Wuthering Heights (2012)

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Wuthering Heights (2012) Movie Poster Image
Contemplative adaptation focuses on teen passion and angst.
  • NR
  • 2012
  • 129 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

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

Positive Messages

In hindsight, it's easy to see that the message of Wuthering Heights is that, ideally, love shouldn't be limited by social status and circumstance -- that true love should prevail over societal constructs. But the story is also a cautionary tale about how obsessive love can become and how it can transform lovers kept apart into bitter and sickly shells of themselves.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mr. Earnshaw adopts Heathcliff -- a homeless orphan boy -- when he had no reason to do so other than charity. Cathy sees beyond Heathcliff's status and into his heart. She loves him even though it isn't wise for them to be together. Still, despite their love for each other, Cathy and Heathcliff aren't the best role models: They're obsessed with each other, and, instead of communicating openly about their prospects of being together, they both make irrevocable mistakes that cost them their happiness.


Heathcliff is beaten brutally on more than one occasion. He's once flogged so badly that it leaves bloody scars on his back. Catherine is attacked by a hound and can barely walk, forcing her to convalesce in a neighbor's estate. More than one character dies. A husband pushes his wife and locks her in a room. There's also the graphic killing of animals for food on the Earnshaw farm.


In one scene, a young Heathcliff sees a couple having sex in the field; some vague thrusting and moaning can be seen/heard. Heathcliff and Cathy don't consummate their relationship, but they do share several moments of intimacy and closeness. As young teens, they roll around on top of each other, and Cathy kisses Heathcliff's wounds. In the last portion of the film, couples kiss -- sometimes quite passionately. There's brief nonsexual male nudity as dead Mr. Earnshaw's body is washed.


Several uses of the word "c--t." Other profanities include "f--k," "s--t," "arse," "whore," and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cathy's brother Hindley becomes a drunk after his wife's death. He's often seen with a drink in his hand.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that director Andrea Arnold's adaptation of Wuthering Heights isn't a start-to-finish version of the novel but rather a focused account of the first half of the tragic love story. There's a great deal more language ("c--t," "f--k," "s--t," and more) in this unrated film than previous screen incarnations of Emily Bronte's classic. And while there are considerably fewer gothic elements in the movie than in the book, there's still a great deal of sexual chemistry between Cathy and Heathcliff, who go from horsing around and wrestling as kids to kissing passionately as adults (they also see another couple having sex in a field). A few characters die, and there are violent scenes of Heathcliff being flogged, farm animals being hunted and readied to eat, Cathy being attacked by a hound, and a wife being pushed around and locked in a room.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bygoodluckkitty March 25, 2013

Cold, cruel, and beautiful

Beautiful film adaptation. It crawls under the skin like the biting north wind in the forefront of the story. The landscape and characters are both cruel and... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bytaylor_swift March 19, 2020

What's the story?

English filmmaker Andrea Arnold's take on WUTHERING HEIGHTS concentrates on the first part of the story, when young Catherine (Shannon Beer) and Heathcliff (Solomon Glave) become inseparable, spending all their time together on the moors. On a 19th-century Yorkshire estate, Mr. Earnshaw (Paul Hilton) brings orphan Heathcliff home from Liverpool. Although Mr. Earnshaw adopts Heathcliff as his own, older son Hindley (Lee Shaw) hates him, and daughter Catherine grows far fonder than a sister should be. After Mr. Earnshaw dies, Hindley returns as lord of the estate, but he badly mistreats Heathcliff. Meanwhile, Cathy's run-in with a hound leads to a convalescence with rich neighbors, the Lintons, that appears to transform her into a proper young woman with no more interest in Heathcliff. Broken hearted, he runs away, only to show up three years later with his own fortune and agenda to win her back -- or at least exact revenge.

Is it any good?

There's an ethereal, contemplative quality to the film, which focuses so much of its time on the innocent -- and then feverish -- adolescent connection between Cathy and Heathcliff. There's a gentleness and a beauty to the way the protagonists interact with their land -- even the mud that covers them after they've wrestled on the ground is complicit in their blooming love. Kaya Scodelario and James Howson are excellent as the slightly older but obviously still in love Cathy and Heathcliff. By cutting out the latter portion of the story, the movie doesn't take the more sinister turns but still alludes to the fact that Wuthering Heights shall always be haunted by the doomed lovers. 

Arnold caused a minor stir when she decided to cast black actors as Heathcliff in her youth-focused adaptation of Emily Bronte's classic novel. But since the Heathcliff of canon is constantly referred to as "dark" and "Gypsy," there's no reason the actor couldn't be black instead of just a dark-haired white actor. The young Heathcliff and Cathy, Glave and Beer, are the film's real scene-stealers. Without much dialogue, their time spent walking and running and playing around the beautiful moors makes it very obvious how close the not-really-related teens become -- and why they would grow to be undeniably obsessed with each other. In one of the movie's most intimate scenes, Cathy gently, quietly kisses Heathcliff's many wounds from a flogging that her angry brother ordered.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why this literary romance is so revered -- particularly among teen readers/moviegoers. How do Cathy and Heathcliff compare to other doomed lovers?

  • What forces keep Cathy and Heathcliff apart? What choices do each of them make that led to their separation? 

  • Those familiar with the novel: How does the movie change your perspective of Heathcliff by leaving out the part of the book where he enacts his intricate form of revenge on Edgar and Hindley?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance

Themes & Topics

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