City of Ember tells the story of an underground city built 200 years ago in the hope of saving humanity from the end of the world. At the time, a special box was also created and encrypted with secret plans for escaping the city. The box is programmed only to release the escape plan in 200 years. When the holder of the box dies suddenly, it is misplaced and the plans for the way out of the city are lost.

The main characters of the film, Lina Mayfleet (Saoirse Ronan) and Doon Harrow (Harry Treadaway), are teenagers living in the city 200 years after its conception. They have just started their first jobs as service people to the city and become concerned about the city’s future when they notice that food supplies are running low and the city’s only generator is beginning to fail.

Lina finds the special box in the back of a dusty cupboard. Together with Doon, she battles a corrupt mayor, a weary society and a giant mole to piece together the clues within the box and discover a way out of the city.


The end of the world; orphans


There is some violence in this movie including the following:

  • Doon is chased by a menacing man and thrown down a flight of stairs.
  • A man who is arrested as he attempts to leave the city is taken away screaming by masked men.
  • The mayor is eaten by a giant mole (we see the mole coming for the mayor and hear the mayor screaming as he is eaten).
  • A giant mole chases Lina and Doon and attempts to eat them. The pursuit is lengthy and frightening.
  • When Lina becomes aware that the mayor is stealing food from the city’s residents, the mayor’s assistant grabs her, throws her against a wall and takes her to the mayor.
  • Lina and Doon are chased by the mayor’s police force in an aggressive manner. The police force themselves into Lina’s and Doon’s homes, accuse friends of helping them, and smash and overturn objects.
  • The mayor shoves a man and a physical fight ensues.

Content that may disturb children

Under 8

In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of eight, including the following:

  • There are a series of blackouts in the city where there is no light for periods of time and many people are afraid.
  • Screaming and panicking people try to escape a fire in the generator that keeps the city running.
  • Lina and Poppy are orphans.
  • Lina’s grandmother becomes sick and the doctor has no medications to give her.
  • Lina’s grandmother dies and her body is seen.
  • There are several dark and scary scenes of the giant mole chasing and eating people.
  • There are giant moths in the city.
  • Doon struggles to fix a massive pipe after it explodes, and he is nearly drowned.

From 8-13

Children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above. They might be particularly troubled by the atmosphere of impending doom in the film and the death of the grandmother of Lina and Poppy, who are already orphans.

Over 13

Children in this age group might also be disturbed by the sense of impending doom created throughout the film. The city is in the midst of a food shortage, its only generator is failing, and there is no way out.

Sexual references

None of concern

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Product placement

None of concern

Coarse language

None of concern

Ideas to discuss with your children

City of Ember is a fantasy adventure based on the 2003 post-apocalyptic book of the same name by Jeanne DuPrau.

The main messages from this movie are:

  • Never give up, no matter what the odds.
  • Work as a team to face challenges and hurdles.

Values in this movie that you might wish to reinforce with your children include:

  • strength of will
  • persistence
  • caring for family and friends
  • sticking together.

This movie could also give you the opportunity to discuss with your children the importance of:

  • environmental issues and resource demand
  • what might happen if we do not respect our environment
  • corrupt governments.