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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas a.k.a. “Der Junge im gestreiften Pyjama,” “El Niño con el pijama de rayas,” “Poika raidallisessa pyjamassa”

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some mature thematic material involving the Holocaust.

Reviewed by: Angela Bowman

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults, Teens, Family
1 hr. 33 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
November 7, 2008 (limited—16 theaters)
November 14, 2008 (wider)
DVD: March 10, 2009
Copyright, Miramax Films Copyright, Miramax Films Copyright, Miramax Films Copyright, Miramax Films Copyright, Miramax Films Copyright, Miramax Films Copyright, Miramax Films Copyright, Miramax Films Copyright, Miramax Films Copyright, Miramax Films Copyright, Miramax Films
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Miramax Films

About murder in the Bible


Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

Sin and the Bible

Does God feel our pain? Answer

The Origin of bad—How did bad things come about? Answer

What kind of world would you create? Answer

Persecuted church—Why and how should we pray for suffering Christians? Answer

Featuring: László Áron, Amber Beattie, Asa Butterfield, Attila Egyed, Vera Farmiga, Béla Fesztbaum, Rupert Friend, Sheila Hancock, Gábor Harsai, David Hayman, Zsuzsa Holl, Cara Horgan, Richard Johnson, Henry Kingsmill, Domonkos Meinberg, Domonkos Németh, Jim Norton, Zac Mattoon O'Brien, Jack Scanlon, Gábor Szebényi, David Thewlis, Iván Verebély
Director: Mark Herman
Producer: Miramax Films, Heyday Films, BBC Films, Rosie Alison, Mark Herman, David Heyman, Péter Miskolczi, Mary Richards, Gábor Váradi
Distributor: Miramax Films

“Lines may divide us, but hope will unite us.”

This film is based on a novel by John Boyne.

“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” is a beautiful story that provides a unique view of the holocaust as told from the perspective of the eight year old son of a Nazi officer. When the father (David Thewlis) is promoted, the family moves from Berlin to an isolated home in the country. The first thing young Bruno (played by Asa Butterfield) notices from his new bedroom window is a nearby “farm” with odd people who all wear pajamas. He becomes interested in finding out more about these strange people, however once his mother (Vera Farmiga) realizes that the “farm” he is referring to is actually the Jewish prison camp that his father is running, she forbids Bruno from venturing out that way. The window to his room is boarded up, and his play area becomes very restricted.

In addition to this restriction, and having no playmates, Bruno’s father brings in a tutor for Bruno and his sister Gretel whose focus is to indoctrinate the children in Nazism. Gretel (Amber Beattie) becomes a quick convert, likely due to her age and her interest in one of the soldiers (Lieutenant Kotler, played by Rupert Friend) in her new household. However, Bruno, who enjoys adventure and finds this new subject matter uninteresting, is at first oblivious and innocent to the teachings and of what is really going on around him.

Eventually his boredom, combined with his spirit of exploration, overtake him, and he ventures out into the forbidden area to play, stumbling upon the “farm” and a Jewish boy his own age who is being held prisoner there. Developing relationships with both this boy and a Jewish household servant (Pavel, played by David Hayman), Bruno finally starts to take notice of the world around him and the teachings of his tutor.

At the same time, his sister is becoming obsessed with Nazism, and his mother, finally realizing the extent of the horror that is taking place in the prison camps, is at odds with her husband over the issue. Bruno must decide whether to be loyal to his father and country or to this rejected group of people, in particular Shmuel, and through his journey, a difficult lesson is learned by all.

“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” is a beautiful, touching and powerfully profound film. To me, it really speaks, along with the historical significance and remembrance of the holocaust, of the value of human life, of the necessity of valuing human life, and this is something that is and will always be relevant to current society. I could not help but to reflect on our current issues of abortion and assisted suicide, of what happens when God is removed from society, and when children are indoctrinated with secular humanist theology. I see a frightening parallel in our society, especially in the area of abortion. The fact that hospitals, doctors and nurses may be forced by the government to perform these murders is appalling and immediately brings to mind the infamous Nuremberg Trials, of men who were simply following the orders of their government, yet were later held accountable to their moral obligation to stand against it despite of and over the law of the government (Acts 5:29, obeying God rather than man).

There were also many other valuable truths and lessons. Matthew 18:3 says “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Bruno’s innocence protected him from the harsh reality of the world around him, and this allowed him to see the truth, to realize right from wrong by being able to reach out to a people who were untouchable.

His sister on the other hand, while still young, was older than Bruno and more open to influence by the world, causing her to reject opposition to her beliefs without question, bringing to mind another scripture, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” I think this is a classic example of why it is so important to know the Bible and to study and read it regularly. Because, whether the influence is coming from our home, society or government, if we are rooted in the Word of God, worldviews that conflict with Christianity will be more apparent to us. Regardless, it is our duty to test all things from a Biblical perspective, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Technically speaking, the film’s quality was excellent. Vera Farmiga’s performance as Bruno’s mother especially stood out, proving her to be a superb actress, handling the emotion and depth of her character flawlessly.

While I did notice the Dove approval, I was surprised that the sister, Gretel, is shown at the beginning praying in Jesus’ Name (also reflective of how much she changed during the course of the film).

The actual physical violence was almost nonexistent, beatings and murders were off-screen, although you did sometimes see the actions (a man kicking another man who isn’t seen) and the effects (a swollen and bruised eye), as well as Jews being forced out of their homes and into trucks and later gas chambers and the gas being dropped on them (a group of shirtless men is shown crowded into the chamber). There is also smoke shown, comments on the smell of the smoke, and it is realized that it is the burning of bodies. Viewers who have studied the holocaust will know this beforehand, however a young viewer may find out with the characters, and at the very least will most likely have questions. So even though the violence shown is minimal, the abominable actions are still shown to a degree and felt in a very real and poignant way (anyone who says you need to show graphic violence to get your point across also needs to see this film) and therefore is inappropriate for young viewers.

I would advise parents who are unsure to preview the film first and then discern whether or not your child is ready for the subject matter. That being said, if your child is mature enough, I would certainly encourage you to take him or her and to make sure to set aside time afterwards to talk about the lessons that can be learned.

This film certainly left a strong impression on me, and I feel more aware and more gratitude because of it; it was more than a movie, it was truly an experience. I don’t know that I would say that I enjoyed it, but I will say that I loved it, and that is something you can’t fully understand unless you see it for yourself, and I hope you do.

Violence: Mild / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—This movie is worthwhile and beyond entertaining… Its a movie with a strong message. A reminder of the Holocaust is needed today, especially when we hear reports of Holocaust deniers from dangerous sources. The dangers of forgetting or denying the Holocaust are real and carry potentially serious consequences.

“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” humanizes the Holocaust by helping the audience see it through the eyes of two young boys. The movie engages the viewer by telling the story of these two boys relationship… each one on opposite sides of the Holocaust. I will not spoil the ending, but I will say that there was complete silence in the theater when the movie ended and as each of us left the theater.

This movie drives home its message of the tragedy of the Holocaust and does so in a way that personalizes something that happened on such an astronomical scale.

As a Christian, I need to add that many Christians also died From Nazi persecution, and many Christians died to liberate the world from such evil. The world today is now facing another evil that is threatening Jews and Christians alike. “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” is a timely reminder that evil exists and should never be taken lightly… Lest we forget the lessons from the history of the Holocaust.

I highly recommend this movie. Go and see it as a family, church group (Sunday School, Bible Study, Youth Group), or with friends.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
Neil, age 45
Positive—This is an incredibly moving story that you will be drawn into. Nothing to offend anyone as far as sex or language. My husband and mother-in-law also went and we were all raving about the film and very touched by it. While not a Christian film, in it you will see grace, the folly of looking the other way and justifying sin, the pull of peer pressure, the struggle to do the right thing and pride’s downfall. The acting from everyone and scenery were outstanding. You will leave the theater talking about it. Highly recommended—you won’t be sorry you went.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
Elaine B, age 50
Positive—I left this movie feeling very introspective. I was not depressed or sad after viewing this film. Just thoughtful. The possibility of something like the murder of humankind is simply unthinkable. Yet it happened.

As the movie unfolds, we see the horrors of what was happening at “the farm.” We see the terror on the wife’s face as she comes to grips with her husband’s occupation. She discovers that he is a monster.

The 8 year old boy has no clue why the “farm” exists or why the other little boy in the striped pajamas is behind an electric fence.

The movie is exceptional, thought provoking, and very worthy of viewing. I believe it is acceptable for 10 year olds and up. We will purchase this movie when it comes out on DVD.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
Marini Shull, age 51
Positive—The Scottish author of “Ivanhoe,” Sir Walter Scott, wrote “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!”

This quote, along with others from the book of Proverbs, proves all too real in this amazing film. As is often the case, I won’t be able to add much to the above “Spotlight” review, as it was very thorough, well done and I agree with it. I saw this on a very rainy Saturday morning which probably added to the serious, yet innocent mood of this film. As usual, the BBC puts out some amazing work and the colors, sounds and pace of this film could not have been better. The boy, Bruno, was portrayed so convincingly and his mother, played by Vera Farmiga, was so well done.

Incidentally, Vera reminded me so much of Nelly Ward-Griesen of 2nd Chapter of Acts (remember her?) I do hope no spoilers will be seen on these reviews, as the ending is somewhat unexpected, at least it was for me. This is a must-see, fact-based lesson we all must learn. I have been a student of history for 25 years and have focused much attention on the 20th century world wars, especially the twenty years of Nazi occupied Europe. In the 80’s I was stationed for 2 years in the birthplace of Nazism, Munich, living just a few metro stops from Hitler’s apartment on Prinzregetenstrasse. The infamous Dachau concentration camp and Bad Tolz SS training facilities were also nearby. The film shows how Nazism, or any man-made political and racial philosophy, when carried to its logical conclusion, brings only death, denial, suffering and hopelessness. The Nazi’s believed their Third Reich would last at least one thousand years—it lasted barely twelve. This film should be shown in high schools and maybe upper middle schools, too. Again, I highly recommend this film.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Richard, age 42
Positive—“Boy in the Striped Pajamas” was a interesting movie to watch. It carries you to the world of Bruno with his childlike ways of seeing things. Having a son myself I understood the adventurous and carefree qualities of Bruno. The storyline is not a happy one as who could look back on the Holocaust with joy? You watch this movie knowing that terrible things will happen. I gave the movie a “good” rating because the movie is good. It makes you experience what those people experience. God commands us to love one another. The void of mercy from the Germans killing innocent people was rough to watch. To beat a man just because he is a certain race is beyond comprehension for me. There is no happy ending but for me, I can see how if the story were real that the mother, daughter and maybe even the father would go on and tell the horrors of what Hitler was doing. That said, I have to admit that I cried harder because of this movie than I have many. I imagine the ending will stay with me for a long time. I still tear up when I think of the ending. As a mother you can completely feel the agony of the mother. That might be too much for some people.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
Ouida Gabriel, age 33 (USA)
Positive—This is a fantastic, though obviously very heavy and emotionally draining, film. Enjoyed the comments of the reviewer—they are right on. The subject of the movie is so difficult to accept that many younger adult viewers are simply turning away, opting for “happier” movies. But historical movies like this are critical to our correct, biblical understanding of the total depravity of man, because only then does the Savior make sense. My wife and I previewed this movie for possible viewing and discussion with our 11 and 13 year old daughters, but after viewing it, we will wait 3-5 years and then re-consider. They are not ready for it, as others above have said. Adults, however, NEED to see this to avoid the reality expressed by the often repeated cliche, “Those who fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it.” We have not learned, and we ARE repeating it even now, in the holocaust of abortion. Sadly, too few bother to notice, and far fewer still care enough to fight against it. Wake up, church! The story line, movie quality, and acting are all first rate, and the horrific events were communicated powerfully, yet without gratuitous violence. (Moral rating of “Good” is obviously not an endorsement of the holocaust, but rather a reflection of the fact that the movie appropriately put the holocaust in a very negative/evil light).
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
Keith S, age 42 (USA)
Positive—This movie held my attention from start to finish. The acting was excellent. The actress who portrayed the mother did an exceptional job, as did the two young boys. There are a few violent scenes, but they are not overdone (and I am very sensitive to violent content in movies). For a movie about the holocaust, the violence is tame and is more implied than explicit. The horror of the subject matter is powerfully portrayed without stooping to the need to show gratuitous violence—rare among movies today. Not good for young kids, however. Older kids should view this with an adult to help them understand and process the more intense scenes. Overall, this movie left me stunned and speechless—I highly recommend it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
Kate, age 34 (USA)
Positive—This movie was hard to watch. But then brutal truth usually is. The makers of this movie did a very good job of depicting the horror of the holocaust. I feel that movies like this are very important, they force us to see humanity for what it is, when we are left to our own devices, instead of following God’s plan for us. I do not reccomend this film to youth. However, today’s teens, and twenties, and thirties, need to be reminded of the genocide that happened, else it become nothing more than a tolerated antiquated fact.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Mark, age 32 (Canada)
Neutral—Great movie, but very depressing and ends abruptly. I definitely would not want to see it again, because it’s sadder than the regular Holocaust movies, because it involves the innocence of children, and because the story’s fictional what’s the point?
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4
Debbie, age 33
Negative—The only additional comment I wish to add to the review is regarding the disturbing images in the movie. It shows Jews being slaughtered, so I’m not sure why you would ever want to have your children see that. Had I known about this, I wouldn’t have even watched the movie myself.

In Philippians, Paul encourages us to focus on that which is pure. This movie is disturbing and caused me to lose sleep last night. Be cautious before viewing because “Boy in the Striped Pajamas” is not uplifting, has no redeeming messages at the end, and is not encouraging at all. It is a portrayal of a very dark history.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
Christopher, age 36 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—This movie is very touching. I watch this movie in one of my classes at school over a period of a few days. It touched everyone who watched it. Im not sure if anyone cried, but I know for a fact I was on the verge of tears after seeing the end. But this movie again brings up the Holocaust. It is impossible for my mind to grip how people could kill millions of people like this. It truly shows how depraved a people can become without God.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
Bryton Johnson, age 17 (USA)
Positive—This movie is about the 8-year-old son of a Nazi officer during WWII. His father is in charge of a Jewish work camp, but the boy (Bruno) knows nothing about it. In fact, he openly wonders about these strange “farmers” who work so hard, and who all wear pajamas. An elderly Jewish man, Pavel, works in their house, peeling potatoes, and Bruno also wonders at the soldiers’ cruel treatment of him. Is it true that he is subhuman?

Young Bruno wants nothing more than to be an explorer, and one day, he finally comes up to the camp, meeting an 8-year-old boy, Shmuel. He and Shmuel become friends, playing and talking through the fence nearly every day. But with the beginning of school, where he is filled with propaganda, the conflicting views confuse him. Are Jews evil, inhuman vermin as his teacher says, and his father seems to believe, or are they kind like Shmuel and Pavel? His mother, also, is struggling with this, as the truths about the camps begin to be exposed.

With this confusion in his mind, Bruno betrays Shmuel just when he needed him most. This betrayal leads to a severe beating, and Bruno is desperate to make it up to him. Again, Bruno is given a chance to help Shmuel, and this time he does not let him down…

This movie was very well directed and acted. The lighting, sets, and performances all served to transport you to another time and place. The music fit the mood very well, and all the elements together, acting, lighting, script, etc. created a very emotional, vivid movie. While it was very clean, this movie dealt with sobering realities, and terrible circumstances, and I feel it well deserved its PG-13 rating.

This movie was extremely sad, and it was impossible not to cry, watching it. But these were things that actually happened; if anything the makers of this movie watered down the reality. I believe this was a thought-provoking story that needed to be told, and this movie told it very well. I would recommend this movie. It was, as I said before, very clean, with no language. But many elements were very disturbing, and I would not recommend it to anyone younger than 13 or 14.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Katie, age 14 (USA)
Negative—I was looking on this Web site, after I saw this movie, to see what other Christian viewers had to say about it. I was shocked to see that nobody had put a negative comment on the movie. Perhaps it is because I am too young… I don’t know, but I didn’t like this film. Throughout the movie it was, of course, extremely sad, but it seems accurate, and I thought that I would like it. However by the time the movie was done I was just silent for a long time. It is so sad, and I’m not sure how to put this, because I’ve talked and learned about stuff like this before, but it’s almost like the perspective that this movie was taken from made the subject matter too heavy. I personally would say that you probably shouldn’t watch this movie if you are under sixteen, and even still, I wish that I wouldn’t have watched it, so maybe even older. As far as morality goes, there is no sex or language, so it is clean as far as that goes.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Melanie, age 16 (Canada)
Positive—I am very intrigued about World War II and the Holocaust, so I enjoyed watching this film, as much as you can enjoy any Holocaust film. Although I have never read the book, I did find a synopsis on the book and movie, so its ending was not unexpected to me. I watched the movie with my dad, who did not know much about the movie, and we both enjoyed the movie and afterwards we had a good discussion about the movie and the historical facts (typical for my dad and I). This movie showed the innocence of a child and the love a child can have for anyone, even in the midst of one of the worst periods in history.

While many may take away feelings of sorrow for the evil during the Holocaust, and I certainly did, I think one should also remember the sacrifice Bruno made for his friend, a supposed enemy. I don’t want to give away the ending, but, for me at least, keeping in mind the verse “There is no greater love than for a man to lay his life down for friend” helped me not focus just on the sorrow in the movie, but in the love that was shown as well.

I would highly recommend this movie, but only if you have a real desire to watch it and not for a date night. Many of my friends probably would not appreciate the movie in the same way I did, and I certainly don’t think anyone under thirteen should see it, considering the ending. Other than that, though, it is a good movie and can really make you think.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
Nicole, age 17 (United States)
Positive—I really like the movie, and it really shows how horrible the Holocaust was and its hard to believe that something like that could have ever happened. The whole movie was sad, but the ending is what really shocked me. I thought there would be a happy ending. Not fully, but a happy ending at least. I was really shocked and sad when the truth was clear. If you are watching this movie before bed, I recommend watching a fun movie right after. I only got 4 hours of sleep after I watched the movie!!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 3½
Chloe, age 14 (Canada)
Positive—…very touching. After hearing people talk about it at school, I had the urge to watch it myself. I found it online and did just that. I had heard this movie was beyond sad, but for some reason that made me want to watch it even more. I was actually pretty surprised at how much I got into this movie. It was really interesting and it kept my attention the entire movie.

I was also very surprised of the quality of this movie! The acting was very believable, and the movie itself was well-made. But warning: there is one (if not more) depressing scene that is kind of hard to take. Please don’t watch this if you feel you cannot take reality and sadness about the Holocaust. If you want a movie with drama, suspense, and sadness this is for you.

“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” is a terrific, well-made movie that will make your heart beat at the speed of lightening, make you think about your life, and make you feel, really feel like you are living in the Holocaust for an hour and a half.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
Anna, age 13 (USA)
Positive—This movie was amazing. You never saw the ending coming. I am reading the book, but I couldn’t wait to watch the movie. It is also sad. If you watch, bring a tissue, if you get sad easy. I loved it so much. Watch the movie to find out what happens.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: none
Alison, age 13 (USA)
Comments from non-viewers
Wow, I come here often to see what is involved before viewing a film. I most certainly will see this now. I am moved even before viewing just at reading the synopisis.

I am not surprised that the 16 yr girl posted a negative. She saw a glimpse of reality defined in a 2 hour portrayal. If only we all could carry a slice of that everyday perhaps we as a nation would not be here in this moment we find ourselves. History repeats itself, though man says he will not allow such inhumanity again, yet everyday in the US babies are killed in the most gruesome dispecable manner, and yet is cleaned and sterilized to be acceptable.

Seems bone chillingly the same, yet we shuttered at the thoughts of these young boys, so innocent, so pure, being caught up in this unholy event. Yet the precious little darlings in the abortion factories are so much more pure and innocent than they. When will we ever learn.

I am grateful for a slice of truth in film, for that matter anywhere as it seems to no longer exist. May we see more and that the cries of the unprotected, the cries of the human life be validated. God help us all.
Carolina, age 43 (USA)