Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The

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Not recommended under 13, PG to 15 due to holocaust themes and disturbing scenes.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The
  • a review of Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 23 April 2009.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Children under 13 Not recommended due to themes and disturbing scenes
Children aged 13-15 Parental guidance recommended due to themes

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: Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Holocaust themes
Length: 94 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Bruno (Asa Butterfield) is an eight-year-old boy who lives in Berlin with his sister Gretel (Amber Beattie) and his parents( Vera Farmiga and David Thewliss) at the time of World War 11. His father  is an SS officer who, when he’s given a promotion to Commandant, is required to move his family to the country. Bruno is sad to leave his friends behind and finds the new house very isolating. He isn’t allowed outside his front garden and when he enquires why the ‘funny’ farmers at the neighbouring farm wear pyjamas, his bedroom window is barricaded.
Bruno eventually finds his way to the back of the house and into the freedom of the forest beyond. There he meets Shmuel (Jack Scanlon) sitting behind a barbed wire fence, looking sad and bedraggled and also wearing pyjamas. The two boys become friends although Bruno can’t understand why Shmuel can’t come over onto his side of the fence to play. They meet regularly and Bruno takes food to share with Shmuel who’s always hungry. When Shmuel’s Dad goes missing Bruno promises to help Shmuel find him. Shmuel finds a pair of pyjamas for Bruno to wear, he then digs under the fence and together they go looking for Shmuel’s father. What happens next is frighteningly unexpected.


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.

War; holocaust; concentration camps.

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:

  • Karl, a soldier who often visits at the house, has a violent temper and often suddenly shouts and screams at the prisoner/servants.
  • Bruno’s mother becomes increasingly more disturbed by events and the children often witness their parents arguing.
  • Karl attacks one of the servants in the house, drags him out of the room and he is never seen again.
  • Karl yells at Shmuel when he’s at the house one time, doing some duties after Bruno has given him some food. When Shmuel is next seen he has a very bloody eye.
  • Prisoners in the camp are forced to march in the driving rain, being shouted at by guards with dogs and herded into a room where they’re ordered to remove their clothes for a shower. Guards are shown putting gas into the chambers and screams are heard from the prisoners as they try to escape – very dramatic.

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 emotional scenes, including screaming and crying, when Bruno disappears and his clothes are found at the fence

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 violent 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.

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

  • the appearance of the prisoners who are very gaunt and dirty.
  • the  overcrowded and filthy conditions in the camp
  • the emotional scenes when Bruno disappears

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.

Children in this age group are likely to be disturbed by the movie’s themes

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

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

  • drinking and smoking in the house.

Coarse language

None of concern

In a nutshell

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a drama about the Holocaust shown through the eyes of an innocent eight-year-old boy.
The main message from this movie is the total injustice of hatred and prejudice against people due to their race or religion.
Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • being prepared to question values you believe to be wrong
  • not believing everything you are told
  • seeing people as who they are rather than how they are labelled

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

  • the ease with which people can slip into appalling and inhuman treatment of their fellow human beings and the fact that this is still happening today