Watch It

On DVD: Now | On Blu-ray: Now

The Polar Express Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 4.0

    out of 100

    Generally favorable reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    A movie for more than one season; it will become a perennial, shared by the generations. It has a haunting, magical quality because it has imagined its world freshly and played true to it,

    Read Full Review

  • 100

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter

    A story that soars with breakneck pace but slows in all the tender moments. Visually, this train ride is both majestic and edge-of-your-seat.

    Read Full Review

  • 30

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    A train wreck of mind-numbing proportions.

  • 58

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Lisa Schwarzbaum

    The screenplay, by Zemeckis and William Broyles Jr., plumps Van Allsburg's simple fable about the purity of childhood faith in what can't be seen with all sorts of wholly invented characters, complications, and declarations.

    Read Full Review

  • 63

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    Simple and evocative, yet teeming with intriguing visual effects.

    Read Full Review

  • See all The Polar Express reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 6+

Book-based treat is full of adventure and positive messages.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that despite the wonderful messages and warm-hearted story, the film is primarily an adventure, with lots of roller coaster thrills and some scary characters that might be too intense and frightening for the youngest children. The Express roars, speeds, and skids on its perilous journey to the North Pole. Sometimes out of control, sometimes racing against dangers and obstacles in its path, it's filled with suspense almost from beginning to end. The child heroes are frequently in danger: from falls, getting lost, left alone on a careening train, in dark and shadowy unknown places facing characters who may wish them harm. The story focuses on a boy who doubts whether or not there is a Santa. (According to the movie, yessiree.)

  • Families can talk about what they believe about Santa, and also about the Lonely Boy and what they think his real gift was.
  • Families can also talk about each of the lessons punched into the tickets given to the children. Why was each of those lessons the right one for that child? They can talk about the difference between that which can be proven and that which must be believed without proof. When the conductor says, "Sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can't see," what is he talking about?
  • What is a "crucial year?" Why can't some people hear the bell? Who is the hobo and why is he there?

The good stuff
  • educationalvalue true0

    Educational value: No educational or informational intent, however, there are many positive messages expressed.

  • message true5

    Messages: Filled with positive messages about the importance of believing, the value of friendship, respect for leadership and courage, and the beauty of being kind to others. Some specific messages: "The true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart," "It doesn't matter where the train is going, it's deciding to get on that counts," and "There is no greater gift than friendship."

  • rolemodels true4

    Role models: "Boy," the film's hero, is curious, questioning, and honest. Though he's rightfully fearful in numerous scenes, he overcomes his fear and always does the right thing. "Girl," the other leading child character exhibits ideals of behavior: courage, leadership, friendship, and loving kindness. Adults are portrayed as wise, caring, and intelligent. Only stereotype is the "smart" kid, who is smug and annoying, but does change over the course of the film.

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence and scariness: There are continuous close calls: multiple careening rides (train, pneumatic tube) filmed from a child's point-of-view; treacherous climbs and balancing atop the train; falls and lost kids; a runaway railway car; cracking ice beneath a speeding train; and a ghostly hobo appears to shatter into pieces at one point. No one is injured and the hobo reappears in fine form later.

  • sex false0

    Sexy stuff: Not applicable

  • language false0

    Language: Not applicable

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not applicable

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false0

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Not applicable