Journey to Bethlehem

image for Journey to Bethlehem

Short takes

Not suitable under 6; parental guidance to 9 (themes, violence)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Journey to Bethlehem
  • a review of Journey to Bethlehem completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 5 December 2023.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 6 Not suitable due to themes and violence.
Children aged 6–9 Parental guidance recommended due to themes.
Children aged 10 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: Journey to Bethlehem
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes
Length: 97 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

A young Mary (Fiona Palomo) doesn’t want to marry a stranger and become a wife and mother, defined by a life of housework and chores. She dreams of becoming a teacher and marrying for true love. She feels that she has a purpose in life, something that goes beyond being the bride to a man of her father’s choosing. However, Mary is obedient and agrees to marry Joseph (Milo Manheim), who also has his doubts. When the angel Gabriel (Lecrae) appears before Mary and tells her that she has a higher purpose, that she will give birth to the son of God and that she will cower before no man, she shares this vision with her family. They are frightened and astonished but ultimately believe her. Despite her father’s admonitions not to share this news with anyone, Mary goes to Joseph and tells him what has happened. Joseph’s doubts grow and his parents decide that they should terminate the wedding contract. Mary is sent to live with relatives, while three kings from afar journey to Judea, following the star that will guide them to ‘The Promised One’. They go to King Herod (Antonio Banderas) and use his library to search for the ancient prophecies that will help them find Mary, while King Herod hatches his own plan to save his throne and eliminate any threat from a new King. Meanwhile, as Joseph wrestles with his conscience, he gets a visit from an angel who tells him he must go to Mary, that she needs his help and that he too has an important role to play. Arriving just in time to save Mary from King Herod’s son, Joseph and Mary are wed and, believing themselves to be safe, set off for Nazareth. As the time of Jesus’ birth grows near, a Roman census taker demands that Joseph and a heavily pregnant Mary return to Bethlehem in order to be counted, but really it is a ploy to locate Mary. Avoiding the soldiers who would have Mary and baby Jesus killed, Joseph leads Mary through a back tunnel to the city and, being unable to find lodgings, prepares some space in a barn where the divine Child will be born. As foretold, the three kings come to bestow their blessings and gifts and the son of King Herod follows them with his soldiers. It is Mary who speaks to him and it is Mary who convinces him that he has a choice, reminding him that he is not his father. In a miraculous turn of events, Mary and Joseph are given the soldiers protection, though only if they leave immediately for a land that is not under King Herod’s control. The journey to Bethlehem ends here, while the journey of Jesus has only just begun.


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.

Immaculate Conception; Greed and the desire for power at all costs; Having faith to achieve the impossible; Trust in God; Soldiers hunting a mother with the intention of killing her child.

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:

  • An angry mob throws items at King Herod. The king motions for his guards to arrest a man. The man is restrained, imprisoned and a motion is made to indicate his execution.
  • King Herod mentions that he will kill his son.
  • King Herod takes a large knife and threatens a prisoner.
  • Joseph fights with himself and his conscience over the fate of Mary and the role he will play. He flips, kicks and punches himself.
  • King Herod instructs his son to kill every pregnant woman and baby. His son offers another way. He convinces his father to carry out a census and to find Mary that way. King Herod agrees but cautions his son that if he can’t find Mary, he must, “kill them all”.
  • A boy tosses over a chair and throws things around.
  • King Herod’s son has blood on his hands and asks if he is a monster or simply the son of one…
  • A soldier asks, “Do we seize them or end them now?” The soldier takes out a knife and Joseph begs for Mary’s life.

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:

  • King Herod has a creepy, lion head throne with glowing red eyes.
  • Mary’s brown eyes suddenly turn a vibrant shade of blue and she speaks in a male voice. This startles Joseph and he is frightened until he realises that it is an angel talking through her.

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:

  • A soldier brandishes a sword shortly after Jesus was born. Joseph begs him not to kill the Child but he is cast aside. It is Mary who convinces the men not to harm them. Some children may be upset by the thought that these soldiers had come with the intention to kill baby Jesus.

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 noted.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Mary is described as a poor and simple virgin.
  • Joseph says that Mary brought her condition upon herself with her desire.

Nudity and sexual activity

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

  • Mary and Joseph share a kiss.

Use of substances

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

  • The Magi (the three kings/wise men) drink wine.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Stop being such an ass.

In a nutshell

Journey to Bethlehem is a musical retelling of the story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus. Much of the music is beautifully done and the roles are well cast. The film offers a slightly different perspective on a very familiar tale and is something that families can watch together, though, due to the violence and themes, the film is not suitable for children under 6 and parental guidance is recommended for ages 6 to 9.

The main messages from this movie are that sometimes God’s plans for us are bigger than anything we could ever have imagined for ourselves; and that anything is possible when it is God’s will.

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

  • Faith
  • Patience
  • Love
  • Loyalty
  • Courage.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children the importance of believing in themselves and having faith in what they know to be true.