How the Grinch Stole Christmas

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Short takes

Not suitable under 7; parental guidance to 12 (scary scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  • a review of How the Grinch Stole Christmas completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 15 December 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 7 Not suitable due to scary scenes.
Children aged 7–12 Parental guidance recommended due to scary scenes.
Children over the age of 12 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: How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes
Length: 101 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), also known as, The Grinch, is a Christmas tale based on a Dr Seuss book. It tells the story of the Grinch (Jim Carey) who lives on Mt Crumpit, a lonely place in the hills behind Whoville. The Grinch is a grumpy character and most of the residents of Whoville fear the Grinch’s evil ways. There is one little girl though, Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen), who sees past the Grinch’s evil facade and becomes curious about his grouchy ways. Cindy Lou is curious about other things too and wonders whether the hustle and bustle of Whoville at Christmas is truly representative of the Christmas spirit. So, in an attempt to instil a little of the real Christmas spirit, Cindy Lou decides to take on the Grinch and find out why it is that he hates Christmas!!

When Cindy Lou invites the Grinch to the annual Christmas ‘Who-bration’ he is reluctant to come, but he is lonely and after some hesitation he decides to give the people of Whoville a go. The Grinch is accepted with open arms and he immerses himself happily in the Whoville Christmas spirit until his childhood nemesis, Augustus May Who (Jeffrey Tambor), reminds the Grinch of his traumatic childhood and the torment he suffered.


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.


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 Grinch forces Cindy Lou into the present package line and she is almost squashed in the machine. The Grinch laughs menacingly and does not help until his dog, Max, forces him to.
  • The Grinch makes bad things happen when he goes into Whoville, such as vandalising vehicles, causing car accidents and tripping people.
  • When Augustus gives the Grinch a present that reminds him of his childhood bullying, he spirals into an angry outburst that involves shaving Augustus May Who’s head; burning down the town Christmas tree; and starting a huge explosion in the middle of Whoville.
  • The Grinch drives himself into a wall, dressed as a crash test dummy. He is not seen to be hurt.
  • The Grinch chases Max, the dog, to try and make him into a reindeer. Max whimpers and runs away from him in fear. The Grinch forces Max to kiss Augustus and is seen dragging his bottom along the ground in distress. Max has to drag an overloaded sleigh on his own. He struggles and collapses at the top of the hill with a whimper. The Grinch does not respond to his distress.
  • The Mayor of Whoville, Augustus May Who, is angry when he wakes to find Christmas stolen and he yells insults at Cindy Lou Who in front of the whole town. Her father stands up for her protectively.

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 Grinch prides himself on scaring the citizens of Whoville. The movie uses dark imagery such as dark shadows to evoke fear, and the Grinch himself is a menacing, scowling character who yells, grimaces and screams in Cindy Lou’s face in an attempt to scare her.
  • The Grinch has a scary monster as his doorbell, and it jumps out of the snow when people are near.
  • The Grinch is bullied cruelly by the other kids in his class because of his looks, and the Grinch reacts angrily by throwing his gift at the Christmas tree. His friends and the teacher laugh at him and do not help him. He leaves the town and never returns.
  • The Grinch drops an unsuspecting Cindy Lou down a shoot. Although Cindy Lou is seen giggling and enjoying it.
  • Termites are seen crawling over the Grinch’s teeth.
  • The Grinch tries to steal Christmas by sucking up all of the presents; stealing from people’s homes; and eating all of the Christmas food throughout Whoville. The Grinch is seen laughing evilly.
  • As the Grinch’s heart grows, he is seen to stumble and scream out in pain.

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:

  • One of the family cats is sucked up by the Grinch’s vacuum. He is flung into the Grinch at the top but is unhurt.
  • The Grinch is seen struggling to save the sled full of toys from falling off the mountain cliff when he finds Cindy Lou on top of the sled. The sled hangs precariously and Cindy Lou cries in fear. The Grinch pulls the sled up from the mountain and saves Cindy Lou.

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 above-mentioned scenes may scare or disturb some children in this age group.

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 of concern.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Martha and Grinch have a crush on each other, there is some flirting and during a flashback of when they were young, Martha swoons about the Grinch’s ‘brute strength’.
  • Some sexual innuendo such as: when the Grinch is reunited with his carers and he is caressed by them, he says, “Don’t touch me there”.
  • Cindy Lou’s mother says to her father, “Merry Christmas you hunk of burning Who”.

Nudity and sexual activity

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

  • Mr and Mrs Who (Cindy’s parents) are seen kissing.
  • Martha provocatively jiggles her chest at the Grinch.
  • There is an adult party where the adults are seen dancing and riding on each other’s backs and then exchanging keys out of a bowl.

Use of substances

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

  • The Grinch eats a wine bottle and comments that it is an excellent year.
  • The Grinch asks Max, his dog, to bring him his sedative.
  • The Grinch takes a liquor bottle from one of the Whoville residents and drinks it.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Idiot.
  • Psycho.
  • Bitchin’.

In a nutshell

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a Christmas tale of a grumpy Grinch’s attempt to steal Christmas, and of one little girl’s journey to stop him and return the real Christmas spirit back to the town of Whoville. Not suitable for children under 7 due to scary scenes and parental guidance is recommended to 12.

The main messages from this movie are about finding the true spirit of Christmas in your family and loved ones, rather than the superficial.

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

  • Forgiveness
  • Appreciation of family.

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

  • Bullying – What effect did the bullying have on the Grinch as a child and as an adult? Would the experience have been different if one of his school friends had stood up for him instead of laughing at him?
  • Being different – How might it feel to be different? How would you like others to treat your differences?