Where the Red Fern Grows Movie Poster Image

Where the Red Fern Grows

Moving version of the classic novel.
Popular with kids
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1974
  • Running Time: 97 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The film extols the value of hard work and loyalty to build character.

Violence & scariness

A boy takes a fatal fall onto an axe. A dog dies in a mountain lion attack.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the movie casts an unflinching gaze on the hard lives of its characters. Kids who watch this movie will see a boy take a fatal fall onto an axe and a dog die in a mountain lion attack. The film extols the value of hard work and loyalty to build character, and offers a realistic, unflinching look at backwoods life in the 1930s.

What's the story?

In WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS, young Billy Coleman works odd jobs so he can buy a pair of coonhounds. The dogs, Dan and Ann, don't disappoint. With training, they develop quite a reputation, and soon the raccoon pelts are piling high. They even tree the notorious "ghost coon," which wins Billy a two dollar bet with some hillbilly boys, one of whom falls on Billy's twin-bladed axe in a scuffle and dies. "Momma," Billy says, devastated, "you can stop worryin' now 'cause I ain't never gonna go huntin' again." But the Championship Coon Hunt is too great a temptation to pass up. Dan and Ann make the finals, but a fierce storm forces Billy to give up a sure win to find his injured Grandpa. More hard choices follow for Billy, each carrying him one step closer to manhood.

Is it any good?


If the performances seem a bit over-starched at times, they never fail to do their job. Like the acting, the songs (written by the Osmonds and performed with utmost sincerity by Andy Williams) are obviously of another era. Adults may find it amusing to hear Williams crooning about running free as the wind while Billy adoringly trains his pups, but they'll be touched in spite of themselves. It's just that kind of a movie.

Based on the Wilson Rawls novel, set in the Ozarks of the 1930s, the film is about a place where people are good to one another, during a time when hard work and compassion are rewarded. But there's a deeper layer as well, which slowly unravels to expose a boy struggling toward adulthood, grappling with the large issues of life and death and the heartaches that lie in between.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about its message. What do you think the filmmakers were trying to get across? How did this film influence you?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 24, 1974
DVD/Streaming release date:January 1, 2004
Cast:Beverly Garland, Jack Ging, James Whitmore
Director:Norman Tokar
Studio:Westamerica Film
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Book characters
Run time:97 minutes
MPAA rating:G

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Parent of a 10 year old Written byWinterD April 9, 2008

I was bored and exhilirated at the same time

This movie gives a great view on how hard work pays off. It also shows that through Hard work you have some disapointments as well but if you stick to it everything will work out in the end. Great message!!!
Kid, 11 years old April 9, 2008

This was sad

This was sad
Parent of a 5, 8, 10, and 10 year old Written byCSM Screen Name... October 3, 2009

Yard Sale Score

I'm a middle aged feminist, and my daughter and son looove this movie! My daughter is incredibly shy and loves to play cats, and she just happened to pick this up at a yard sale! It was sooo sad but really good! I only wish there were some Elizabeth Cady Stanton references, as she is a GREAT role model for my daughter!!!