The Bone Collector

  • Review Date: October 29, 2009
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 1999

Common Sense Media says

Grisly thriller with great performances; not for kids.
  • Review Date: October 29, 2009
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 1999





What parents need to know

Positive messages

The film's characters send the message that trauma can be overcome through hard work and sincere effort, along with the support of friends.

Positive role models

Both main characters are dealing with trauma -- his physical, hers emotional -- and overcoming them with hard work and emotional honesty.


Grisly violence, with dead bodies aplenty; a man's spine is crushed by falling rock. A sharp blade punctures a man's hand; scary medical crises, including seizures. A woman is bound in front of a steam pipe, so that when it vents, we hear (but do not see) her being burned alive. We later see her body. Rats gnaw a corpse. A cop is shot point-blank. A woman is stabbed with a butcher knife. A man's hand is crushed by a collapsing bed; a man bites out another man's jugular. A man is shot at short range.



Some kissing; a couple is shown as lovers. Some light flirting and sexual tension.


Frequent strong language, including "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "hell," "damn," "God" and "Jesus Christ."


Some brands visible or mentioned as part and parcel of the film, like Amtrak, Woolworth's, Timex, and more.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A paralyzed man requests vodka instead of juice. Many street drugs are shown and mentioned as part of a police demonstration educating officers.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that while the thriller elements revolve around a gruesome serial killer, much of the plot revolves around a paralyzed forensics expert who, at the beginning of the film, is planning his assisted suicide with the help of friends. There is a lot of very graphic and grisly violence, with dead bodies aplenty. Characters are shot, stabbed, crushed, bitten, and killed in horrific ways. There is also frequent profanity and some drug references.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

In New York, paralyzed forensics expert Lincoln Rhyme (Denzel Washington) has been confined to bed for years after an accident that crushed his spine, leaving him a quadriplegic; he's planning his "final transition," as fluid build-up in his spine will eventually induce more and more debilitating seizures before leaving him in a vegetative state and eventually killing him. But when a serial killer strikes, Rhyme is asked to help with the case -- and he asks rookie cop Amelia Donaghy (Angela Jolie) to be his representative in the field. Can Rhyme's tenacity and Donaghy's courage stop the killer before he strikes again -- and strikes all too close to home?

Is it any good?


Directed by Phillip Boyce (Clear and Present Danger, Dead Calm), THE BONE COLLECTOR feels like a franchise that never got off the ground; you can sense the studio executives setting things in place for a series of Rhyme/Donaghy films, but that never happened. Still, even as a done-in-one-individual-installment, The Bone Collector is a relatively satisfying thriller elevated by the charm and skill of both Washington and Jolie. Confined to a bed, Washington manages to make the act of thinking dynamic and dramatic; even though she's out in the world, Jolie makes Donaghy's inner life come through.

The killer's identity is neither a great surprise nor especially well set-up; the real pleasure comes in the New York locations and in seeing two actors at the near-top of their game work to make a mid-level thriller far better than it had to be. There's some nice supporting performances -- including the always-reliable Luiz Guzman and Michael Rooker -- and the pacing moves as you'd hope a thriller like this would. The Bone Collector may not have launched a series of films, but while it's on, it's diverting enough. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the challenges facing the severely disabled -- as well as the options, and support, they also have available. Talk about the ethics of physician-assisted suicide, as well as the kinds of injuries and hopelessness that would make this an option.

  • Discuss the popularity of fiction about inventive, diabolical serial killers, in spite of the much more prosaic reality of the phenomenon. What makes these characters such popular villains for Hollywood entertainment?

  • Families can talk about the popularity of police procedurals and forensics as an engine of suspense and drama; what does this say about our culture's thoughts about law and order?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 5, 1999
DVD release date:August 28, 2001
Cast:Angelina Jolie, Denzel Washington, Michael Rooker
Director:Phillip Noyce
Studio:Columbia Tristar
Run time:118 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:strong violent content including grisly images, and for language.

This review of The Bone Collector was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 15 years old Written bySkyrock5 June 3, 2011

Thrilling film about a "Bone Collector"

A thriller about a brutal serial killer...I'm guessing your first thought is - `hasn't it been done before?`.
Yep, it definately has. I think the one and only comparison that can be remotely related to this witty and steadfast film is "Se7en". Although Se7en is quite a bit more horrific in terms of the murders and the plot, it does a great job at revealing the thinking behind the killer. This is exactly what The Bone Collector does - and you'd have never expected who the killer was, or why he did it. Its definately interesting, and quite thrilling (thankfully, for a thriller), and although I would argue that the violence is not a very strong problem, I wouldn't recommend eating whilst watching it.
Unfortunately, for the makers of this masterpiece, the title doesn't do it justice, so I'm telling you, it's a whole lot better than you would have thought it was.

What other families should know
Too much violence
Teen, 13 years old Written byGabix13 December 12, 2012

dark dark film

Im 13 i watched it and Im no sensitive girl but Im scarred and even weeks after watching it im constantly jumpy and scared, not for kids!! Even adults I know that have watched it have been left disturbed, but besides that its a decent film if your over 18.

What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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