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Pirates of Penzance

This movie at a glance
  • Parental guidance recommended
  • Not recommended for children under 5
  • Parental guidance for children under 8
  • Suitable for children over 8
  • Contains violence and scary scenes
  • Includes themes that might confuse or bore children
Genre Musical
Length 150 minutes
Release Date 11/07/2015


Not recommended for children under 5 Not recommended for children under 5
Parental guidance for children under 8 Parental guidance for children under 8
Suitable for children over 8 Suitable for children over 8
Contains violence and scary scenes Contains violence and scary scenes
Includes themes that might confuse or bore children Includes themes that might confuse or bore children


Pirates of Penzance is a Mike Leigh film of an English National Opera production of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic comic opera. 

Pirates of Penzance begins on Frederic’s 21st birthday, when he’s freed from his accidental apprenticeship to a band of pirates. He decides to stop being a pirate and live an honest life. On his way from the pirate ship, he meets a sweet girl named Mabel and her many sisters. Mabel and Frederic fall in love and plan to be married. 

Their plans are thwarted when the Pirate King finds a loophole in Frederic’s contract, which means that Frederic might have a duty to return to the pirates. A comedy of errors follows, focusing on Frederic’s bumbling attempts to decide where his duty lies – with Mabel or the pirates.

Here we outline any topics, issues and ideas in this movie that might upset children and adolescents, so that you can gauge whether it is appropriate for your child. For example, children and adolescents may react adversely to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, separation from a parent, animal cruelty or distress, children as victims, natural disasters and racism.
Crime; being an orphan; kidnapping
Here we identify any violence in this movie, and explain how and why it might impact on your child or adolescent. In general, movie violence can make children less sensitive to the use of violence in real life. Alternatively, they may become fearful about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world. In some contexts, it can also teach them to see violence as an acceptable means of conflict resolution.

There is some violence in Pirates of Penzance, but it’s all played for comedy. For example:

  • The pirates attack policemen with swords and guns, and the policemen hit the pirates with batons.
  • The Pirate King holds a knife to the Major General’s throat.
  • The pirates try to kidnap Mabel and her sisters and force them into marriage.

Content that may disturb children

Under 8
Children in this age group might be scared of the pirates and their attempts to kidnap the young women.

From 8-13
Nothing of concern

Over 13
Nothing of concern

Sexual references

Pirates of Penzance has some sexual references. For example:

  • Frederic has never seen a young woman before. When he meets Mabel and her sisters he talks about how beautiful they are.
  • Mabel and Frederic flirt with each other.
  • The pirates look at the girls suggestively.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

Pirates of Penzance shows the pirates getting drunk in one scene.

Nudity and sexual activity

Pirates of Penzance shows Frederic and Mabel kissing.

Product placement

There is no product placement in Pirates of Penzance.

Coarse language

None of concern

Ideas to discuss with your children

Pirates of Penzance: English National Opera is a film of the English National Opera’s production of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic. The story itself is a witty comedy of misunderstanding and confusion. A lot of its humour comes from wordplay and the implications of Frederic’s leap year birthday. 

The movie is exempt from rating because it’s the film of a live stage production.

The movie is approximately 150 minutes long, and includes the overture and a 20-minute interval. Its length and the Victorian language make it a difficult movie for young children to sit through and understand, and younger children might also be scared by the pirates and some violent scenes. Therefore we don’t recommend it for children under 5 years, and we do recommend parental guidance for children aged 5-8 years, who might need some of the humour and the plot explained to them.

The main messages from this movie are to keep your promises and to follow your conscience always.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include loyalty, integrity and honesty.

This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like the consequences of violence and crime, and of not fulfilling promises.


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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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