In the Heights

image for In the Heights

Short takes

Not suitable under 12; parental guidance to 14 (language, sexual references, themes)

classification logo

This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for In the Heights
  • a review of In the Heights completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 17 June 2021.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 12 Not suitable due to language, sexual references and themes.
Children aged 12–14 Parental guidance recommended due to language, sexual references and themes.
Children over the age of 14 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: In the Heights
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild coarse language and sexual references
Length: 143 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) tells the story of Washington Heights – a close knit, largely Hispanic, neighbourhood in New York – to a small group of children, drawing them in with whispers of sueñitos (little dreams) and streets made of music. For this is a story of dreams... The dream of each immigrant family leaving their homeland, hoping to find a better life in New York. The dreams of parents for their children, such as the hardworking Mr. Rosario (Jimmy Smits) who sacrifices everything so that his academically gifted daughter can have everything he never did; so that she can go out into the world and show people that the Latino community is just as talented and brilliant as any other.

This is the story of Mr Rosario’s daughter Nina (Leslie Grace), who briefly falters, feeling the weight of her entire community resting on her shoulders but who, in the midst of all the pressure and expectation, finds a way to represent her people and to help those who have fewer rights and opportunities than she herself ever did. It is the story of Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), a young lady who works at the local beauty salon and who dreams of designing clothes and living in a better neighbourhood. But mostly it’s the story of Usnavi, who dreams of returning to the Dominican Republic to reopen the little bar that his father used to run; and it is the story of Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz), the childless matriarch of the neighbourhood who adopts Usnavi as her own, who teaches the younger generations to believe in themselves and to believe in the power of their dreams. Despite the hardships and struggles they face, Abuela Claudia helps them take pride in the small details of life, and in their little cultural differences, and she reminds them to shine a light on these and show the world who they truly are.


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.

Poverty; Illegal immigration; Racial discrimination; Prejudice; Loss of parents.

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.

  • No violence was noted in this movie.

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.

  • None noted.

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.

There are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Abuela Claudia lies down on her bed and dies during a heat wave. Usnavi goes to check on her and immediately realises that something is wrong. He yells for the others to call an ambulance, but it is too late. Abuela Claudia’s loss is deeply felt by the entire community and, while not scary, the scene is emotional and may distress some children.

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:

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Doritos chips
  • iPhones
  • Haribo gummi bears
  • Coca Cola.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Beauticians are mentioned talking about who is “doing” who and why.
  • Someone mentions that, “it smells like sex and cheap perfume”.
  • Someone tells Vanessa they can feel the sexual tension between her and Usnavi.
  • It is loudly and publicly announced that Nina and her boyfriend went for, “a roll in the hay.”
  • Beauticians mention that someone is having sex with a person named Yolanda.
  • There is talk of buying condoms.

Nudity and sexual activity

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

  • Men sit on the sidewalk in the middle of a heatwave in nothing but shorts.
  • Scantily clad women dance provocatively in a nightclub.
  • Vanessa dances with 4 men at once, one of whom rubs his hands down her chest.
  • Lots of bikini clad bodies in and around a pool.

Use of substances

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

  • People drink at a dinner party.
  • People drink in a night club.
  • Usnavi drinks at a bar and, despite Vanessa’s protests, orders shots for them both.
  • Vanessa brings Usnavi a bottle of champagne.
  • Someone is referred to as a drunk Cheetah Rivera.
  • The father of a character appears to be an alcoholic. There are empty beer cans littering the apartment, he holds a beer in one hand and claims it is the first of the day.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Shit
  • Holy shit
  • Asses
  • Hell
  • God damn
  • Damn
  • Skank.

In a nutshell

In the Heights is a musical drama with a wonderful cast and musical score, and excellent choreography. The film outlines the struggles that lie within each of us and reminds us that no matter the challenges we face, we must not give up on our dreams. The film will be best enjoyed by older audiences and musical fans.

The main messages from this movie are that communities are not powerless, they are powerful; and that it is the little details within each group that will ultimately show the world they are not invisible.

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

  • Community
  • Compassion
  • Friendliness
  • Helpfulness
  • Self-sacrifice
  • Persistence
  • Patience and Faith.

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

  • Giving up on your dreams.
  • Allowing others to dictate the direction of your life.
  • Brushing aside or belittling other cultures and nationalities.
  • The negative effects of prejudice.