Emil and the Detectives

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Not suitable under 6; parental guidance to 7 (violence, scary scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Emil and the Detectives
  • a review of Emil and the Detectives completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 28 July 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 6 Not suitable due to some scary / violent scenes and lack of interest.
Children aged 6–7 Parental guidance recommended due to some scary /violent scenes.
Children aged 8 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: Emil and the Detectives
Classification: G
Consumer advice lines: The content is very mild in impact
Length: 99 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Ten-year-old Emil (Bryan Russell) is about to travel from his small, German home town to Berlin to visit his grandmother. Just before Emil boards the coach, his mother secures an envelope containing 400 marks to his chest pocket with a safety pin, which he is to give to his grandmother. An infamous crook, called Mr Grundeis (Heinz Schubert), observes this and decides to steal the money from Emil. Grundeis manages to sit next to Emil; steal the envelope while Emil has fallen asleep; and then get off the bus. When Emil awakes, to his shock and horror, he realises the money has gone and, immediately suspecting Grundeis, he spots him in the crowd and follows him. When his attempts to alert the police lead to nothing, Emil asks a local group of kids under the lead of Gustav (Roger Mobley), who call themselves "The Detectives" to help him retrieve the stolen money. However, they soon discover that Grundeis is not a simple pickpocket but is actually involved with two notorious bank robbers, The Baron (Walter Slezak) and Müller (Peter Ehrlich). Will Emil and The Detectives be able to get the money back and put a stop to The Baron and his accomplices?


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.

Detective story; Children outsmarting adults; Bringing criminals to justice; Teamwork.

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:

  • The Baron threatens Emil with a gun and fires a shot next to his head to scare him.
  • Müller and The Baron plan to eliminate Grundeis and Emil by locking them up in a tunnel and leaving lit dynamite behind.

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:

  • There a couple of scary, suspenseful scenes, including:
  • Emil tracks down the criminals in an underground hide-out, gets captured, and is held hostage.
  • When Müller and Baron betray Grundeis, they trap him and Emil in a narrow, underground tunnel and leave behind lit dynamite. Emil and Grundeis are seen panicking and in distress, trying to dig their way out. Gustav manages to locate them and throw away the dynamite just in time, but the explosion causes a water pipe to burst, and the tunnel starts to fill up with water. Emil and Grundeis are seen crying for help, terrified they will drown. The police get them out just before it's too late.

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.

  • Nothing further of concern.

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.

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None noted.

Use of substances

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

  • Adults are seen smoking cigarettes.
  • There is a reference to problematic drinking.

Coarse language

  • None noted.

In a nutshell

This 1964 family adventure movie, Emil and the Detectives, is very loosely based on German author Erich Kästner's 1929 novel of the same title but producer Walt Disney has taken the liberty to alter some parts of the story and add some action. Apart from the engaging story, being set mainly in Berlin, Germany, over 55 years ago, this film gives Australian families an interesting glimpse into post-war Germany. Parental guidance is recommended to guide through some scary and violent scenes, and to give some historical and cultural perspective, for example in regard to smoking, or the way that relatively young children are left to their own devices much more than Australian children today would be.

The main messages from this movie are that it is important to have friends and that bad actions won't go unpunished.

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

  • Friendship
  • Determination
  • Teamwork.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children the importance of:

  • Asking for help when you feel that you are not able to handle a problem yourself.