Published: 23rd June 2023

Plastic fantastic: dolls and toys that come to life on the big screen

Dolls have been featured on the big screen for years, capturing the imagination of children and adults alike. From Woody and Buzz in Toy Story, to M3gan and Ted, ahead of Barbie's release we take a look at some of the most iconic films featuring toys.


very mild threat, violence, language

Uglydolls is an animated adventure in which a rejected toy goes in search of a child to love her.


Dolls poke each other with a knitting needle during a fight. A robotic dog catches them in its jaws and shakes them.

Threat and horror

The dolls narrowly escape from an incinerator with snapping jaws. In a pitch-dark tunnel, they fall into a void, but are unhurt.


There is infrequent use of very mild bad language ('butt').

Self-esteem is a theme of the film. There is partial rear nudity in a cheeky fairground illustration.

Barbie: Mermaid Power

very mild threat

Barbie: Mermaid Power is a US fantasy animation in which Barbie and her friends are transformed into mermaids to help save the underwater world of Pacifica.

threat and horror

Sequences include scenes of very mild threat, such as sight of an underwater vehicle self-destructing with characters trapped inside. An evil mermaid blasts out air, pushing other mermaids towards a dangerous whirlpool. A shark approaches characters aggressively but he is quickly shown to be friendly.

There are brief references to bereavement from a character who has lost his parents. Environmental issues are addressed as mermaids are seen battling against plastic pollution in the ocean. Barbie and her friends experience bullying and 'land-dweller' discrimination at the hands of a malevolent mermaid, but the film emphasises that differences should be celebrated.

Toy Story

mild violence, scary scenes, dangerous behaviour

A toy cowboy finds becomes jealous when a toy astronaut becomes his owner's new favourite toy. Some dangerous behaviour involving fireworks might be unsuitable for the very young.


There are scenes in which a naughty neighbour tortures toys for fun. For example, in one sequence he takes his sister's doll, puts it in a vice and lops off its head, then swaps it with a head from another toy.

Threat and horror

There are scenes in which characters are chased or in danger. These include toys being chased by an angry dog, toys afraid in the dark in unfamiliar surroundings, and toys being frightened by sinister, spooky toys made up of strange combinations of toy body parts. Scary scenes are punctuated with comic moments, and the film has clear fantasy elements such as walking, talking toys who feel emotions and develop as characters.


There is some very mild bad language, including 'screwy' and 'heck'.


There is some very mild flirtation, including a Little Bo Peep figurine asking for a kiss from a toy cowboy.

Dangerous behaviour

The film contains some dangerous activities, including sight of a little boy using fireworks and rockets to torture his toys (eg by sending them flying into space or blowing them up). There is also sight of toys attaching rockets to each other, the use of a magnifying glass to scorch another character's face, with a smoky effect, and brief sight of a child and a toy character playing with a match.

Alcohol and tobacco

An adult character is surrounded by empty cans of beer and there are some comic references to alcohol, such as referring to Buzz Lightyear (an astronaut toy) as Buzz Light Beer.


Contains mild threat and scary scenes and one use of mild language

Threat and horror

There is mild threat to a character who travels to another world through a portal. She meets a woman who is like her mother, but is actually a witch in disguise who traps children and replaces their eyes with buttons.


There is mild bad language (‘crap’).

The Stepford Wives

Contains moderate sex references


strong threat, violence, bloody images, language

M3gan is a US sci-fi horror thriller in which a lifelike robotic doll, created to be a children's companion, develops a deadly mind of its own.


Strong violence includes an ear being ripped off, a character being pushed into the path of car, a character being shot with a nail gun and sprayed with a toxic substance that burns her, stabbings, cutting with a hedge trimmer and a man choking as he is suspended in the air by a cable wrapped around his neck. Fight scenes include blows to heads with heavy objects and head butts. There are blood spurts, brief burning of skin on a person's face, and sight of bloody injury in the aftermath of violence.

threat and horror

There are passages of horror and sustained threat, with jump scares, as a robotic entity menaces human characters and animals. A dog clamps its jaws on a young girl's arm, but the child is quickly pulled to safety.


There is strong language ('f**k'), as well as milder terms such as 'bitch', 'shit', 'dick', 'ass', 'butt', 'hell', 'God', 'Jesus' and 'Christ'.

A married couple are killed in an undetailed road accident which their young daughter survives; the child demonstrates emotional distress over the loss of her parents.


Contains strong sex references, language, drug use and brief nudity

A man must choose between his girlfriend and his foul-mouthed teddy bear, which came to life as a result of a wish. While the film is comic and ludicrous, the humour and language are strong and crude.


There is some mild slapstick violence.


There is infrequent use of very strong language ('c**t') and frequent use of strong language ('f**k', 'motherf**ker' and 'c**ksucker').


There are frequent crude visual and verbal sex references, such as the teddy-bear simulating sex acts and ejaculation.


The teddy-bear smokes marijuana from a bong pipe, and there are scenes in which joints are passed around and cocaine is snorted.


There is brief female breast nudity when the teddy-bear draws a face on a woman's chest. There is also some comic male buttock nudity.

Alcohol and tobacco

The teddy bear drinks alcohol to excess, as do adult human characters.


strong horror, bloody violence


There is a scene of strong bloody violence when a man and woman are attacked by a deranged girl. She stabs the heavily pregnant woman in the stomach, before being shot. There is effusive bloodshed from the wounds and blood is seen dripping into the face of a porcelain doll.

Disturbing images

There are a number of scenes of strong horror as unseen forces attack the central characters, and as glowing eyed demons appear out of shadows and drop from ceilings. The sense of terror is exacerbated by items that spontaneously fly about the house, and by the looming presence of the possessed doll.