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Short takes

Not suitable under 5; parental guidance to 7 (themes, violence, suspenseful scenes of peril)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Onward
  • a review of Onward completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 23 March 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 5 Not suitable due to themes, violence and suspenseful scenes of peril.
Children aged 5–7 Parental guidance recommended due to themes, violence and suspenseful scenes of peril.
Children aged 8 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: Onward
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes, animated violence, sense of peril
Length: 107 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Long ago, the world was full of magic and wonder, rich with enchantments and spells. Over time, with the use of modern technology, the magic faded away until it became nothing more than a legend believed by very few. On Ian’s (Tom Holland) 16th Birthday, he and his older brother Barley (Chris Pratt), who lives for the legends of magic, receive an unexpected gift; a magical staff along with a spell to bring back their long deceased father for 24 hours, the father whom Ian had never known. When Barley tries and fails to perform the spell Ian takes a turn but something goes wrong and only half their dad materialises. In a desperate bid to complete the spell the brothers embark on a quest to find another magic stone before sunset the following day. Ian, desperate for a chance to know his dad and have some quintessential father-son moments together before he is gone again, does anything and everything to bring him back. Meanwhile their mother Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) sets out to find them and soon learns, with the help of a manticore (Octavia Spencer), that there is only one thing that can save them. As the brothers’ quest to find the stone drags on and they are faced with one challenge after another, Ian begins to realise that he is more like his dad than he ever imagined and that he has had a father figure in his life all along.


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.

Separation from a parent, loss, magic, challenging relationships, sacrifice.

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:

  • Barley strangles Ian in jest and then tackles his mother who flips him over onto the floor.
  • A manticore becomes enraged and trashes her restaurant.
  • A gang of angry pixies attack Ian and Barley.
  • The Manticore stabs someone in the neck with her scorpion tail.
  • After a police chase, Barley’s van is blasted into the side of a cliff which triggers a landslide and crushes the car.
  • The brothers find themselves in a booby-trapped cave where they must dodge arrows, huge cubes of acid and pits filling with water.
  • A flying pixie crashes into a car and the car crashes into a cliff.
  • When Barley takes a magic stone from an ancient fountain it triggers a curse and a terrible dragon that sets out to destroy them all. In order to save themselves Ian must plunge a sword into its ‘heart.’

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 magic stone in the staff explodes after Ian struggles to complete a spell.
  • The boy’s father is only a pair of walking legs, there is a blue mist at his waist where the rest of his body should be and while this is never depicted as scary or frightening it may disturb some small children.
  • A friendly looking manticore transforms into an evil looking monster as she goes on a rampage, destroying her restaurant and setting it on fire. She yanks the head off a mascot and burns it until it is nothing but a smouldering, melted mass. People run in terror as the building begins to collapse and the father is nearly crushed by a burning beam.
  • The brothers find themselves in a booby trapped cave and must find their way through it, avoiding a mass of challenges: dodging arrows, nearly being crushed to death, falling into a pit of spikes, an acid cube that dissolves everything it touches, nearly drowning in a pit of water. They go from one intense, perilous moment to another. This comes hot on the heels of Ian having to cross a bottomless pit by using magic and believing in himself. He nearly fell to his death but managed to reach the other side just in time. Both scenes are very suspenseful.
  • A dragon is formed out of rubble and debris as a red, smoky, mass begins to trash a local school. Ian and Barley must fight it as they try to give the spell enough time to finish completing their dad. Ian chops off its wings as the dragon repeatedly tries to attack them. There are small explosions and fire balls as the fight continues. Eventually Ian succeeds in stabbing a sword through the dragon’s ‘heart’. Ian is nearly killed as the dragon explodes and the rubble nearly crushes him. Ian wakes up, mildly injured amongst the debris. The scene is intense, loud and suspenseful.

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:

  • There is an angry gang of violent pixies that hold up a gas station, threaten individuals and later violently pursue the brothers after their dad accidentally knocks their bikes down. They throw numb chucks, try to smash the glass on the windscreen, attack Ian’s face: shoving, hitting, biting, strangling while he is trying to merge into traffic. The Pixies bikes crash one by one and eventually the brothers lose them but the scene is extremely intense and suspenseful and there is a great sense of danger. Ian is shown dishevelled with cuts and scratches after the encounter.
  • There is a jump scare when the boys enter a dark cave and are met by a vicious herd of hissing unicorns that stampede through the darkness towards them with angry, evil looking, eyes.
  • Ian realises that he must sacrifice seeing his dad so that his brother has a chance to say goodbye. It is very emotional as Barley gets to briefly see him and have a hug while Ian tries to peer through the rubble but is prevented from catching more than a glimpse. The scene is not scary but is emotionally charged and very bittersweet. Some children may find it upsetting.

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 of concern.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • No product placement was noted however merchandise related to the film is available to purchase online and in some stores.

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

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

  • The boy’s mother kisses her centaur boyfriend.

Use of substances

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

  • The manticore becomes very jittery and high strung after consuming a number of energy drinks.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Some name calling such as: “Screw up”, “Lazy”, “Bonkers”, “Weirdo”, and “Loser”.
  • “Dang it!” “Dang!” and “What the…?” are also used on occasion.

In a nutshell

Onward is an animated fantasy with an original storyline and excellent graphics. The characters are diverse, the plot is fast paced and there are lots of positive messages about believing in yourself, overcoming obstacles and navigating tumultuous relationships in a positive way that make this an ideal film for families with children 8 and over. Parental guidance is recommended for children aged 5 to 8 due to themes, violence and suspenseful scenes of peril.

The main messages from this movie are that love is a journey, not a destination and that although sometimes we may forget or not know who we are, ultimately, we are loved and there is magic in us all.

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

  • Loyalty
  • Selflessness
  • Compassion
  • Persistence
  • Love
  • Trust.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children the importance of preserving historical places, openly communicating with each other, recognising the needs of others and being able to trust and believe in those we love.