Australian Council on Children and the Media

The Adventures of Huck Finn (1993)

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Not suitable under 8; parental guidance to 13 (violence, frightening scenes, distressing themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for The Adventures of Huck Finn (1993)
  • a review of The Adventures of Huck Finn (1993) completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 30 April 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not suitable due to frightening scenes, violence, and distressing themes – death, racism, abuse.
Children aged 8–13 Parental guidance recommended due to frightening scenes, violence, and distressing themes – death, racism, abuse.
Children over the age of 13 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.

Name of movie: The Adventures of Huck Finn (1993)
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Low level violence, Adult themes
Length 107 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Huckleberry Finn (Elijah Wood), the semi-literate son of a frightening alcoholic father Pap (Ron Pearlman), runs away from home after faking his own death. With an escaped slave called Jim (Courtney B. Vance), the two runaways follow the Mississippi River to freedom in the slavery-free state of Illinois. Along the way, Huck and Jim encounter adventure, shipwreck, swindles, love, and death. As the duo deal with the arrival of The King (Jason Robards) and The Duke (Robbie Coltrane), two conmen impersonating British family of the wealthy Wilks sisters, Huck and Jim face continued threats to their freedom and their lives.

Themesinfo

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.

Death of a parent, children as victims, racism, slavery, alcohol dependence, gun violence, stealing and scams, pretending to dabble in the occult.

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:

  • Huck is attacked by his father who threatens to kill him with a knife.
  • Huck’s father hits two old women in the face when they try to stop him kidnapping Huck.
  • People are shot and killed in a gunfight (including a child whose body is seen lying in the water).
  • An escaped slave is almost lynched by a mob – He is saved as the last minute.
  • Huck is shot in the back but survives (some blood is visible).
  • The Duke and The King are tarred and feathered by an angry mob (this is not graphic).
  • A slave is whipped by a white man.
  • Huck and another boy punch each other several times in the face while other children cheer them on (the other boy gets a bleeding nose).

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:

  • Huck’s father is large and frightening with a metal leg brace that squeaks when he walks – This character is likely to frighten young children.
  • Huck kills a wild boar and uses the blood to fake his own death. However, this is not graphic, and is underscored by cheerful music.
  • An angry mob dig up a buried corpse – this is not graphic but may scare or disturb very young children.
  • Huck’s father’s dead body (with a bullet through his head) is seen.

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:

  • Huck is grabbed by his father as he climbs back into his foster house through his bedroom window – This is done with a jump scare, likely to frighten young children.
  • Huck’s father throws a bottle at Huck which smashes against the wall.
  • Huck’s father attacks him with a machete, lunging at him several times – This scene is quite frightening.
  • A steam boat crushes the raft that Huck and Jim are on and they are forced to jump into the water – They are both ok, but are frightened as it occurs.
  • When Jim removes his shirt, large whip mark welts are visible on his back and he winces in pain.
  • A young boy is deliberately shot and killed (off camera) during a gun fight and his body is seen floating in the water.
  • The King grabs Huck by the throat as if to strangle him.
  • The Duke and The King are tarred and feathered off camera, but are seen covered in hot tar.
  • Huck is shot in the back but tries to keep running, before he collapses in pain (blood is visible) – This is a sad sequence and may be distressing for children in this age group.

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.

In addition to the above mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Huck’s father grabs, shakes, and threatens to hit Huck – This is dark and serious and will likely frighten some children in this age group (similar to Bill Sykes in Oliver).
  • A slave on a cotton field is thrown to the ground by a white man and whipped.
  • A noose is put around Jim’s neck and he is about to be lynched from a tree by an angry mob – He is saved at the last moment.
  • References to people wanting to lynch Jim occur throughout the film.

Over thirteeninfo

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 further of concern.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None noted.

Use of substances

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

  • Men drink alcohol on numerous occasions (several are quite drunk).
  • Huck smokes a tobacco pipe on two occasions.
  • Tobacco is referenced.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Ass
  • Hell
  • Damn
  • Turd
  • Butt.

In a nutshell

The Adventures of Huck Finn is a Disney remake of the classic Mark Twain novel of the same name. This film is an enjoyable and easy watch with strong performances from Elijah Wood as Huck and Courtney B. Vance as Jim. The story deals with themes and sequences that may be distressing to children (particularly the threats of harm to children and racism toward African American people), and loses much of the gravity associated with the racist themes of the original story due to the removal of the racial language. Due to violence, frightening sequences, and themes dealing with racism, The Adventures of Huck Finn is not suitable for children under 8 and parental guidance is recommended to 13.

The main messages from this movie are that people can learn to accept others as equal, even if others disagree, and that loyalty and support from friends is important, even for the most self-sufficient people.

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

  • Helping others in times of need.
  • Not judging a book by its cover.

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

  • Lying and stealing have negative consequences.
  • Racism.
  • Running away from home.

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