Asteroid City

image for Asteroid City

Short takes

Not suitable under 14, parental guidance to 15 (themes, nudity, suicide reference)

classification logo

This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Asteroid City
  • a review of Asteroid City completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 10 August 2023.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 14 Not suitable due to adult themes, nudity and reference to suicide.
Children aged 14–15 Parental guidance recommended due to adult themes and reference to suicide.
Children aged 16 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: Asteroid City
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Brief nudity
Length: 105 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Set in 1955, ‘Asteroid City’ is a play being written by Conrad Earp (Edward Norton), which is simultaneously being played out on the screen as a movie. The story involves a recently bereaved father and war photo-journalist, Augie Steenbeck (Jason Schwartzman), taking his son Woodrow (Jake Ryan) to a convention of junior astronomers and space cadets, together with his 3 younger sisters. The convention is located at a military research establishment, in the middle of a desert at the site of an asteroid impact. It is also the site of nuclear bomb testing. At the convention, Augie meets Midge (Scarlett Johansson), who is taking her daughter Dinah (Grace Edwards). Several other participants arrive, including a busload of primary school students and their young teacher June (Maya Hawke), and a cowboy band led by singer Montana (Rupert Friend), and there they meet army general Grif Gibson (Jeffrey Wright) and astronomer Dr Hickenlooper (Tilda Swinton).

The story goes that while the participants are star gazing, an alien appears in a spaceship and steals the asteroid held in a place of honour. The President orders the whole area to be quarantined and no-one is allowed to leave. They are all given psychiatric evaluations and told not to speak of what they’ve seen. Augie, however, snapped a photo of the alien and Woodrow is determined to let the rest of the world know what they’ve seen. A rebellion occurs, with the detainees overpowering the military with their weapons of invention.

The story is interwoven with the writing of the play and the altercations between writer and the cast. Augie and Midge are attracted to each other, as are Woodrow and Dinah.


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.

Science Fiction; Romance; Fables and mythology; Playwriting.

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:

  • Atomic bombs are seen exploding in the background.
  • A man chases after a boy and wrestles him to the ground.
  • Midge is in a bathtub with an empty bottle of pills on the ground, shown as an attempted suicide. Augie gets angry and smashes a light.
  • Augie burns his hand on a stove.
  • Soldiers aim guns at the people who retaliate with their invented machines. Chaos erupts as machines go off and people run all over the place.

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:

  • The alien descending in a space ship could be scary to young children.

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 the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Augie and his children are seated in a diner when a bomb goes off, causing the diner to shake.
  • Augie has trouble telling his children that their mother had died three weeks ago. He finally tells them in a deadpan way. He has the mother’s ashes in a Tupperware bowl. The children ask if they’re orphans now.
  • The girls try to bring their mother back with magic.

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.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • The general talks about his father coming home from WWI in a pine box.
  • A boy jumps off the roof of a building as an experiment. He isn’t hurt.
  • Midge talks about her history with violent men, starting with her father.
  • Woodrow asks Augie if he’s planning to abandon them. Augie says he was thinking of it as a temporary measure, but decided against it.

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

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Pontiac
  • Chanel perfume
  • Greyhound bus.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Augie takes off his trousers and embraces Conrad.
  • Midge tells Augie that Dinah saw them in the bedroom. A scene showing bare legs on the bed is shown.
  • Several couples kiss briefly.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Midge is talking to Augie through a window, wrapped in a towel. She drops the towel and is briefly seen completely naked.

Use of substances

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

  • Drinking at several events, at home, during the play etc.
  • Augie constantly smokes a pipe.
  • Several characters smoke cigarettes.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Bitch
  • What the hell
  • Some name calling such as:
    • Old fool
    • Snob.

In a nutshell

Asteroid City is a comedic, science-fiction drama, set in multiple layers, with a stellar cast. It makes fun of the mythology of aliens present at nuclear bomb testing sites. The film depicts the writing of the play in black and white, while the movie is in bright colour, thus distinguishing between the two. Nonetheless, it is likely to be very confusing for younger children. It also eludes to suicide and has brief nudity. The film is therefore not suitable for children under 14 and parental guidance is recommended for children aged 14-15.

The main messages from this movie are to not take life too seriously; and that what is seen on the screen is far from reality.

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

  • Celebration of young peoples’ intelligence and creativity.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Jumping off roofs is not a good idea!