The NeverEnding Story

image for The NeverEnding Story

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Not suitable for children under 8 and parental guidance recommended for children under 10 due to scary, emotional scenes and disturbing imagery.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for The NeverEnding Story
  • a review of The NeverEnding Story completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 24 September 2021.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not suitable due to sad and scary themes and imagery (e.g. death of friends, threatening and dangerous situations, monsters)
Children aged 8–10 Parental guidance due to sad and scary themes and imagery (e.g. death of friends, threatening and dangerous situations, monsters)
Children over the age of 10 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 NeverEnding Story
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: The content is very mild in impact
Length: 102 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

10 year-old Bastian (Barret Oliver) is a shy boy who lives alone with his father after the death of his mother. He is a loner and gets bullied at school. He finds solace in books, and one day, as he gets chased by the bullies, he escapes into a book shop. He is intrigued by a book that the owner is reading titled “The NeverEnding Story”, but gets told that this is no ordinary book, that it is dangerous, and that it is not for him. When the shop owner turns away to answer the telephone, Bastian steals the book and runs to hide in the attic of his school. Opening the mysterious book, Bastian is soon drawn deeply into its story about a magical world called Fantasia which is threatened with destruction by the all-consuming Nothing. At the same time, Fantasia’s leader, the Childlike Empress (Tami Stronach) is also suffering from an unknown, fatal illness. Fantasia’s only hope lies in a young warrior, Atreyu (Noah Hathaway), who is sent out to find a cure for the empress, and to stop The Nothing. Atreyu’s quest leads him to all parts of Fantasia, where he meets many new companions and fellow travellers, including the beautiful flying ‘luck dragon’. Together they face many challenges and dangers, and still there is no cure found. In his attic hideaway, Bastian gets drawn deeper and deeper into the story and with a shock he realises that he is more than just a passive reader or witness of the story. He might just be the chosen earthling child who alone has the power to save Fantasia and all its wondersome creatures from its demise.

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.

Fantasy; Adventure; Supernatural; Death; Destruction of the environment; Bullying; The power of storytelling and language.

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:

  • Gmork, a wolf-like “creature of darkness”, is on a quest to kill Atreyu. When he first meets Atreyu he is unaware who he is, but still threatens to kill him. When Atreyu declares his identity, Gmork attacks him but Atreyu pushes a rock shard in his chest and kills him.
  • To get to The Southern Oracle, one has to pass a gate consisting of two massive sphinxes. If they sense self-doubt, their eyes shoot deadly laser beams. Atreyu witnesses a knight getting killed. The sphinxes also nearly kill him.
  • 3 bullies threaten Bastian, want to take his money, chase him, and then force him into a rubbish dumpster.

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:

  • Death of a parent. The viewer learns that Bastian’s mother has died and that Bastian and his father are not quite over it.
  • The “Nothing” is a dark, mysterious force, engulfing and destroying the land and its creatures. It manifests itself as fast approaching, dark storm clouds. Everything in its path breaks and is sucked/blown away.
  • Fantasia is inhabited by wonderous creatures, including a scary-looking but friendly giant, the “Rockbiter”.
  • In an emotion-laden scene, as Atreyu and his faithful beloved companion, his horse Artax, wander into the Swamps of Sadness, Atrax gets stuck, gives up fighting, and drowns, leaving Atreyu and Bastian devastated.
  • Gmork, the creature of darkness, is an evil wolf-like creature, with gleaming green eyes, a snout full of glistening sharp teeth, sharp claws, and black, shaggy fur. He is seen hunting after Atryu, trying to snatch him, and lurking in the dark, suddenly jumping out for attack.
  • As Atreyu walks past the dead knight who got shot by the sphinxes, the knights helmet visor is blown open, revealing a decayed/scorched skull.
  • Just before a turn to a happy ending, Fantasia is almost completely destroyed, diminished to fragments drifting in space. The Childlike Empress, Atreyu and Falkor find themselves on a fragment that still holds the Empress’s splendid Ivory Tower, but the Nothing arrives and starts destroying it, showing Atreyu and the Empress in utter fear and despair.

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 will also find the above scenes scary and disturbing.

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:

  • Children in this age group, particularly those under 10, will also find the above scenes scary and disturbing.

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 noted for children in this age group.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

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

  • The marble sphinx statues a bare-breasted.

Use of substances

  • None noted.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • A grumpy school janitor mutters “damn”, “shit”
  • The bullies call Bastian “weirdo”, “wimp”, “jerk”

In a nutshell

The NeverEnding Story is based on the first part of the acclaimed youth fantasy-adventure book of the same title by German author Michael Ende. Since its release in 1984, the movie has been a childhood classic for generations of families. Even though the special effects are a little dated by today’s standards, it remains a gripping and fascinating family fantasy tale, featuring relatable characters and heroes and important positive messages. Parents should be aware that there are some fairly dark and depressing themes in this movie, as well as some sad and scary moments, so it is best suited to children over 8 with  parental guidance to 10, particularly for sensitive children.

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

  • The power of books to stimulate imagination, fascination, and learning. A great incentive to read more.
  • Courage
  • Imagination
  • Self-confidence
  • Believing in oneself

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children the importance of believing that every single person can make a difference, independent of age or status.