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The Polar Express (2004)

G  |   |  Animation, Adventure, Family  |  10 November 2004 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.6/10 from 110,844 users   Metascore: 61/100
Reviews: 435 user | 187 critic | 36 from Metacritic.com

A young boy embarks on a magical adventure to the North Pole on the Polar Express. During his adventure he learns about friendship, bravery, and the spirit of Christmas.



(book), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 19 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Hero Girl (voice)
Brendan King ...
Andy Pellick ...
Josh Eli ...
Mark Mendonca ...
Rolandas Hendricks ...
Mark Goodman ...
Jon Scott ...
Sean Scott ...
Gordon Hart ...


This is the story of a young hero boy on Christmas Eve who boards on a powerful magical train that's headed to the North Pole and Santa Claus's home. What unfolds is an an adventure which follows a doubting boy, who takes an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole; during this ride, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery which shows him that the wonder of life never fades for those who believe. Written by Anthony Pereyra {hypersonic91@yahoo.com}

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


All Aboard In IMAX 3D this holiday See more »


G | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

10 November 2004 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Polar Express: An IMAX 3D Experience  »

Box Office


$165,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$23,323,463 (USA) (12 November 2004)


$665,426 (USA) (28 December 2012)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| | |


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Listed in the Guiness Book of World Records 2006 as the "first all-digital capture" film, where all acted parts were done in digital capture. See more »


When the elves are helping the children out of Santa's sack the elves move as if they are getting the "know it all" out of the sack, but there is no boy between them. See more »


[first lines]
Hero Boy: On Christmas Eve many years ago I laid quietly in my bed. I did not rustle the sheets, I breathed slowly and silently. I was listening for a sound I was afraid I'd never hear: the sound of Santa's sleigh bells.
See more »

Crazy Credits

At the very end, it reads "In Dedication to Michael Jeter" with a picture. See more »


Referenced in AniMat's Reviews: Mars Needs Moms (2011) See more »


Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)
Written by Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman
Performed by Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters
Courtesy of Geffen Records
Under License from Universal Music Enterprises
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Enchantment, thrills, spectacle...looks great on DVD...
22 November 2004 | by (U.S.A.) – See all my reviews

On the one hand there are many delightful moments in THE POLAR EXPRESS, not the least of which is the entire look of the film--appealing in a way that great illustrations of children's books always are to young and old. Tom Hanks and the others enter into the spirit of the whole thing with gusto--and all the performances are right on target.

On the other hand, much of the film is an excuse to dazzle with roller-coaster-like rides on the express train that roars across various landscapes making wild leaps and turns, all the while thrilling us with a sense of adventure and excitement. For the very young, the ride might be a scary one, especially when the daring young hero rides atop the train during a blustery snowstorm.

Things barely quiet down once the destination is reached at the North Pole. Still there are dangers lurking and the thrills continue with some amazing photographic tricks that can only be done in this new process of computer generated animation.

And to add a cozier touch to the proceedings, certain famous Christmas songs are interjected at intervals to give the North Pole--and the film--a warmer glow.

All in all, quite an imaginative and innovative achievement--impressive enough to assure its place among future Christmas favorites with unlimited appeal for the young in heart. The message of Christmas is lightly hinted at but when Tom Hanks as the train conductor tells the little boy, "The true meaning of Christmas is in your heart," we can be assured that children everywhere will definitely "get it".

Visually, it's a stunner. I didn't see it on the IMAX screen where I imagine it really knocks your socks off, but at a multiplex where picture and sound were impressive enough to convey just how advanced special effects technology has become. There is much artistry involved here, especially when the night scenes of the train's fast-moving travel through a blustery snowstorm capture some rich winter landscapes, including a frozen lake that threatens to demolish train and passengers before danger has passed. The camera-work is continually fascinating as is the artwork involved.

A pity there couldn't have been more of a story in the children's book which is the source--but the artistic visuals are the main source of entertainment here and they are superb. The busy background score by Alan Silvestri is reminiscent of works by John Williams. Although none of the sprightly song tunes are particularly memorable, there is a wistful quality to one of the new Christmas ballads sung by the children.

P.S. - I have just watched it on DVD, a year after writing the above review--and it's definitely a keeper--just as wonderful as you could want, an amazing technological achievement that should delight all ages who can still hear that bell! Tom Hanks, as the conductor, is my favorite character--brilliant job.

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