Tigers Are Not Afraid

Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Tigers Are Not Afraid Movie Poster Image
Dark, atmospheric fairy tale is too terrifying for kids.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 83 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 23 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Movie is too grim to glean many positive messages from, but supportive friendships do spring up between characters, and they find brief moments of joy in small things: a cache of soccer balls, fish in a pond. Themes of courage, teamwork are clear, despite the gloom. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Estrella, Shine, and Morro are remarkable characters, very young children with more courage and tenacity than many adults. Adult characters run the gamut from uninterested and/or absent to villainous. Some regressive gender messages, such as when Shine calls other boys "Disney princesses" to imply that they're cowardly, and when the all-male gang initially doesn't want to accept Estrella because she's a girl. 


Violence and menace are unrelenting, often horrifying: Characters, including parents and young children, are killed on-screen with blood, brief glimpses of gore. Deaths occur suddenly, and viewers see dead bodies at length, including images of bloody and decomposed bodies wrapped in plastic. Young children are asked to commit murder, are chased by adult men with guns screaming that they're going to kill them. Legends are told about satanic rituals involving chopped-up children's bodies. A young girl has visions of dark, terrifying ghosts, a bloody line that follows her, snakes, and dead bodies, including that of her mother. A man screams at a young girl "I'm going to loosen you up, slut!" implying he plans to rape her (he doesn't). Children live in utter poverty, sleeping in the street and scrounging/stealing food and anything they can sell. 


Language is in Spanish, subtitled in English: "f--king," "s--t," "ass," "son of a bitch." Characters, including children, use insulting language toward each other: "a--hole," "motherf----r," "f--ker," "a--hat," "p---ywipe," "butthead," "bitch," "moron," "retards," and "puta."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drugs are the motivating force behind the mayhem of this movie, but viewers never see anyone using them, though a character does sway as if drunk, so out of it that he doesn't realize his phone and gun are being stolen. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tigers Are Not Afraid is a very dark, violent drama with many elements of horror. Dialogue is in Spanish, with English subtitles. Young children (ranging in age from 4 to 10) are in constant mortal danger from ruthless adult drug lords. The villains beat a woman and then shoot her, and they threaten to kill the children (at one point, one also threatens to rape a 10-year-old girl). One of the kids sees monstrous visions of her dead mother, snakes, and decomposed walking corpses. Children tell each other scary stories about the drug lords: that they kidnap children, dismember them, and use them in satanic rituals. Deaths occur suddenly, with blood and some gore, and viewers see bloody dead bodies wrapped in plastic and heaped in piles. Among all this horror, the young main characters are courageous and (mostly) supportive of each other -- though they use very insulting language toward each other ("moron," "a--hat," "puta," "f--ker," etc.), and there are some regressive gender messages (such as when boys are called "Disney princesses" to imply they're cowardly). Drugs are the background reason for all of the terrible things that happen; viewers never see anyone using them, but one man is shown swaying and out of it.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byrewtg June 6, 2020

A gruesome movie with lots of violence

My 15 year old boy thought this movie was beyond than he imagine. He said there was a gruesome violence with bloody deaths! I watched this and can see why it wa... Continue reading
Adult Written bye2t23t June 28, 2020

No fun in this movie

This movie bored me and it is more violent than fun....
Teen, 13 years old Written byMr. Mongo May 11, 2020

Even though it’s pg—13 on demand dont.

This movie is crazy. Half of its metaphorical the themes are super dark and there are a bunch of images of dead corpse that are alive in plastic bags. There is... Continue reading

What's the story?

In an unnamed Mexican border town, a group of young children tries to survive a horrific predatory drug cartel by reminding themselves that TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID. Recently orphaned Estrella (Paola Lara) pushes her way into an established gang of homeless kids when hunger forces her out of her empty house. The young gang members, led by fierce El Shine (Juan Ramón López), are eking out an existence under the nose of local boss Caco (Ianis Guerrero). But when Shine steals Caco's phone, he runs afoul of both Caco and cartel kingpin El Chino (Tenoch Huerta), whose plans to run for political office seem suddenly insecure. When Estrella is magically granted three wishes, she soon learns an old fairy tale lesson: You should be careful what you wish for. 

Is it any good?

This divinely chilling foreign import chooses a dire setting -- a cartel-devastated border town -- to tell a fairy tale that's both horrifying and emotionally affecting. Tigers Are Not Afraid starts as a classroom lesson on folklore is disrupted by gunfire, during which Estrella's teacher comforts her by pressing three pieces of chalk into her hand, explaining that they're three wishes for her, just like in the storybooks. Estrella's first wish, though, goes awry (Monkey's Paw-style), as her plea for her missing mother to return brings back a terrifying revenant who whispers to her from empty food cannisters and dark corners, pleading with her to bring Chino to the place where the dead uneasily rest. 

Estrella's everyday waking world is no less terrifying, with things going from bad to worse as first Caco and then Chino vow to wipe the gang out. It's whispered that the two are bogeymen, that they perform satanic rituals with the dismembered bodies of the children they capture. In fairy tales, innocence and bravery are always strong enough to defeat evil and power. But in real life, the good are often punished along with the bad, and things rarely end happily ever after. As Estrella, Shine, and the rest of the desperate children use every tool at their disposal to run, hide, and fight back, this dark fable ticks down to a startling finale that's worth every tear viewers will cry over it. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the nature of fairy tales. How do they reflect (and comment on) real-life experiences? In Tigers Are Not Afraid, how do Estrella's otherworldly experiences help her understand and cope with her trauma? How are fairy tale conventions used to comment on the realities of the characters' lives?

  • Horror movies have many ways to signal to viewers how to feel: shadows and dim lighting/darkness, ominous music, skewed visuals that aren't true to life. Think about a scene in Tigers Are Not Afraid that you find scary. How do the filmmakers amp up your reaction? What emotions do you feel as you watch? How do the visuals and audio contribute to these emotions? Do you think the filmmakers are trying to elicit these feelings?  

  • How does Tigers Are Not Afraid's central gang of homeless kids demonstrate courage and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

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