Appropriate Age at the Movies

Updated on June 11, 2011
J.C. asks from Rockwall, TX
35 answers

Some friends are going to take their 3 year olds to watch the upcoming Cars 2 and they've invited my preschooler to go. My son has never been to the movie theater, and I don't let him watch anything longer than 1 hour. With the first Cars movie, I only let him watch bits at a time. Cars 2 is almost 2 hours long. Do you think it'll be alright for him to go? I heard there's more action and weapons in this one. So, I'm not sure if I want to let him go. What do you think? At what age do you think young children can start going to the movie theater to watch children's animated movies?

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

We decided to wait for the movie to come out and read the reviews before allowing our DS to watch Cars 2. Thankfully, we did because there were many parent reviews about the unsuitability for young kids due to the violence. In case you're thinking about taking your kids to watch this movie, you should read the reviews first. Here's one site:

Featured Answers



answers from Oklahoma City on

If you have that strong of feelings about movies and stuff just say no. Most kids have been to see all the Disney/Pixar movies in the theaters by the time they are 1-2 years old. I don't know anyone with toddlers who have not had their kids to at least one movie already.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

we waited until my kids were 7 and 5. I wanted them to really be ready for it and make it a big event. there are sites that will review movies and let you know what the bad parts are, one gives it in detail listing the potty words etc. Pm me if you google and can't find anything, I can find them just don't have the time righ tnow.



answers from Seattle on

It's different for all kids. My own son actually saw his first movie in the theatre at about age 3... he absolutely loved it and had a fantastic time. Other kids can't sit still for 2 minutes at a time, or get freaked out.

For a first movie I'd be prepared to treat it as an experiment. Go with him (regardless of when that is), sit by the aisle, and be prepared to go home early, though you may end up staying for the whole thing.

More Answers



answers from Lancaster on

None of my kids have seen a movie in theaters until they were 6 years old.

I think 3 is too young to be parked in front of a screen for that long, regardless of whether it's at home or in theaters. I applaud you for only letting him watch in hour increments. :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

I started taking my daughter to movies, concerts, and plays with me when she was seven months old.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

There are many theaters that have summer movie programs for very little $. Harkins is playing Clifford next week and the cost for going to the movies every week for the entire summer is $5/person. I used this summer program as a trial to see how my son would do. I'm very disappointed that Cars 2 will have guns and violence, but we're going to go see it anyway. My son take Cars toys with him everywhere he goes and shows checkers at the store and and random people at restaurants. At least 50% of the people he talks to about his cars ask him if he's going to see the new Cars movie this summer so he's very aware that it's comng out.



answers from Dallas on

My daughter is now 4 and I had the same questions when she was younger. I always said I would not take her to a movie theater before she was 3. Her first movie was the last Shrek, she did just fine in it, although she was afraid of the seat at first. I have taken her to 3 other movies since and 2 of them she was clearly not interested so we left. I'd say take him and follow your son's lead. It could be a great experience or it could just be a bit of exposure for him. Btw-I also limit my daughter's media viewing to 3 hours a week, breaking it down into one hour increments 3 days a week and she did just fine sitting in the movie, she would get up every once in awhile but she stayed in front of her seat. Good luck!



answers from Saginaw on

Well your son might have an issue with watching the whole thing right through since you never give him the opportunity to watch a complete movie. As far as the movie I think it would be fine for him but I have not seen it! I however didn't realize that there were going to be weapons in Cars 2 so I might have to pre-screen it for my kids (yep looks like some weapon seens and things blowing up) so it is your call. We take our little ones to the free summer movies each year as a treat, we don't watch much television but they do get to watch a show/movie all the way through. There is NO harm in letting a child watch t.v for more then an hour at a time as long as you don't have him in front of the t.v. for two hour straight EVERY day. Keep an open mind about tv and movies, yes it hurts them to watch a lot but really not much harm in letting them see a movie all the way through now and again.


answers from Washington DC on

If your child cannot sit through a movie at home, they cannot sit through a movie at the theater.

I would say no unless you are going with him to walk out with him when he gets restless.

My kids were going to the movies at 4 and even then it was tough as they would want to go....go....go!!



answers from Portland on

I'd say it's different for each kid.

My son has never been to a theatre to see a movie. We've done concerts, because he loves music, but not movies. My reasoning is simple. I can't preview what he's going to see, and he's a sensitive kid. He didn't even want to watch the Beatrix Potter "Tales of Peter Rabbit" because he didn't like the scene of Mr. MacGregor chasing Peter... it really upset him. And if we go online to look at dinosaurs, he might want to start with "watching a T Rex" but before even the mildest video starts, he will ask "No, just want to look at pictures of T Rex". He's not overly sensitive, but the music and tension in movies and videos is often heightened, and that does affect him.

He also simply doesn't understand the language, sarcasm, or premise of many kid movies because they are made to be entertaining for adults too. So, we're sticking to the slow lane for now....

I remember going to see animated movies when I was young, so I think it really depends on the child. We are just trying to respect his sensitivity..,. we know he'll tell us when it's something he wants to do. He hasn't asked yet, and isn't hugely interested in watching videos at home, either.



answers from Milwaukee on

We started at 3.5 years old and he LOOOVES going to movies. I was VERY concerned he wouldn't behave but he turned into the ANGEL CHILD. He went into hyper focus mode and was LOCKED into "Yogi Bear." He loved sitting in the booster seat with the little cup holder for his juice.

Since then we have gone to about five more movies.

WE are OBSESSED with "Cars 2." I have a Google Alert search for C2 and we watch the clips on You Tube everyday. We know most of the names already and did a trip to Target last night to get two more cars for his vast collection.

I don't think the run-time is two hours. I'd be shocked if it went past 90 minutes. They are going to have a six minute "Toys" short before the movie and from what I've seen, it looks really cute.

Btw, I mentioned it was my son's first time and the ticket taker said to come back for a refund if he wouldn't sit thru the movie. That made me feel better after he took my $19.00 for the three of us. YIKES!


answers from Portland on

Let him go.
They will go during the day, there will be lots of other kids. No one goes to a movie made for children and expects to have total silence and no interruptions (for bathroom breaks and moving around) and if they do, they are crazy.

My kiddo went to the theatre with her cousins when she was 2 or 3, she sat in a booster seat and was enthralled.

She actually does BETTER in a theatre watching a movie than at home... I think cause it is dark and not as many distractions, just the movie.

She loved it.
And as far as the action and weapons..
I am about as anti-violence and anti-gun as you can get...
but, its a cartoon....

let him go :)


answers from Dallas on

When taking my toddler to the movies I usually go to the first showing of the day. I also enjoy going to crybaby matinee at the Angelika theatre on Thursdays.

However, before our youngest was one I went first showings to see what I wanted due to she'd sleep through it. Then after turning one I went more kid flicks. So at 2 1/2 her first flick that she actually laughed at was "Rango". Since my toddler is a talker and laughs loud, like her daddy, we do first showings of the day on monday through wednesday, that are cheap and almost empty, or we go to the Angelika where there are many other moms with babies and toddlers on crybaby matinee day. I'm sure your 3 year old will be fine. Plus, we conditioned our kids at home by watching movies in the dark with all surround sound on so they were good to go in the movies.


answers from Los Angeles on

It is different for every child.

Go with your gut. You know your child best.

For the record, I do not see any harm in letting him try, what's the worst that can happen? You have to take him out? It is a kids movie and I do not think anyone will care or be inconvenienced by that at a kids movie!

~My boys couldn't really sit still and be entertained by a movie in the theater until they were @ 4 ish....but my daughter on the other hand is totally capable of sitting still and watching w/out talking or wiggling, which I am excited about b/c 'Beauty and The Beast' the Broadway show is coming to our city next year and we are SO taking her w/us to see it! She will be 4!



answers from Dallas on

Use your own judgment and instinct. If you want to take your time introducing movies to your son, then do so. He has his whole life to go to the movies. Slow down, take your time, introduce him to things at his and your own pace. Cars 2 will be around forever on DVD. I applaud your ideals about limiting him to 1 hour movies and shielding him from weapons, etc. He's 3. Let him be a kid.


answers from San Francisco on

I waited until my kid could sit through a movie at home and also follow directions. We trained her to pull on our sleeves and to whisper in our ears to practice for when we went to the "big movie screen". When she was about four and a half, and the movie Tangled came out in theaters, we took her to the show for the first time. I sat one side of her and my husband was on the other, flanking her to protect strangers from the inevitable foot or elbow that would jab out while she re-adjusted herself in the seats.

One thing we didn't anticipate was the seats folding up to eat our small kid. We took off our sweatshirts and stuffed them around her to give her more bulk so the chair wouldn't keep trying to fold up on her.

Right before the movie started, after the commercials and just as the lights were going down my daughter tugged on my sleeve and said, "Pause the movie mama! I have to PEE!" Laughing we rushed to the potty as I explained that when we go to the public theater we can't pause it like at home. Other people are watching and it would be rude to stop the whole production for just us, so hurry hurry!

She did very well and loved the show. At one point towards the end when the lanterns all came out of the castle and the music swelled, she lept out of her chair and raised her arms in the air to sway and bob with the music.

For my kid's first trip to the movie I wouldn't let him go with friends alone. If you want to let him go, buy a ticket and go along as well in case he melts down, you can extract him without disturbing everyone else.


answers from Philadelphia on

my daughter was 1 and 1/2 and watched 99% of horton hears a who before i had to leave, she wasnt being bad she was J. getting 3 she was watching any movie and the history channel...shes a calm kid though



answers from Dallas on

I wouldn't worry about the guns and shooting in the movie. I would worry that your kid has the ability to sit and pay attention for 2 hours! Can he do this watching a movie at home? Give it a try first. I'd hate to spend the ticket money only to have to leave after an hour.


answers from Chicago on

We tried KungFu Panda (the first one) when it came out, my son was 3 I think ... he could easily watch Cars in one sitting and was happy to do so ... figured the theater would be a fun thing esp for KungFu Panda ... WRONG! My son was soooo into all of the surroundings then the theater went dark and he went OUT! So, I would think about holding off on this one, watching it on DVD with your screening first. My understanding is that Cars 2 is geared towards the kids that fell in love with it at 4 or 5 a few years ago and are now older. So, I would watch first. That's why we are holding off on KungFu Panda and Cars2 and we did the same with ToyStory3.



answers from Phoenix on

It all depends on what you are comfortable with. I try to limit my kids TV to an hour most day, but I would definitely let them watch an entire movie. My kids were good about watching movies in a theatre around 3-4. I personally wouldn't be concerned about the violence in this movie, but I am fairly easy going, although my husband would probably disagree :)



answers from San Francisco on

Every kid is different and every kid is going to react differently depending on the movie, time of day, type of mood they are in, etc. It is a judgement call. I would definitely go with them and if he is acting up I would bring him home or take him out of the movie for a break and then bring him back in. If he has never been to a theater before I would definitely go with him that way if he doesn't like the movie, gets bored or scared, you'll be there.



answers from Boston on

Hmmmm...depends on the child. My oldest was a total PITA until he was about 4. The younger ones were fine by age 3. Try to have him watch a full-length movie at home and see how he does. It could be a total blast for him or he could end up being really antsy, needing to go the bathroom every 20 minutes, etc. If you can go then I would definitely do it but if you're not sure and you're not going, you should really take him to a movie first before having him go with your friends in case he's a total pain, hates it, gets scared is disruptive, etc.



answers from Dallas on

Last summer we took our boys to the free movie at the theater, to see how they'd do. They were not quite 3. They did great! Give it a trial run like that for free before you go see Cars 2. See how he does. :) (Rave Motion Pictures and Cinemark has the free movies in our area, not sure about Rockwall)



answers from Dallas on

plugged in is an excellent source for movie reviews for all ages



answers from Dallas on

I agree with others comments that it really depends on the child and his/her attention span, ability to sit still, etc.
I took my daughter to her first movie when she was 2 1/2 and it was fine. She doesn't watch much television at home so I was uncertain whether she would sit in the theatre for an hour and a half or if the darkness would be unsettling to her. But she loved it. I think it was more of the overall experience - one on one time with Mom as well as getting to have popcorn and other snacks that are a special treat for her. We went to see Tangled and 6 months later she still mentions going to see this on the "big TV" with Mommy. So as long as you are comfortable with the content of the movie, I say give it a try. The worst thing that can happen is you have to leave early - but for the first movie, I would want to go with my child. One to see how they handle it and secondly, just creating that memory with them.



answers from Augusta on

I was just thinking about this same question for my 3 /2 year old son and decided to take the plunge and took him last saturday to see Kung Fu Panda 2. He wasn't asking to go I just thought maybe at his age, he would be ok sitting through the movie. Couple of things: we didn't sit down until about 15 min before the movie (I was worried he would be bored), I'm glad my mom came with us because the theatre was packed and that way he had someone familiar on both sides of him, and I mad sure he used the bathroom before we sat down. We also brought along a blanket in case he was cold.

He did great! I had told him beforehand that we had to be quiet so others could enjoy the movie and when ppl were getting loud he would put his finger up to his mouth and say "shhhh" lol He watched the movie for the most part, would ask questions but towards the last 10 -15 minutes he started asking is it over yet lol Another thing is I had brought a "goody" bag with us in case the popcorn and drinks didn't work. I had crackers and a few other snacks in there and that really helped him from getting bored. When he would start wiggling around, I would offer him another treat and he settled right back down. I would say it was an overall success. We are planning to see Cars 2 when it comes out. HTH



answers from Denver on

This is completely individual. My kids were going to the movies around age 3 and we did not see the movies without them before going. I think that depending on your child's reaction to action and weapons I would not want to send them with another parent instead of going yourself. I also would not want to go to a movie with more than 2 kids per adult and the adult is GREAT at taking out the kid if it gets disruptive. A couple summers back we used to get the movie pack of tickets for the whole summer where we would go to a movie once a week a certain morning of the week. We QUIT doing that because area daycares would get such tickets too and the kids in their charge were loud and out of control. It was also distressing to think that I am there for my kids and am able to respond to their questions about the action on screen but the daycare providers were just trying to get the kids settled for two hours in the air conditioned theater. I think if your child is not to the point of sitting still at home to watch the first one it will not be a good possibility that he or she will sit through the second one in a loud dark theater



answers from Dallas on

I personally wouldn't want my 3 year old parked in front of a screen for 2+ hours, regardless if he could handle it. I also wouldn't want him exposed to the snarkiness and somewhat disrespectful (albeit funny) dialogue. I think kindergarten is probably a better age- they enjoy it more, remember more, and won't come home saying snarky things to their parents because while they realize they are funny, they know what is and isn't appropriate to say family.

So, to your question- its not going to do any permanent harm to your son. Is it the best thing, probably not. Do you have something else more involved/interesting/educational for him to do instead?


answers from San Francisco on

Well we LOVE going to the movies so our kids started pretty young, around 3 or 4.
Watching a full length film does require some attention span so if he's not used to that then sitting still and paying attention to the story could be a problem.
Also some kids get scared the first time because it is loud and dark. Maybe since it's his first time you should go with him :)



answers from Dallas on

I took both my boys to the theater for their first movie right after they turned 2. My oldest is EXTREMELY high energy with short attention span, but loved videos (the baby videos he would watch at home). We weren't sure if he would pay attn for 1 1/2 hrs, but he did great- sat in our lap and was mesmerized the whole time. My second son was never into movies as much as my oldest, but he would always sit still for longer periods of time, so when he was 2 we all went to see How to Train Your Dragon, and he did wonderful (again, sitting in my husband's lap most of the time). Now the baby we have now- she'll be a different story. She went to the theater for the first time when she was about 1 month old! That 3rd child gets dragged around to everything, so she'll probably get to go to the theater multiple times before she's 2. I would go and enjoy and outing with friends. If parts seem overwhelming, you can cover his eyes or distract him. If he gets restless, you can leave early and wait awhile before you try again. I think he's old enough for a children's animated movie, and he might surprise you and do great and love it!



answers from Gainesville on

It depends I think it might be really fun! But it depends on how you feel, and your child... I know I tried to take my daughter to a movie at 3 and it was horrible! she didn't like the dark and she had to go potty like 3 times and thought the movie was boring. I can't remember what movie it was but I felt like it was a waste of $. My youngest though was totally great about movies at 3...



answers from Dallas on

My ped has several times told us that little ones ears are very sensitive and big sceen movies are way too loud for kids under five. If he gets restless you can always leave but I would wait. If you're questioning it, listen. I would say no. Sounds like you already have a good structure in not letting him watch more than an hour anyway. Go with it.



answers from Atlanta on

We take ours at age two after they've sat through a children's feature length film at home. Why don't you take him to a different movie that's out for kids right now like Kung Fu Panda or Rio and see how he does? I think you should plan to go with him to see Cars 2. I wouldn't let me child go to the movies at that age without me. Don't worry about action or weapons! That makes movies fun -especially for little boys! They enjoy it! Both of my boys have LOVED the first Cars since age 2. Why don't you let him sit and watch the whole thing? That would also help you gauge his interest for the new one. I'm sure it's horribly frustrating to never get to see tbe whole story.


answers from Dallas on

This is something that is going to be based on the individual child. It is not a "one size fits all" answer. My daughter saw Cars as her first "at the movies" experience and she was 3 years old. She did very well and plan to go see Cars 2 now that she is 7 when it comes out this month. However, my daughter is the youngest of three much older siblings so she was much more mature for her age than some 3 yr olds.

Trust your instincts. YOU know your child better than anyone else.



answers from Dallas on

This is such a great question. Even though my kids (ages 3 and 5) have seen a lot of movies, I still worry about content. And the rating system can be really confusing. Stuart Little is PG and apparently has some swear words in it, while Stuart Little 2 is also PG and has no bad language. And yesterday we watched a G-rated movie where at least 3 times I heard a character yell "Shut up!" at someone. Not cool! Anyway...

There is a great website I use to find out the appropriateness of movies and TV shows before letting my kids watch them (because I do NOT have time to screen everything myself first!) - I always make sure to read the other parents' reviews, and not just go by the age rating the site assigns.

As far as whether or not he'll be able to sit there for 2 hours, you're probably the best judge of that. But I'll bet that with his friends there, and it being his first time in the theater, he'll think it's a real treat.

But if you're not comfortable with it yet (or not sure that the content of the movie is OK), skip this one - he'll have plenty of opportunities to see movies in the future!

Good luck in making your decision!

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions