image for Hugo

Short takes

Not suitable under 5, not recommended 5-10, parental guidance 10-12 (themes and disturbing scenes)

classification logo

This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Hugo
  • a review of Hugo completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 16 January 2012.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 5 Not suitable due to themes and disturbing scenes, The film is also too long for this age group.
Children aged 5-10 Not recommended due to themes, disturbing scenes and length
Children aged 10-12 Parental guidance recommended due to themes and disturbing 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: Hugo
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes
Length: 126 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), a lonely young orphaned boy lives a secret life in the hidden passageways and giant clocks of a Paris train station in the 1930s. Hugo spends his time maintaining the station clocks, scavenging food from shop vendors, avoiding the mean spirited station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) and stealing mechanical toys from shop keeper Georges Melies (Ben Kingsley). Hugo has been using the clock-work parts from stolen toys to fix a mechanical man which was rescued by Hugo’s late father from a museum. Hugo believes that if he can repair the automaton it will reveal a message from his father.

While attempting to steal a clock-work mouse from Georges’ toyshop, Hugo is caught by Georges and forced hand over a notebook containing detailed sketches of clock-work mechanisms. Distraught by the loss of his notebook, Hugo follows Georges home where he is befriended by Georges’ young goddaughter Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), who promises that she won’t let “Papa” Georges burn the notebook. The mystery thickens when a heart shaped key given to Isabella by her godmother activates the automaton, which begins to draw images that lead Hugo and Isabella on a series of adventures. 


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 a parent; orphans/orphanages; magic

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.

The film contains some slapstick violence shown in silent films, perilous situations involving adults and children and some low-level violence, verbal threats and intimidation by adults against children. Examples include:

  • The station inspector and his Doberman guard dog chasing Hugo through the train station. Hugo leaps and tips over a dinner table, scaring people sitting at the table, while the inspector runs into a group of musicians destroying a double bass. The inspector roughly pushes people out of the way as he attempts to catch Hugo. Towards the end of the chase, the inspector’s leg brace becomes entangled in the door of a departing train and he is dragged along. 
  • A quick image of Hugo’s father opening a door and a firestorm rushing up a hall way to engulf him (we do not see him actually burnt). 
  • The inspector catches a crying and distressed young boy and shoves him into a small wire cage in his office. The inspector phones the police, instructing them to come and pick up to boy and take him to an orphanage.
  • While attempting to escape the pursuit of the station inspector, Hugo climbs out of a tall clock tower to dangle from the clock’s massive hands, almost falling as the hand moves. 

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 eight, including the following:

  • One scene depicts a quick image of the dead waterlogged body of Hugo’s uncle next to a river. Later we hear that the body had been at the bottom of the river for several months before being discovered.
  • One perilous scene depicts Hugo after attempting to escape the station inspector, jumping onto a train track to retrieve his fallen automaton. A train hurtles towards Hugo, the train’s whistle blows and sparks fly from the wheels as the driver applies the brakes. Hugo is pulled to safety just in time.
  • In a dream scene, we see Hugo standing on a train track with a train speeding towards him. The driver slams on the train’s brakes with sparks flying from the wheels but Hugo disappears under the train (we do not see him actually hit by the train) as the train crashes through a barricade at the end of the track. The train continues to cause destruction as it careers through a crowded station with people diving to avoid being run down by the train before the train crashes out of the station’s second story window and onto the pavement below.  In his dream Hugo then transforms into an automaton. He wakes from the dream in a distressed state, drenched in sweat.
  • Papa Georges has an emotional breakdown, crying in a distraught manner.
  • Isabella falls down in a crowded station and is nearly trampled by a crowd of people as she calls out for Hugo’s help.
  • One brief scene features a painting of a dead soldier wearing a gas mask lying on his back. The painting has a grotesque and disturbing quality. 
  • Hugo jumps onto a train track to retrieve his fallen automaton. A train hurtles towards him, the train whistle blows and sparks fly from the wheels as the driver applies the brakes. Hugo is pulled to safety by the station inspector just in time.

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 scenes.

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 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.

Nothing of concern for this age group

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

The film contains a couple of low-level sexual references. Examples include:

  • The station inspector talks to a policeman on the phone about his wife leaving him and whether her unborn child is his

Nudity and sexual activity

The film contains no nudity and some low-level flirting. Examples include:

  • In several scenes, an older man subtly flirts with an older woman, but the flirtation always turns comical when the woman’s dog tries to bite the man. To solve his dilemma, the man buys a dog of his own and the two dogs show interest in each other.
  • Isabella kisses Hugo on the cheek, and the pair hold hands in several scenes. 

Use of substances

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

  • Hugo’s uncle repeatedly takes swigs from a hip flask and acting in an intoxicated manner, staggering and bumping into things. On several occasions we he is referred to as a drunk
  • We also see Hugo’s uncle holding a cigarette between his lips and sitting in a chair with an ashtray full of cigarette butts.
  • In a couple of scenes we see cigarette smoke billowing from a restaurant.

Coarse language

The film contains no coarse language, but does contain several instances of name calling. For example:

  •  “little urchin with filthy little mitts”, “simple minded”, “idiot”, “oaf”, “bloated buffoon”

In a nutshell

Hugo is a fantasy action adventure with a great cast suited to an audience ranging from younger teenagers to adults. The film includes mature themes and a sophisticated storyline (the second half of the film relates to the silent film industry) unsuited to under tens. The film’s running time of 126 minutes is also too long for younger viewers.

The main message from this movie is that we all have a part to play in life, like a cog in a clock-work mechanism, and it is that purpose that gives our life meaning. Parents may wish to discuss the importance of finding a purpose in life. Hugo believes that people who do not have a purpose in life are like a broken cog.


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

  • Perseverance and selflessness: Hugo refuses to give up regardless of the dangers he must face, and it is through his perseverance that Hugo is able to discover truth and help