image for Arrival

Short takes

Not recommended under 12; parental guidance recommended 12 to 14 due to disturbing scenes and themes.

classification logo

This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Arrival
  • a review of Arrival completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 16 November 2016.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 12 Not recommended due to disturbing scenes and themes
Children aged 12 to 14 Parental guidance recommended due to disturbing scenes and themes
Viewers 14 and over 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: Arrival
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes and coarse language
Length: 116 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Without warning twelve 1500 foot high alien spacecraft appear out of thin air and position themselves randomly across the Earth’s surface. When one of the alien craft lands in the US state of Montana, Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) approaches Dr Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a world leading professor in languages, to find a way to communicate with the aliens and determine their purpose for coming to Earth.

Accompanying Dr. Banks is physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) whose job it is to determine the aliens’ technological capabilities, such as their ability to travel through the cosmos and defy gravity.

It takes several trips inside the alien craft before Louise Banks makes a breakthrough, communicating with the aliens through symbols and writing. She learns that the aliens have come to save humanity by giving them a gift. Unfortunately China’s General Shang (Tzi Ma) along with the leaders of a number of other countries misinterprets the aliens, believing them to have evil intent.  The misunderstanding leads to near disaster.            


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.

Aliens; xenophobia; death of a child

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 some violence in this movie including:

  • In one scene we hear a report that 120 religious cult members committed suicide by setting fire to the building they were in.
  • One scene depicts several soldiers transporting a bomb onto an alien craft, and a short time later the same soldiers unpack and distribute rifles amongst themselves.
  • A man and a woman stand in front of a glass panel behind which there are two alien creatures. A timer counts down to zero and there are the sounds of gunfire outside the spacecraft. There is a loud explosion and a flash of light as a bomb explodes and the man and women are thrown backwards by an unseen force which then suspends them in a tunnel protected from the bomb’s blast. In the next scene we see the man and woman in hospital.
  • We hear a news report in which China declares war against the aliens. The Chinese give the aliens 24 hours to leave China or face destruction. There are news images of Chinese battle ships and aircraft carriers and people rioting and looting stores.
  • A woman is pursued through an army camp by several soldiers wielding assault rifles. The woman and a man lock themselves in a secure room behind a glass door and when a soldier points a handgun at the woman, threatening to shoot her, the man stands in front of the woman to shield her; the scene ends without further violence.

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:

  • One scene depicts people panicking at a college as fire alarms ring out and army jets fly low overhead. In the parking lot one car crashes into a second car as drivers panic.
  • A number of scenes depict alien creatures that resemble giant bony severed hands with squid-like qualities. They squirt out ink-like vapours that form circular symbols. Their language sounds like growls and rumbles. The aliens move through a swirling mist
  • A few scenes depict a woman and men wearing baggy radiation hazard suits with large hoods, breathing masks and oxygen tanks on their backs, and at times we hear the sounds of loud, rapid, panicked breathing.
  • In one scene we see a woman step inside a cylindrical alien pod which then fills with a white mist engulfing the woman. She begins to floats as if underwater, with her hair flowing above and around her 
  • In one scene a number of gigantic cylindrical space craft hovering in the air disappear as if dissolving in mist.
  • After returning from encountering alien creatures a man bends over a rubbish bin and vomits; we do not see the man’s head but hear the sounds of retching.   

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.

In addition to some of the above-mentioned scenes, children aged five to eight may be disturbed by:

  • There are a few brief images of an unconscious adolescent girl with a shaved head and an oxygen clip attached to her nose lying in a hospital bed; the girl is dying from a cancer related disease. In a later scene we see brief images of the girl lying dead in her hospital bed with her mother leaning over her dead daughter’s body crying in an emotionally distressed manner.

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.

Children in this age group are also likely be disturbed by some of the above mentioned scenes

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.

Younger viewers in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above mentioned scenes

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some mild sexual references in this movie, including:

  • In one scene we see a man and woman standing together, the man asks the woman “You want to make a baby?”  She replies “Yes”; a flash forward shows the same man and woman holding a baby.

Nudity and sexual activity

Nothing of concern

Use of substances

Wine drinking by adults

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  •  "Holy fuck"; "cheeky bastard"; "screw it"; "Oh my god"


In a nutshell

Arrival is a different and thoughtful science fiction film which is likely to be enjoyed by older teens and adults.  The film focuses on resolving conflict and differences through communication, compassion and understanding, rather than aggression, dominance and war.

Younger children might find some of the scenes and themes disturbing, and the film is also rather slow-moving, so the film is not recommended for children under 12 and parental guidance is recommended for viewers aged 12 to 14.      

The main messages from this movie are that:

  • Communication, understanding and compassion produce better outcomes than violence and domination.   
  • The language you speak determines how you think