Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad, No Good Day

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Not recommended under 5; parental guidance to 10 (scenes that might scare very young children, sexual references, some coarse language and use of substances)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad, No Good Day
  • a review of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad, No Good Day completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 1 December 2014.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 5 Not recommended due to some scary scenes and coarse language
Children 5-10 Parental guidance recommended due to sexual references, some coarse language and use of substances
Children over the age of 10 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad, No Good Day
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes and coarse language
Length: 81 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

On the night before Alexander Cooper’s (played by Ed Oxenbould) 12th birthday he makes a wish that his family would have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day so he can make them understand how he feels when he has a bad day.

The next day, the Cooper family’s important plans continually turn into chaos. Alexander’s older brother Anthony (Dylan Minnette) is trying to get his driver’s licence. His sister Emily (Kerris Dorsey) is preparing for the opening night of her school play. Alexander’s mother (Jennifer Garner) has an important day at work and his father (Steve Carell) has a job interview. But because of Alexander’s wish the whole family’s plans go awry.

The members of the Cooper family must learn how to appreciate each other and work together to get through this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Unemployment; Family relationships; Cyberbullying

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is no physical violence between the people but some cyberbullying, arguments and accidental harm. A kangaroo punches Alexander’s father and a crocodile snaps its jaws at the family

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Anthony crashes a car into a pole and both Anthony and his driving instructor look very scared and scream a lot.
  • Alexander accidentally burns down his science classroom and the children scream.
  • The father accidentally catches on fire and runs around in a panic before he puts the fire out.
  • During the school play, Emily is dangerously swinging from a wire and crashes into a backdrop. The set then crashes down almost hitting other children. Emily falls and is caught by her friend but she breaks his nose with her fall. 

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be scared or disturbed by the above mentioned scenes

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Most children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Nothing further noted.

Product placement

Products displayed or used in this movie include:

  • Mac computers and iPhones are used.
  • Gossip Girl (the television show) is mentioned

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Anthony tells his girlfriend that she has a ‘cute little butt’
  • Anthony says that he wants to ‘make out’ with his girlfriend in the back of the van
  • For Alexander’s Australian themed birthday party, his parents accidentally hire male strippers (thinking they are regular dancers). The strippers begin to dance in their usual style, but the parents yell ‘make it PG’ and the dancers quickly turn their act into a fun dance for the kids.


Nudity and sexual activity

Nothing noted.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • The father downs a beer during his job interview to impress his employers
  • 13 year-old Emily drinks too much cough syrup and gets drunk

Coarse language

There is some coarse language that might be imitated by children, including:

  • stupid
  • crap
  • idiot
  • sucks
  • ass
  • the parents say “Oh Mother...” and “Oh Sh...” but do not finish the profanities.

In a nutshell

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is a fun comedy based on the book by the same name. The film is ideal for children over the age of 10. There are some scenes that might scare children under five and, because of coarse language that children may imitate, sexual references and substance use, parental guidance is recommended for the 5-10 age group.

The main messages from this movie are:

  • Terrible days can happen to everyone but are better when you are surrounded by family
  • Never give up on your dreams

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • having a positive attitude
  • having the confidence to strive for your dreams

 The scene where someone at Alexander’s school sends a cruel, although supposedly funny, altered picture of him to everyone at school could also give parents the opportunity to discuss cyberbullying and its consequences.