Australian Council on Children and the Media

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

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Not recommended under 8, PG 8-12 due to violent and disturbing scenes

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
  • a review of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 3 February 2011.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to violent and disturbing scenes
Children aged 8-12 Parental guidance recommended due to violent and disturbing scenes
Children over the age of 13 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.

Name of movie: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Supernatural themes
Length 151 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

After being orphaned as a baby, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) has been living with his aunt and uncle in a cupboard under the stairs. Harry is actually a wizard who was placed in the home by Professor Dumbledore (Richard Harris) and Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith). They are two veteran wizards who run Hogwarts, a boarding school for sorcerers, and they wanted to keep the boy away from the evil wizard Voldemort who killed his parents.

Harry’s aunt and uncle have attempted to conceal his wizard background but, in spite of their efforts, Harry is retrieved by Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) on the eve of his 11th birthday and is soon bound for Hogwarts School. While on the train to the wizard school Harry quickly makes friends with two other first year students, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson).

As they begin their training at the school, the three friends become suspicious about some of the strange things occurring there.  They learn about the Philosopher’s Stone, a rock with magical powers that can turn any metal into gold and creates the elixir of life that insures immortality. They soon become involved in a number of frightening adventures which bring them up against the evil Voldemort.

Themesinfo

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.

Death of parents; the supernatural; cruelty to children

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:

  • We see Harry as a baby with a slightly bloody lightning-bolt shaped cut on his forehead.
  • Harry’s cousin, Dudley, deliberately pushes Harry into a cupboard and then kicks the door closed while laughing. Later Uncle Vernon grabs Harry by his hair, shoves him into a cupboard and bolts the door.
  • While looking at a snake exhibit at the zoo, Harry is shoved out of the way by Dudley and falls to the ground. The glass on the snake enclosure disappears and Dudley falls through into the snake’s enclosure.  A very large anaconda slithers across him while people scream.
  • Uncle Vernon points a shotgun threateningly at Hagrid who grabs hold of the end of the shotgun and effortlessly bends the gun’s barrel upwards.  The gun goes off and blasts a hole in the ceiling.     
  • A giant troll walks down a hall at Hogwarts and enters the girl’s toilets to find Hermione. Hermione screams and then hides in a toilet cubicle. The troll uses his giant club to smash the toilet cubicle and toilet bowl, narrowly missing Hermione. Harry and Ron arrive and throw debris at the troll, hitting him in the head. Harry jumps on to the troll’s head and the troll grabs him and holds him upside down while trying to hit Harry with his club. Ron levitates the troll’s club into the air and it falls on to the troll’s head, knocking him unconscious.    
  • During a quidditch match (a cross between basketball and rugby on flying broomsticks) we see students deliberately running into each other and knocking students off their broomsticks. They violently kick, elbow and throw balls at, other riders.
  • Hermione points her wand at a fellow student and chants a spell, and we see the boy stiffen and fall backwards.
  • During a game of giant wizards’ chess, the giant chess pieces use swords and axes to smash and destroy each other. Ron is thrown off a horse, unconscious.
  • Professor Quirrell uses magic to compel Harry to walk towards him, shouting and threatening him. Quirrell clicks his fingers and a wall of flames erupts in front of Harry preventing him from escaping
  • Voldemort, in the form of a face on the back of Professor Quirrell’s head, orders Quirrell to kill Harry. While being attacked and strangled by Quirrell, Harry grabs hold of him and he takes on a burnt, mummified appearance before turning to ash and disintegrating. A swirling grey ghost-like image rises up out of Quirrell’s ashes and flies through Harry’s body. Harry falls back unconscious with his face and hands covered in bloody cuts and scratches.

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 shadowy/silhouetted image of a cat transforms into a woman.
  • Aunt Petunia and Dudley hold each other and scream hysterically as their house shakes and a storm of magical letters bursts out of the fireplace and swirls around them.  
  • Harry, Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and Dudley are in a small cabin. The wooden door is banged on loudly and then smashed open. A very large, hairy, wild looking man (Hagrid) comes through the door.  
  • Scary characters include goblins, a three-headed dog, a green scaly troll and a centaur
  • A flashback image of Voldemort murdering Harry’s parents.
  • Transparent images of ghosts float through the air and through walls at Hogwarts castle. One ghost almost pulls his head nearly off; it is left attached by a thread of skin and we see some blood and gore on the neck wound.  
  • Harry opens a magical book and a scary/creepy looking face tries to push its way out with accompanying screams.
  • While doing detention in the forbidden forest, Harry and another boy come across a dead unicorn with a cloaked figure sucking its blood. We see a quick image of silver blood dripping from the sides of the mouth beneath the hood.
  • Professor Quirrell  unwraps his turban to reveal Voldemort’s scary face  pushing out of the back of his head

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 disturbed by some of the above-mentioned images

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 may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned images

Over thirteeninfo

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.

Most children over 13 are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

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

  • Hagrid talks about visiting pubs. He walks into one pub and the bartender asks him if he would like the usual.  

Coarse language

Harry Potter contains some low level coarse language, name calling and put-downs in this movie, including:

  • “Pumpkin”, “you great prune”, “freak”, “fat arse”, “pea brain”   
  • The use of the word “bloody” in a variety of contexts: “bloody brilliant”, “bloody hell”, “bloody coward”

In a nutshell

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, based on the book of the same name, is a fantasy film targeting a young adolescent audience. It follows the book faithfully and is also likely to entertaining adult audiences. Parents are strongly cautioned that the film at times is intense, and contains violence, dark moments and visual images capable of scaring or disturbing younger children, particularly those who have not read the book. At 151 minutes, the film is also too long for younger children.

The main messages from this movie are:

  • not to dwell on dreams while forgetting to live
  • the importance of friendship
  • that good will triumph over evil

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

  • bravery
  • selflessness:

Parents may also wish to discuss the real life consequences of knowingly placing yourself in a dangerous situation. These may be far more serious than depicted in the film.

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