Paper Towns

image for Paper Towns

Short takes

Not recommended under 14; parental guidance recommended 14-15 (Themes, sexual references, alcohol use and coarse language)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Paper Towns
  • a review of Paper Towns completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 20 July 2015.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 14 Not recommended due to themes, sexual references, alcohol use and coarse language
Children 14-15 Parental guidance recommended due to themes, sexual references and alcohol use
Children over 15 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: Paper Towns
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Sexual references
Length: 109 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Paper Towns is a romantic drama based on the young-adult novel of the same name. It follows the story of Quentin Jacobson (Nat Wolff), a shy and conscientious student who is a romantic at heart. He has had a long-term crush on his beautiful and popular neighbour, Margo Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevingne), who used to climb through his bedroom window at night when they were both children.

One night, Margot appears again and asks Quentin to take her around the neighbourhood to carry out revenge upon people who have betrayed her, including her cheating boyfriend (Griffin Freeman). Over the course of their brief journey, Quentin falls more and more in love with Margo’s independence and doggedness.

The following day, people discover that Margo has disappeared. Quentin becomes hell-bent on finding out where she went and what happened, particularly after he discovers what appear to be clues that she left behind. However, as his quest turns gradually into an obsession, Quentin learns a valuable lesson about idealising people that he doesn’t really know, and taking those who are close to him for granted.


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.

Romance and love; revenge; mystery

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 minimal violence within the film. The film contains a brief depiction of a corpse – it is not graphic and there is very little blood.

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.

Apart from the image described above, there is nothing in this film that is likely to disturb children of this age.

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.

Apart from the image described above, there is nothing in this film that is likely to disturb children of this age.

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.

Apart from the image described above, there is nothing in this film that is likely to disturb children of this age.

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

Product placement

Nothing of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • There is discussion amongst teens about sexually transmitted diseases.
  • There is discussion about the sexually attractiveness of older women and a boy’s mother.
  • There is sexual innuendo and flirting between teenage characters.

Nudity and sexual activity

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

  • There are scenes of partial nudity in a non-sexual context.
  • Two characters kiss and embrace.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances, including:

  • Many teen characters are seen to drink alcohol within a social setting (e.g. at house parties). There is minimal parental supervision at these parties.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • ‘shit’; ‘fuck’; religious exclamations such as ‘God’

In a nutshell

Paper Towns is a touching and inspiring film based on a novel by John Green. It focuses on the story of Quentin, as he searches for his missing neighbour Margo with whom who he has long been in love. The movie shows how placing others on a pedestal often results in disappointment. Quentin views Margo as the perfect girl but he soon discovers that she has a troubled past and is merely human like himself. The film highlights the need to view people as complex individuals, and to not box them into stereotypes. The film also demonstrates the importance of friendships in keeping one grounded, as well as the value of being prepared to take risks and venture outside one’s comfort zone. 

There is very little in the movie to disturb young children but the story and themes make it more suited to older teens. Parents may be concerned about scenes of teens involved in conversations about sex, alcohol drinking and coarse language.

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

  • The complex nature of relationships, romantic or otherwise, and the manner in which some relationships can either encourage people to grow, or bring people down.
  • How teenage ‘cliques’ can function in high school, and the importance of not stereotyping other young people into groups (e.g. the ‘popular’ girls, the ‘nerdy’ guys).
  • The pressure that teenagers are put under in regards to parental, social and cultural expectations.