Superheroes are everywhere. We see them on our TV screens; we see them on our cereal boxes; we see them while walking through the clothing section and down the toy aisle at Target.
We even see them in our children’s schools and libraries, reminding them that “Super kids are super readers!” and that “Heroes always turn in their homework on time!” We can’t avoid them. They’re everywhere.
But are superhero movies actually appropriate for kids?
The answer isn’t as simple as a yes or a no. It’s more accurate to say that some superhero movies are appropriate for some kids, some will be appropriate for kids when they get a little older and some just aren’t appropriate for children at all.
Be sure to check out our list of the 40 Best Superhero Movies for Kids – we have something on the list for kids from toddlers to teens.
Kids Grow Up Too Fast
Although it sounds like a typical parental cliche’, kids really do grow up too fast. One second, you’re in the delivery room, holding your sweet newborn in your arms.
Then you lie down for a little nap, and when you wake up, you’re hugging him before sending him off to college. A scientist would tell you that this is impossible, but as a mom, I’m telling you it’s the 100% gospel truth.
With that in mind, we don’t want to expose our kids to anything that’s going to help speed up that growth. We can’t shelter our kids from the world completely, but we do the best we can, and one of the things we can do is monitor what they’re putting into their minds.
This means vetting the movies and TV shows they’re watching, the books they’re reading, what they’re doing on the internet and what types of music they’re playing.
Despite what some people may think, this isn’t being overly protective; it’s just helping your beautiful, sweet children keep their innocence as long as they can.
Are Superhero Movies Bad for Kids?
Most superhero movies feature the same basic “good versus evil” concept. The characters, actions and plots may be different, but at its core, each movie has one good guy (or a group of good guys) fighting to overcome one bad guy (or a group of bad guys).
Except in very rare cases when there’s a crazy twist at the end, the good guys always win. In that respect, superhero movies are good for your kids because they reinforce the idea that being bad never gets you ahead and that evil never triumphs.
However, it’s those differences in characters, actions and plots that determine whether or not a specific superhero movie is right for your child.
Most of the big blockbusters that we see everywhere today – The Avengers, Batman, Superman, the Suicide Squad, Venom – aren’t going to be suitable for kids of all ages because while they do have that ultimate “good defeats evil” theme, there is a lot of violence, a lot of fighting, some death and loss, some sexual innuendo and even some bad language.
These aren’t things you want your three-year-old child imitating, no matter how cool the superhero is.
These big blockbusters are more suited to teenagers than children. Some of them, like Spider-man, Ant-Man and Shazam!, are light and clean enough for tweens and maybe even some younger children (eight to nine years old). Most, though, will be way too violent for you to feel comfortable allowing your younger children to watch.
That doesn’t mean you have to keep your children away from superheroes though. It just means you have to pick their superhero exposure a little more carefully.
There are some superhero movies out there that are clean and sweet enough even for the youngest of children. You just need to know where to look and how to determine what’s suitable.
How Do You Know What’s Safe?
Vetting your children’s media can definitely make parenting a little more difficult and give you a little extra work to do, but none of us became parents because we thought it was going to be an easy job we could just coast right through doing.
There are plenty of ways to determine whether or not a movie is suitable for your children as long as you’re willing to put in the work.
Check the Rating
First and foremost, check the movie’s Motion Picture Association (MPA) film rating. This is a good indicator of what kind of content the movie contains. MPA ratings are broken down into the following categories:
- G – General Audiences – The movie is suitable for children of all ages.
- PG – Parental Guidance Suggested – There may be some material of which you wouldn’t approve, usually in the form of mild language, light violence or “potty humor.”
- PG-13 – Parents Strongly Cautioned – There may be material unsuitable for children who are under the age of 13, usually in the form of harsher language, more extended violence, sexual innuendo, “non-sexual” sexual situations (kissing, touching, etc.) or instances of drug or alcohol use.
- R – Restricted – Kids under the age of 17 require parental permission at theaters due to instances of objectionable content such as nudity, very bad language (up to and including the “f” word), sexual scenes, intense, graphic violence, lots of blood, etc.
- NC-17 – No One Under 17 Admitted – This prohibits children from watching the movie in theaters, even if a parent or guardian is present. While this could mean instances of obscenity or “soft-core pornography,” it doesn’t always mean that. There’s simply something in the film that isn’t suitable for non-adults.
With any rating, there’s usually a warning in the box out to the right side that tells you exactly what type of material earned the movie the rating it has.
For example, the rating for The Dark Knight Rises is PG-13, and the reason for the rating is listed as “intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language.”
Visit Sites that Break It Down Further
In addition to viewing the MPA rating, you can also visit sites like CommonSenseMedia or the Parent’s Guide section of IMDB to see what other parents are saying about the movies you’re thinking of showing your children.
These are parents just like you who’ve watched these movies alone or with their children and taken the time to give their honest opinions on whether or not the movies are suitable for kids.
Do a “Pre-Watch”
If there’s a superhero movie – or any movie, for that matter – that you’re super excited about sharing with your child but the rating and the reviews are giving you pause, just watch it for yourself first. You’re the very best judge of what kind of content your child is ready to see. Wait until your kiddos are in bed one night, and pop it in the Blu-ray player. Although it’s the most time-consuming way of vetting a movie, it’s also the most accurate and effective.
Are There Any Superhero Movies My Toddlers Can Watch?
Again, you’re the best judge of what’s okay for your child to watch. For example, there were a few superhero movies that my son watched when he was quite young. Iron Man was one of these.
Although the suggested age for Iron Man is 13, my son watched it when he was about seven because I pre-watched it and found that the benefits of him watching it – a potential interest in science and technology, the enjoyment we could get sharing it together, the life lesson that brain is better than brawn, even though brawn is pretty cool, too – outweighed the potential negatives – Tony’s womanizing ways, some mild language and the fight scenes.
However, to answer this question simply, yes, there are superhero movies appropriate for toddlers. They aren’t going to be the big name hits that are shown around every corner, though.
VeggieTales and Paw Patrol both have their own superhero movies that are entirely suitable for your youngest children. There are others out there as well, but they’ll most likely be animated. There aren’t a lot of live action superhero movies geared towards toddlers.
What If I Can’t Find a Movie I Think is Okay?
If you don’t find a superhero movie you think is appropriate for your kids, that’s okay! They’re your kids! No one gets to judge you or scold you for the way you decide to raise your kids (except maybe your own mom).
That’s the beautiful thing about being a parent. However, if your little ones are just itching to see superheroes, you might have better luck with television shows instead of movies. There are a surprising number of superhero TV shows quite suitable for little kids.
So, Are Superhero Movies Appropriate for Kids?
The short answer is yes. 99% of the time, there’s a superhero movie out there for your child that will be okay, even if it takes you a little while to find it. That’s the great thing about superhero movies becoming so popular – everyone’s jumping on board and marketing more and more superhero movies to more and more demographics.
If the big Hollywood blockbusters turn you off, just be patient. Do a little digging, and you’re bound to find the right superhero movies for your kids.