To Kill a Mockingbird



Masterpiece with crucial lessons about prejudice.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Review Date: July 14, 2003
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Classic
  • Release Year: 1962
  • Running Time: 131 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

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

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


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. 

Not applicable

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 The outdated words "Negro" and "colored" also are used. 

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Cigarette smoking. The antagonist often appears drunk. 

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. 

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 the movie, 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.

Families can talk about...

  • What would be the challenges in adapting a classic novel such as¬†To Kill a Mockingbird to the silver screen?¬†

  • 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 25, 1962
DVD release date:January 2, 2001
Cast:Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Robert Duvall
Director:Robert Mulligan
Studio:Universal Pictures
Topics:Book characters, Brothers and sisters, Friendship, Great boy role models
Run time:131 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of To Kill a Mockingbird was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

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 their lawyer father who live in the bigoted south in the 1930s. The movie follows the book very closely, with many of the same lines. There are only minor changes. Atticus, the father, serves as the best role model in any book or movie I can think of. There is no sex or nudity shown, but an innocent black man is accused of rape and the colorblind Atticus is called to defend him. The trial is handled in mild terms but will be tense for younger viewers. Violence is frequent but is all offscreen. We hear that a man is stabbed through the ribs while stalking children, and we hear the the black man who went on trial (SPOILERS) was shot and killed. There are no real curse words, but "ni***r" is used several times. Though I love the movie, I must say that I liked the book a bit more, because of the Mrs. Dubois subplot, which was deleted in the movie. Gregory Peck is perfectly cast; he is Atticus. Although there is some objectionable content, kids should watch this movie with their parents. It's a must-see for everyone, young or old (though not too young). Highly recommended.
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 interested. Atticus Finch (played by Gregory Peck) is a great role model. This is an absolute classic and a must see movie. As one of my favorite movies, I highly recommend this.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing
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 went along. I recommend this to ages 13+


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Special Needs Guide