A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Promotes tolerance and empathy and speaks out against prejudice and racism. Conveys a deep, moving message about the dangers of fear and White supremacy. Other themes include compassion, integrity, and staying true to your beliefs.
Positive Role Models
Atticus Finch is one of fiction's (and cinema's) most admirable characters. His actions and intentions are always for the good; his true sense of right and wrong is clearly evident, and he never backs down from what he believes in. He's a talented lawyer and a great father to Scout and Jem, both challenging them and supporting them. They're upright kids with a strong internal compass. It should be noted, however, that he falls into the "White savior" archetype.
Atticus advocates for Scout to be comfortable with her ways of self-expression, such as wearing boys' clothing. Calpurnia, the Black domestic worker, is complex and provides the children with valuable lessons. Tom is a Black man who faces a wrongful accusation of rape. Atticus, the only lawyer willing to defend Tom in court, fits the archetype of "White savior."
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Violence & Scariness
Scout gets into schoolyard brawls with classmates. Jem is attacked, mostly off-screen, and his arm is broken by someone stalking him and Scout. The threat of violence is portrayed through menacing looks and nighttime shadows. A man is falsely accused of rape. In a courtroom, rape and attack are discussed in detail. A rabid dog is shot and killed. An angry mob shows up at the jailhouse seeking to take justice in their hands. Scout questions her brother about their deceased mother.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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The "N" word is used by the villain. It's also used by a young girl when she tells her father, a lawyer defending a Black man, that kids at school say that her father is defending a ["N" word]; her father tells her never to use that word. Outdated words "Negro" and "colored" also are used.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Cigarette smoking. The antagonist often appears drunk.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that To Kill a Mockingbird is the award-winning 1962 film adaptation of the classic Harper Lee novel. Its powerful evocation of racism and bigotry in 1930s Alabama remains relevant today, as do the themes of empathy, compassion, and justice sought by Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck). The "N" word is used as a weapon by the lead villain, and when young Scout Finch (Mary Badham) uses the word because kids at her school are using it, her father explains why she should never use it. In the movie's powerful courtroom scenes, the rape of an impoverished young White woman is discussed in detail, and over the course of the trial, abuse (and possibly incest) is implied at the hands of her father. The film should inspire family discussion of not only racism and injustice, but also how values such as empathy and compassion can be used to educate against bigotry and profound ignorance. 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 film offers crucial lessons about prejudice and the fears that motivate it and is a portrait of how racism was discussed in the years leading up to the civil rights movement. Kids will appreciate how To Kill a Mockingbird talks to them but not down at them and reaches for the heart without gimmicks or trite characters. Peck's Oscar-winning performance anchors the film, which is finely crafted, with a perfectly balanced script by Horton Foote. A paragon of decency who stands for tolerance and nonviolence at all costs, Atticus also is a loving, nurturing father who treats everyone around him, including his children, with respect.
Screenwriter Foote includes more than lynch mobs and courtroom fireworks; he also offers lower-key, intimate moments, such as when young Scout questions her older brother about their deceased mother. Or, on a lighter note, when Scout fidgets during her first day of school; she can't get comfortable in her new dress. Despite the ugly truths the film portrays, a gentle goodness pervades it, even during the darkest moments.
Did we miss something on diversity?
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.