5th Wave, The

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Not recommended under 14: parental guidance to 14 (disturbing themes, violence, scary scenes, coarse language)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for 5th Wave, The
  • a review of 5th Wave, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 24 January 2016.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 14 Not recommended due to disturbing themes, violence, scary scenes and coarse language
Children aged 14 Parental guidance recommended due to disturbing themes, violence and scary scenes
Children aged 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: 5th Wave, The
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes, violence and coarse language
Length: 112 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

When aliens invade earth and kill off most of the population in four deadly waves of attack, Cassie (Chloe Moretz) must learn how to survive on her own. Cassie is separated from her family and she is desperate to reunite with her younger brother Sam (Zackary Arthur). When the aliens injure Cassie, Evan (Alex Roe) nurses her back to health and agrees to help her find Sam. But when the aliens look the same as the humans, who can Cassie trust as she prepares for the lethal 5th wave?


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.

Natural disasters; end of the world; children as victims; death of a parent; aliens

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:

  • Guns and other weapons feature prominently throughout the film. There is frequent violence where both adults and young children use guns to kill people. For example, Cassie shoots an innocent man in the chest and kills him.
  • The army massacres the adults in a refugee village. Cassie discovers the dead bodies and finds her dead father. 
  • The army shows Ben a young boy with an alien parasite in his brain. Ben is forced to kill the boy to prove himself. 
  • Many of the characters are involved in hand-to-hand combat
  • The teenage soldiers are sent on a mission to kill humans who they believe have been infected with an alien parasite. There is lots of gunfire and a young boy is shot and killed in the war.

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:

  • Children as young as five are taken from their families and forced to train as soldiers and kill people with guns. The scenes when children are training in the army and forced into the war could be scary.
  • A scary space ship appears in the sky. Aliens start taking over the world and inhabiting the bodies of humans.
  • In the first wave, all electricity stops working, cars crash into each other and planes fall out of the sky.
  • In the second wave, there are world-wide earthquakes and tsunamis that kill billions of people. These scenes are very frightening as they show people drowning and running for their lives.
  • The third wave is a deadly avian flu. The film shows piles of dead bodies being put into body bags and people getting sick.
  • Cassie’s mother and father both die and these are very emotional scenes.
  • Cassie gets separated from her younger brother Sam, and he is left all alone. This may be frightening for young children.
  • Cassie is shot in the leg and it looks like she might die. There is also a lot of bleeding.
  • The kids decide to blow up a bus to escape the gun fire. Evan also blows up the army compound.
  • Some of the teenage soldiers remove the tracking devices from their necks with a knife. There is some blood.

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 scared or 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 to be scared or 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 be scared or disturbed by some of the above mentioned scenes

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Cassie and her friend talk about boy and girl parts ‘going together’. They also talk about having ‘end-of-the-world’ sex
  • A teenage boy suggests playing strip poker with a girl
  • Cassie flirts with both Ben and Evan

Nudity and sexual activity

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

  • Cassie and Evan kiss and it is suggested that they had sex but this is not shown.
  • Evan is shown half naked in the lake and Cassie stares at him.

Use of substances

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

  • Teenagers drink alcohol at a party
  • Cassie steps on a cigarette

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Oh my God
  • shit
  • hell
  • damn
  • crap
  • fuck

In a nutshell

The 5th Wave is a confronting but exhilarating action movie, based on a young adult novel, that examines what it means to be human. It is not recommended for viewers under 14 due to disturbing themes and scary and violent scenes. Parents of younger children may also be concerned by the coarse language in the film.

The main message from this movie is that it is our hope that makes us human. 

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

  • resilience
  • positivity
  • kindness

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children the importance of independent thought and not blindly following orders.