Willow is an unassuming farmer who dabbles in magic, hoping to someday become a great sorcerer. When a baby appears on a bed of grass on the river by his house, he takes her in and finds out that she is a princess whose destiny is to overthrown the evil Queen. Having such a huge burden thrust upon him, Willow discovers that he is much stronger than he realises and with a few unusual allies, he heads out on an epic adventure to test not only his magic skills but also the very essence of his character.

Willow (1988) – Director: Ron Howard

Is Willow appropriate for kids

“Willow movie”. Via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Willow_movie.jpg#/media/File:Willow_movie.jpg

Rating: PG

Running Length: 126 mins

Starring: Warwick Davis, Val Kilmer, Jean Marsh

Genre: Action/Adventure, Fantasy


The 1980’s was a decade which was chockfull of family movies that were exciting, fun and sometimes even a little scary for every member from the youngest to the oldest. These films included ‘The Goonies’, ‘Labyrinth’, ‘The Never-Ending Story’ and ‘The Princess Bride’; Willow is no exception to the genre of action/adventure movies which were unique to the decade. With its main protagonist being played excellently by Warwick Davis and his main ally, Madmartigan (played in a completely out-of-type role by Val Kilmer), the two unlikely heroes bring a huge amount of warmth and good cheer to proceedings.

With an epic backdrop of castles and a film world inhabited by different sized races reminiscent of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (although it preceded Peter Jackson’s first Tolkien epic ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ by 13 years), ‘Willow’ has all the ingredients for success: a quiet, humble hero, a swashbuckling warrior, an evil villain and plenty of magic; it makes for a wonderful piece of entertainment. Some of the more incidental characters could do with fleshing out and perhaps more background to the ‘good’ witch, Fin Raziel, would have given the audience a better understanding of her but these are only minor criticisms to an otherwise excellent film, the likes of which are unlikely to be seen again.


The movie opens with a written explanation of what is currently happening in the land, a prophecy tells of a child with a special birth mark who will overthrow the Queen, Bavmorda, and the explanation includes the words ‘…seizing all pregnant women in the realm, the evil Queen vows to destroy the child when it is born’. This then leads to a scene of a woman giving birth in a prison cell and her baby is found to be the chosen one; the mother cries and begs a nursemaid to help her saying ‘they’re going to kill her’. The Queen then orders her guards to kill the mother.

The bad soldiers use dog-like creatures to search for whomever the Queen has sent them after. They are black with red eyes, have a long thin tail and a shaggy, black mane, much like a lion, and are very aggressive. They kill a woman by mauling her, the camera shows the woman being knocked to the ground and, from a distance the dogs are seen attacking her. They also attack a village and destroy baby’s crib, which is empty. These creatures could be quite frightening for children.

One of the main villains is a soldier called General Kael who wears a helmet that has a skull-like mask. He is a ferocious warrior and kills many incidental ‘good’ characters.

Early in his adventure, Willow reaches a crossroads which has several gibbets hanging from large wooden contraptions most of which contain skeletons. The atmosphere there is eerie and unseen creatures make strange wailing, screeching and laughing sounds, then Willow is grabbed suddenly by someone who is still alive in a gibbet. The scene then becomes more light-hearted but the beginning of this scene could be a little worrying for kids.

One of the male characters dresses as a woman; it is made clear that he and a married woman have been having an affair and her husband will kill him if he finds out. This character wears large, fake breasts which are completely covered by a dress, the husband walks in and believes this character to be female and begins making sexual advances to him. He grabs one of the fake breasts and asks ‘Wanna breed?’ to which the other character replies, ‘Tempting… but no’.

The character who was dressed as a woman gets caught by the villains and is taunted by a woman who asks ‘lose your skirt?’ to which he replies ‘still got what counts’. The woman then says ‘not for much longer’ before kicking him hard in the face which makes him fall to the floor.

A good character inadvertently gets doused with a love potion which causes him to fall in love with a female villain. After professing his love for her, she holds a dagger between his legs and tells him ‘one move jackass, and you really will be a woman’.

Some trolls attack both good and bad characters during a battle scene. They are man-sized with shaggy fur all over their bodies and they are very aggressive. They growl and snarl and crawl along the walls of a castle. One character uses magic to stop one, causing to it writhe in pain and curl up into a ball. Tendrils then emerge from its body and pull off its skin, leaving a mass of pink flesh which grows and turns into a two-headed, fire-breathing monster. This monster then attacks the people around it, grabbing men from horses with its teeth. It also grabs a troll; the other head bites the other part of its body so that the troll is being pulled between them. The camera cuts away quickly and nothing graphic is seen.

Queen Bavmorda turns an entire army into pigs with magic. The transformation is quite graphic and appears painful with the people involved crying out and falling to the floor, gripping their stomachs. The transformation lasts around 30 seconds with various characters being shown in various states of the process.

The baby in the movie, Elora Danan, is often seen crying and in great distress which is clearly real for the little girl. At the end of the movie, the Queen begins a ritual which will take Elora away from the world and she is very frightened for a prolonged period of time; during this scene, a knife is held near her head and a lock of hair is cut.

A villain is killed during a battle, he is stabbed in the stomach and the sword is hit hard while still in him. He is then dragged onto another sword and punched in the face. This level of violence is quite unexpected as it has not been as strong as this up until this point. This part of the scene may not be shown as it is not in all versions of the film.

A woman is engulfed by a magical red mist, lightning strikes her body which causes her to gasp and groan in shock and pain. As the lightning strikes her, her skull is lit up from within the mist.



With swashbuckling action, a daring quest and a large helping of sorcery, ‘Willow’ is a wonderfully timeless family movie that has become a classic for all the right reasons. As there is violence throughout, albeit relatively child-friendly, we recommend this movie for kids aged 7 and over.

  • Violence: 2/5 (arrows are seen to hit the chests of soldiers, they fall down dead but no blood is seen. A soldier is attacked from behind and has his throat cut, this is seen from a distance and is not gory. A group of soldiers have liquid poured onto them, this is presumably hot oil or water but the camera cuts quickly so no suffering is seen)
  • Emotional Distress: 2/5 (an established character is killed during a battle and speaks to a friend briefly before dying in their arms)
  • Fear Factor: 3/5 (A table is magically brought to life and attacks Willow, it lifts its lid up with two skeletal hands from inside it and there are several bones and skulls inside it. The ritual at the end of the movie could be quite frightening)
  • Sexual Content: 2/5 (one scene includes some fairy-like wood nymphs that are naked but, due to a bright, glowing light around them, nothing explicit is seen. One character looks at an attractive woman and says ‘I could use a love potion on her!’)   
  • Bad Language: 1/5 (some infrequent mild cursing and blasphemy)
  • Dialogue: 3/5 (Characters are heard to say things like ‘sit in your coffin and rot’, ‘I’m gonna cut your head off and stick it on a pig pole’. One character is afraid after being caught, telling another that their captors will ‘stick us in cages, torture us and finally devour us’. Before coming across them, Willow is told that ‘trolls … will skin you alive and take your face off’)
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of strength of character, accepting people on their merits rather than their outward appearance, not giving up on people who may not have always followed the correct path, fighting against evil even when heavily outnumbered and not underestimating your potential.

Words by Laura Record

Willow [Blu-ray] [1988] [Region Free]

New From: £38.99 GBP In Stock

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