Tomorrow when the war began

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Not recommended under 15 (Violence, disturbing scenes, drug use, coarse language)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Tomorrow when the war began
  • a review of Tomorrow when the war began completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 2 September 2010.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 15 Not recommended due to violence, disturbing scenes, drug use, and coarse language
Children over the age of 15 OK for this age group, but parents may wish to discuss a number of issues raised by the film

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: Tomorrow when the war began
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Violence, drug use and coarse language
Length: 104 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Based on the John Marsden classic and the first in a series of seven books, Tomorrow When the War Began is the story of seven teenagers who return from a camping trip to find Australia has been invaded by a foreign power.

With their friends and families captured, they decide to band together to fight the invaders. This causes them to question personal beliefs and pushes them to do things that they previously thought unimaginable. The movie delves into the teenagers’ loss of their fundamental freedom, the helplessness that ensues and their determination to fight for what is important to them.


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; death; family separation; drug use; delinquency; cruelty to animals.

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 are many violent scenes in this movie including:

  • Homer, Lee and Kevin yell at each other aggressively when they are trying to decide what to do with Flip (Kevin’s dog).
  • Ellie sees a captured prisoner shot in the head at close range.
  • Ellie, Kevin and Carrie are pursued by the invaders. Ellie lights a petrol soaked rag and throws it towards some machinery, causing a large explosion and killing a number of the invaders. There is a close up shot of a dead soldier badly burnt on the face.
  • The teenagers carry shot guns and Ellie takes a machine gun from one of the soldiers she has killed.
  • An Australian fighter plane is pursued by enemy planes and eventually blown up by a missile.
  • The house the teenagers are staying in is spotted by a surveillance helicopter that signals to the fighter planes. The planes then fire missiles which destroy the house as the teenagers jump to save themselves.
  • Ellie, Robyn and Lee try to get away from the soldiers in a garbage truck. The soldiers shoot relentlessly at them while chasing them through the dark streets. One of the soldier’s cars gets caught in powerlines and is swung into the building and explodes. The other pursuing car runs into debris dropped by the rubbish truck and veers off into the roof of a house and bursts into flames.
  • Chris describes how he found a family all dead in their crashed car. He describes how all of the family members, including their little baby, had been shot several times before they crashed.
  • After Chris falls asleep at his post, Ellie aims the machine gun at him, threatening to shoot him. Then she aims the gun at herself and tells him to ‘shoot her while she is awake’
  • After seeing the soldiers creep silently up to an unknowing Ellie and Fiona waiting in the petrol tanker, Robyn picks up a machine gun and slays all of the soldiers. This is despite her clearly saying that it against her beliefs to commit murder and she would never do it.
  • Kevin, Homer and Carrie are shot at while herding the cows over the bridge. Carrie is shot in the side and we see her bloody wound.
  • Chris sets alight a fuel-soaked rope causing a petrol tanker to explode, causing a massive fire ball which in turn, destroys a bridge.
  • At the end of the movie, we see the teenagers all standing with shot guns, machine guns and rounds of ammunition draped around their bodies.

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 a number of scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged under eight, including the following

  • Kevin discovers a snake in his sleeping bag. The snake slithers towards Ellie and Lee Lee kills it by hitting it over the head with a stick just before it is about to bite Ellie.
  • Kevin suddenly jumps out of the darkness after running away from Ellie and Carrie.
  • The teenagers come home to find their parents are not there – they have been captured and are guarded by soldiers in a makeshift prisoner camp.
  • When the teenagers come back from their camping trip, they discover that Ellie’s dog has been shot and killed.
  • A helicopter from the invading powers closely circles the house at night time. It is dark and the noise of the rotors is very loud. They shine a spotlight in the house and it is very suspenseful.
  • Soldiers walk through dark streets with their machine guns.
  • Suspenseful scenes as soldiers creep up on Ellie and Fiona in the petrol tanker.
  • Cows stampede across the bridge, causing soldiers to jump out of the way quickly, some even jumping off the bridge.

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.

In addition to the above mentioned violent and scary scenes and themes, children aged eight to thirteen may be particularly disturbed by the idea of invasion by a hostile force

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 find the content of the film disturbing.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Maggi 2 minute noodles
  • Vegemite

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Carrie talks to Ellie about ‘sleeping’ with Kevin. Ellie asks Carrie if she only wants to go away camping to ‘have more sex’

Nudity and sexual activity

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

  • Carrie wears some low cut tops that reveal cleavage.
  • Carrie and Kevin kiss passionately many times.
  • Ellie kisses Lee.
  • Homer looks lustily at Fiona undressing down to her bikini.

Use of substances

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

Chris is identified as a ‘stoner’ and is seen to be smoking marijuana and possibly cigarettes. He also uses the terms “bent” and “baked”

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Homer wears a t-shirt that says “F@#k the police”
  • Dickhead
  • Jesus Christ
  • Bloody
  • Wanker
  • Shit
  • Bullshit
  • F*cking

In a nutshell

Tomorrow When the War Began is a dramatic film that depicts the perils faced by a group of teenagers who return from a camping trip to find their homeland invaded by a foreign power and their loved ones captured and imprisoned.

Confronting scenes show the teens struggling to make choices between right and wrong behaviours (given the difficult situation they are in), pushing the limits of their personal beliefs and dealing with the reality of the consequences of their actions. Although some younger teens may have read the book on which the film is based, parents should be aware that this is definitely a movie for older adolescents and adults.

The main messages from this movie are

  • Fight for what is important to you and what you believe in
  • The value of friendships, particularly in times of trouble
  • The importance of freedom and how we take it for granted
  • The consequences and perils of war
  • Living with the consequences of choices that we make.

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

  • friendship
  • bravery and confronting your fears
  • independence
  • resilience

Issues raised in the film that parents may wish to discuss with older children include

  • Loss of freedom of speech
  • Use of fire arms and the debate surrounding gun laws
  • Underage / unprotected sex
  • Drug use
  • Invasion of countries by other nations.