To Kill a Mockingbird

Movie review by
TS Yellin, Common Sense Media
To Kill a Mockingbird Movie Poster Image
Masterpiece with crucial lessons about prejudice.
  • NR
  • 1962
  • 131 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 11 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 26 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive messages

Promotes tolerance and empathy and speaks out against prejudice. Conveys a deep, moving message about the danger of fear. Other themes include compassion and integrity.

Positive role models & representations

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 great father to Scout and Jem, both challenging them and supporting them. They're upright kids with a strong internal compass.

Violence

Scout gets into schoolyard brawls with classmates. Jem is attacked, mostly offscreen, 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, the rape and attack are discussed in detail. A rabid dog is shot and killed. 

Sex
Language

The "N" word is used by the antagonist. It's also used by a young girl when she tells her father, a lawyer defending an African-American man, that kids at school say that her father is defending an ["N" word]; her father tells her never to use that word. The outdated words "Negro" and "colored" also are used. 

Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

Cigarette smoking. The antagonist often appears drunk. 

What 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 the 1930s Deep South still resonates today, as do themes of empathy, compassion, and justice. The "N" word is used as a weapon by the lead antagonist, and when Scout Finch uses the word because kids at her school are using it, her father tells her never to use that word. In the unforgettable courtroom scene, 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. Overall, this film is just as much of a timeless classic as the novel and should inspire family discussion of not only racism and injustice but also how values such as empathy and compassion can overcome entrenched bigotry and profound ignorance. 

User Reviews

Parent of a 12 year old Written byTsion April 9, 2008

A Moving Triumph of Moviemaking!

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is based on the book of the same name (which I also reviewed). It's a moving, fictional account of a young girl, her brother, and th... Continue reading
Parent Written byStepMomSterToo June 26, 2010

Great to Watch with Older Kids

This movie is definitely for older kids and up. There is racial tension in this movie that must be discussed and explored. The n word is used, and it's got... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bybri123 November 19, 2008

Good movie.

When i started watching this movie the beginning was very slow and dragged on. It was a dull introduction of all the characters. However, it picked up as it wen... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byFilmFanJ June 7, 2012

To Kill a Mockingbird Review

Incredible masterpiece. Aside from mentions of rape and some racist talk, this is appropriate for children of all ages. However, some children may not be intere... Continue reading

What's the story?

Based on Harper Lee's classic novel (which is often assigned to kids in junior high school), TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is set in a small Alabama town in the 1930s and follows the story of the Finch family -- 6-year-old Scout (Mary Badham); her older brother, Jem (Philip Alford); and their widowed lawyer father, Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck). Two parallel story lines follow Atticus' difficult decision to defend an African-American man who has been accused of raping a white woman and the two young Finches' fascination with their mysterious -- and rumored-to-be-dangerous -- recluse neighbor, Boo Radley (Robert Duvall). Atticus and his children face disapproval and worse from those who believe the accused is guilty, with or without a trial. And Scout and Jem discover that someone is leaving strange little gifts for them in a tree near their home.

Is it any good?

This Hollywood masterpiece offers crucial lessons about prejudice and the fears that motivate it. Kids will appreciate a movie that respects their intelligence and reaches for the heart without gimmicks and overly cute characters. Peck's Academy Award-winning performance anchors To Kill a Mockingbird , 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.

Despite the ugly truths portrayed here, a gentle goodness pervades, even during the darkest of moments. 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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the challenges of adapting a classic novel like To Kill a Mockingbird. How do you think filmmakers decide what to keep and what to skip -- or change?

  • How do the movie's themes resonate in our time? 

  • How has the media's depiction of racism and people of varying races changed over the years? How has it not?

  • What role can/should the media play in fighting issues such as racism?

  • How do the characters in To Kill a Mockingbird demonstrate compassion, empathy, and integrity? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

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