Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) is a petulant and whiny teenager, lost in her own fantasy world and reluctant to grow up. She’s annoyed when her father and stepmother ask her to stay at home and babysit her baby brother, Toby (Toby Froud).
Toby won’t stop crying and Sarah is so frustrated that she wishes the Goblin King would come and steal him away. Suddenly the house goes silent and Sarah realises with horror that her wish has been granted – Toby has gone. The Goblin King (David Bowie) appears mysteriously in her bedroom to explain that he has taken the baby away to his kingdom. If Sarah wants him back, she has only 13 hours to solve the labyrinth that surrounds the castle and rescue the baby. If she can’t do it, Toby will become a goblin and be lost forever.
Sarah bravely enters the labyrinth, meeting many strange creatures and discovering that nothing is quite how it seems.
Fantasy; supernatural; magic; kidnapping; coming of age; loss of innocence; puppets
Labyrinth has some violence. For example:
- The Goblin King kidnaps baby Toby.
- Goblins hit and shove each other.
- Sarah and her friends battle the goblins in the kingdom. The fight scenes show weapons, kicking, hitting, shooting and bashing.
- A large creature is trapped and strung up by its legs in a tree while goblins hit it with sticks.
- Some dancing creatures in the swamp have removable heads and body parts. They threaten to remove Sarah’s head and then try to get it off her body. She retaliates by taking their heads and throwing them as far as she can.
- Jareth the Goblin King manipulates Sarah psychologically to entice her to become his queen.
- Jareth asks Hoggle to give Sarah a poisoned peach.
Labyrinth has some sexual references. For example, it’s important to note that some viewers think that there’s romantic, almost sexual, tension between Jareth the Goblin King and Sarah. He certainly tries to manipulate her and coerce her into becoming his wife. Given that he’s a mature man and she’s a teenage girl, this could be seen as abusive, grooming behaviour. This is unlikely to register for younger children, but teenagers might pick up on it.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Labyrinth shows some use of substances. For example:
- Jareth the Goblin King gives Sarah a poisoned peach, which makes her intoxicated and unconscious. Jareth then meets Sarah in a dreamlike fantasy.
- The goblins drink something that looks like ale.
Nudity and sexual activity
Labyrinth has some nudity and sexual activity in this movie. For example:
- Jareth the Goblin King wears very revealing leggings.
- Hoggle is seen from the back urinating into a pond and then zipping his pants up.
There’s no product placement in Labyrinth.
Labyrinth has some mild coarse language, including ‘shut up’, ‘stupid’, ‘hell’ and ‘damn’. There’s also some crude humour. For example, the bog of eternal stench makes comic farting noises.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Originally a box office flop, the quirky 1986 movie Labyrinth is now a cult classic. It pulls together some exceptional talent, including Jim Henson’s (Sesame Street and The Muppets) incredible, pre-CGI puppetry skills, Terry Jones’s (Monty Python) writing, and David Bowie’s soundtrack and acting. For younger audiences it’s a dark fairytale quest, full of thrills and crazy characters. For slightly older viewers, it could be a coming-of-age story full of symbolism, an allegory of a young girl leaving her childhood, shedding her innocence and realising her power.
Although Labyrinth is a little dated now, it’s still a very entertaining story for children aged 8-10 years with parental guidance. Adults might enjoy watching David Bowie swagger about in revealing leggings and a feathered mullet.
These are the main messages from Labyrinth:
- Childhood is like a labyrinth – it can be a dark and dangerous place, full of uncertainty where things are not as they seem.
- With persistence and good friends to guide us, we can find a way through and resist evil and temptations.
- We can change and grow if we show courage, persistence and kindness.
Values in Labyrinth that you could reinforce with your children include friendship, honesty, bravery, and the strength to resist seduction, temptation and the lure of material possessions.
Labyrinth could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like grooming and abusive relationships. For example, the movie is about an older man trying to coerce, manipulate and poison a teenage girl into becoming first his slave and then his bride. David Bowie was 39 and Jennifer Connelly was 15 when the movie was made. This story is given a fairytale context, but it seems questionable from a 21st-century perspective.