pipes and cigarettes and drink alcohol in a pub, getting rowdy (bawdy singing and dancing).
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Wicker Man is a 1970s British horror film starring Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee in which a pious Christian police officer is sent to a secluded pagan island in search of a missing child. While it may show up in classic horror lists seen by kids, this film is very adult in its themes and pace. Men are portrayed in roles of power and women are hypersexualized. There are several instances of female nudity, sex (or attempted seduction), and a famously disturbing scene of human and animal sacrifice. Language includes "hell," "damn," and "bloody," and characters drink and smoke. The movie's underlying theme is the conflict of Christianity and revived ancient pagan worship. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This isn't a horror movie full of jump scares or gory slashings, but relies more on discomfort and unease to make its impact. 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. Much of it seems harmless, until it doesn't, and then things take a turn for the uneasy, a sense of doom lurking around every oddly jovial corner.
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 typical Hollywood horror-movie settings, Summerisle is an attractive place where everybody seems cheerful, friendly, and content -- as long as the harvest goes well. While The Wicker Man isn't recommended as family viewing, the religious angle (which is practically absent in the 2006 remake) offers a number of things that parents of mature kids could talk about. You could argue that The Wicker Man makes a pro-Christianity statement, since it shows dire consequences for a society that goes the opposite way. But the outcome is pessimistic and doom-laden.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.