Summer Movie Survival Guide


With summer comes a plethora of movie choices, and with a plethora of movie choices comes a serious headache for parents trying to navigate the choppy waters without letting their kids slip overboard into the downstream flow of our culture.

Summer Movie Survival Guide

How about a few places to check online to learn about movies from a parents’ point of view? I’ve found several sources that have varying reliabilities when it comes to weeding out what we don’t want our kids to see. After all, it’s not only not feasible to go to every movie before we let the kids see it, but we don’t actually want to do that!

Decent Films

decent films guide twitter

First and foremost, I can’t say enough about the terrific reviews that Steven D. Greydanus does at and the National Catholic Register.

You can follow him on Twitter for updates on his movie reviews. While there are plenty of services that provide a parents’ view, or even a Christian view, of the latest releases, Steven writes from a Catholic perspective. This can make a difference on some points; for example, if a character has a beer with a meal, Steven sees it from the Catholic perspective (hey, no biggie) rather than from the point of view that it’s scandalous to let alcohol pass your lips.

If you are impatient and not in the mood to read a lengthy review, he has a great collection of 60-Second Reviews on video. Steven is kind enough to let you know if there are spoilers in his review, though he usually steers clear of that. His reviews are pretty thoughtful, and looking at them through a Catholic lens can also help us grow in appreciation of hidden good in current movie fare.

Common Sense Media

common sense media

Another source, one that even has its own free app, is Common Sense Media.

They review television shows as well as movies, and if you register (free), you can not only get weekly newsletters discussing new releases and other topics of interest, you can also leave reviews for TV shows and movies.

Kids can get accounts as well, which means that they can also leave reviews (marked as “Kid Reviews” on the site).

There are also sections with digital media reviews, though they’re getting ready to launch a site that seems dedicated to this area soon.

What I’ve liked about Common Sense is that they give age recommendations for each review with a Stop (red), Pause (yellow),  Go (green) quick-look ratings for various age ranges.

Hearing about what other parents think can also be a good thing. I do want to be honest, though: I have found some of the parental reviews lacking at times. I have that Quasi-Amish streak going, which apparently not all parents have. (Go figure!) So when I am deciding on a DVD we have of an old (pre-kid) favorite, I now watch it first rather than rely on other parents. (This was a hard-learned lesson when we relied on the “there’s some light profanity” parent review for Ghostbusters. Our idea of “light” is much different than that other parent!)

The Common Sense App is available on nearly every platform you can think of; get information on that at this link.



Slightly more specific, but that contains spoilers at times, is the IMdB site.

I was surprised to find that many movies have a Parents’ Guide built in to the information for many movies and TV shows. This was how I learned about a particular scene in the current Star Trek (gratuitous, less than 10 seconds long, and definitely not something I wanted my kids to see), as well as which episode of “Sherlock” to skip when watching with my 14-year-old.

The only problem is that not every movie or TV show has this parental guide, so it’s a little hit-or-miss. But as you can see from this link to the Schindler’s List Parent Guide, it has great details.



A site that’s been around for a long time now is Screen-It.

When I first found it more than a decade ago, it was a free site with the most detailed (and spoiler-filled) reviews I’d ever seen of movies. Gradually, its content has moved behind a paywall, and it’s now a subscription-only site. (You have the option to see five reviews for free before paying, but that’s all.)

If you don’t mind the spoilers and the subscription, this is a fantastic site that tallies each and every possibly objectionable moment in every movie. There’s a list of movies on DVD, as well as current releases.

If you have teens who want to go to movies alone, and you don’t really plan on watching everything first, and especially if spoilers don’t bother you, Screen-It is excellent.

I haven’t had a subscription since they went behind that paywall, but I can tell you that I remember being quite appreciative of the care they took in detailing everything from swearing to drinking and drugs to whether young characters show disrespect for their elders. Subscriptions can be done monthly for $7.95 per month or you can prepay for a year at $47.

Again, if you’ve got teenagers who are out to movies without you, this can be a real help. I’m quickly approaching that time, and I’m starting to consider the subscription myself.

So there you have it: my top places to get good movie reviews that help busy parents make educated decisions on the movies their family watches. If you have other sources, please let me know! I’m always on the lookout for reliable sources that help me protect my children’s innocence.

Read more of our Tech Talk columns.

Copyright 2013 Christine Johnson


About Author

Christine Johnson has been married to Nathan since 1993 and has two daughters whom she homeschools. They live in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia, where she tries to fit in as a transplanted Yank. She blogs at Domestic Vocation about her life as a wife, mother, homeschooler, and Lay Dominican.

Leave A Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.