Soul Surfer

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Short takes

Not recommended under 10, PG to 14 (Themes, Scary scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Soul Surfer
  • a review of Soul Surfer completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 30 May 2011.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 10 Not recommended due to themes and scary scenes
Children 10 to 14 Parental guidance recommended due to themes and scary scenes
Children 15 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: Soul Surfer
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes
Length: 104 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Soul Surfer is based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb), a 13 year old girl with the world at her feet. She is loved by her supportive family, is part of a close knit church and has her best friend; Alana Blanchard (Lorraine Nicholson) by her side.

Bethany is also a talented surfer, dreaming of making it to the professional circuit, which seems the obvious next step after being sponsored by Ripcurl. One typical morning while surfing Bethany is attacked by a shark and, although her companions save her life, she loses her arm.

The incredibly courageous Bethany and her family and friends work through their grief and loss to come to terms with the tragedy. Bethany faces the challenges of getting back to doing the thing she loves – surfing, and gains a new perspective on her life to become an inspiration for people all over the world.


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.

Dealing with tragedy; natural disasters; spirituality

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.

Soul Surfer contains scenes of violence and injury, including:

  • A shark attacks Bethany. Although the scene is quite brief and restrained, we see blood filling the water and seeping through the dressing on Bethany’s injury. Bethany’s friend, Alana who witnesses the attack, vomits after the attack and has nightmares.
  • The dead shark is caught and shown hanging from a small crane. Bethany’s dad compares the shark’s teeth to the bite mark on Bethany’s surfboard.
  • To give Bethany a chance in a surfing competition, Alana runs into another surfer on a wave.

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 and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under five, including the following:

  • The sudden shark attack and images of Bethany’s injury and the stump of her arm.
  • Scenes from the Boxing Day tsunami and the aftermath of the devastation
  • Some of the surfing scenes show big waves and Bethany being knocked off her board and held underwater for a period of 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 are also likely to be disturbed by 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 are also likely be disturbed by 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.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Many surfing and skating brands are shown, including Ripcurl, Roxy, Travisty
  • Spam (the tinned meat)
  • Red Bull

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

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

  • Bethany’s parents kiss
  • Many characters are shown in brief bikinis and shorts
  • Mild flirting between Bethany and a male friend
  • Alana has a photo shoot in a bikini and in some provocative poses.

Use of substances

None of concern

Coarse language

There is some mild coarse language in this movie, including:

  • jerk
  • Oh my god

In a nutshell

Soul Surfer is an inspiring true story which is likely to interest older children and teenagers, but includes scenes and themes that may disturb younger children.

The main messages from this movie are:

  • Life is like surfing – when you get caught in the ‘impact zone’, you need to get back up and keep going.
  • Look at the bigger picture of life – There is always someone worse off than you.
  • With love and support from people around you, you can face anything.
  • Finding strength from spiritual belief – Bethany and her family are religious. When tragedy strikes, Bethany is confused and finds it difficult to understand what ‘God’s plan’ is for her. She takes solace when she is told that something good must come from this.

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

  • bravery and perseverance
  • family love and friendship
  • challenging views of what is normal

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children the importance of

  • facing your fears
  • the impact of natural disasters, particularly the tsunami in South East Asia.