The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

  • Review Date: November 7, 2010
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2009

Common Sense Media says

Graphic sexual violence in thrilling, subtitled crime drama.
  • Review Date: November 7, 2010
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2009





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Despite the intense violence perpetrated by people in power, the movie's overall message is that victims of outrageous crimes and abuse can find dignity and self-respect by developing their skills and reaching inward for courage and strength.

Positive role models

An offbeat heroine demonstrates that appearances can be deceiving: She's pierced, tattooed, anti-social, and she smokes constantly, but Lisbeth also proves to be highly intelligent, creative, and skillful. She's willing to risk her life for her beliefs, as well as for the safety of those about whom she cares deeply. On the other hand, women are seen as victims as well as heroes.


Several sequences graphically depict sexual assault, forced oral sex, torture, beatings, and bloody attacks. Numerous gruesome photographs of mutilated female bodies appear throughout. Characters are strangled, hung, whipped with electrical cords, drowned, and burned.


Consensual sex and explicit sexual activity with partial nudity, both male and female (breasts). Graphic sexual dialogue.


English subtitles in translation from the Swedish include multiple use of  "f--k," "motherf--ker," "bitch," "s--t," "goddamn," "whore," "c--t," "blow job," "damn," and more.


Apple computers, Google, Castrol, KIA.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The lead character, a young woman, smokes cigarettes non-stop. There's also some moderate social drinking in a number of scenes.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this subtitled Swedish film is definitely not for kids. With graphic sexual violence, gruesome murders, torture, and pervasive coarse and sexual language, even adults might be disturbed by what they see. Expect multiple images of mutilated dead young women and numerous instances of  female nudity (including breasts), as well as partial male nudity in graphic tortuous poses. The female heroine smokes continuously. Still,k despite the intense content, the movie's message of good triumphing over evil ultimately provides some relief.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

This Swedish thriller is based on the first book in the wildy popular trilogy by journalist Stieg Larsson, published after his death. Following his conviction for libel and waiting to serve his prison term, investigative journalist Mikael Blomqvist (Michael Nyqvist) is hired to find the truth behind the 40-year-old disappearance of a wealthy young woman who has long been presumed murdered. He teams up with Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), a heavily pierced, spike-haired, and tattoed young woman with a mysterious past. Lisbeth is a misfit with a brilliant mind and masterful computer skills. She's also the current victim of a corrupt, perverted government official. In great danger themselves, Mikael and Lisbeth unearth the decades-old family tragedy and seek justice for an untold number of young women who died at the hands of racist, degenerate criminals. Those who get caught up in the story will want to continue with the sequel, The Girl Who Played with Fire, though it's equally graphic.

Is it any good?


There's never been a character quite like Lisbeth Salander. She's intriguing, infuriating, unknowable, and ultimately sympathetic. Swedish director Niels Arden Opvel and Rapace have succeeded in bringing this unconventional young woman to life in a well-made, highly charged, and often gruesome spectacle.

Even some adults may have trouble watching the many disturbing scenes in THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, which include explicit sexual assault, torture, and mayhem. And, contrary to convention, the villains are pleasant-looking, benign gentlemen of the upper classes, while the central romantic heroine is the most punked of the punk.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why filmmakers felt it necessary to be so explicit in their depictions of the crimes against Lisbeth Salander? Did it heighten your appreciation and respect for the character?

  • Sometimes there's a fine line between a horror film and a thriller. Did this movie cross that line? If it was enjoyable for you, what emotions did it evoke?

  • Lisbeth Sis a unique character. What is an anti-hero?  What other unlikely heroes or heroines do you remember from films you've seen?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:February 27, 2009
DVD release date:July 6, 2010
Cast:Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace
Director:Niels Arden Oplev
Studio:Yellow Bird
Run time:152 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:disturbing violent content including rape, grisly images, sexual material, nudity and language

This review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) 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.

Find out more


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

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.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 14 years old Written byemmaa96 July 11, 2011

Some Swedish thoughts from a 14-year-old...

Hello, I thought I'd bring some Swedish thoughts to this. I live in Sweden and watched this movie for the first time in my life the other day, at a friend's house. When I told her I hadn't watched the movie she looked at me like I was crazy. Here, most people older than 13 have watched the movie at least once, and parents don't think it's a big problem. Maybe they're a bit worried since it's not really a pleasant movie, but before you watch it you know that it won't be like a romantic comedy with Hilary Duff or some Disney star.

And yes, there are plenty of things that little kids shouldn't watch, but I think most people who are at least 13 years old can watch it. Of course not everybody, but there are always exceptions. The movie doesn't contain anything I haven't heard about before, and the language is the smallest problem. If parents wants to protect their children from that language, they have to ground their kids until they're adults, because I guarantee you that they hear that kind of language every day in high school, maybe middle school too.

Even though it was unpleasant to watch, I loved it and it's definately my favourite Swedish movie. Usually I dislike Swedish movies but this one was great. Can't wait to see the Hollywood version of it with Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, hopefully it's as good as the original=)

What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Teen, 15 years old Written byShadowhunter95 June 30, 2011

Great Movie, Tons of Explicit Scenes

Loved the movie, but if you let your kids watch this you must be insane or extremely sick minded.

What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Adult Written bykhan2705 April 9, 2011

an excellent engaging crime thriller, loved it.

Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her beloved uncle is convinced it was murder and that the killer is a member of his own tightly knit but dysfunctional family. He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed and troubled but resourceful computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. When the pair link the disappearance of Harriet to a number of grotesque murders from almost forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history. The Vangers are a secretive clan, and Blomkvist and Salander are about to find out just how far they are prepared to go to protect themselves.

well finally i saw this much talked about and hyped Swedish movie of past year. i was so excited and was glad that finally i was seeing it. i am not sure about watching the rest of the two movies, they weren't well recieved with critics and i have to watch some more foreign language movies and that will increase the burden so. watching this movie was all the good buzz and ofcourse there is gonna be a Hollywood remake of it directed by David Fincher. well i must say all the buzz arround this movie was worth it man. i should tell you that this movie is now one of my most favorite movie of past years and among the foreign language movies i have seen.

i haven't read the novel on which this movie is based but it must be phenomenol. this marks Second Swedish movie i have seen after Let The Right One In, which again was awsome. well this movie stars Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace. Noomi's character was outstanding, her get up was superb and her performance was amazing. this movie was little but uneasy to watch because of the female abuse and stuff. i must say this movie was extremely edgy and very thrilling. it had the chilling effect on me. phenomenol movie and a near perfect modern classic.

Story of this movie makes this movie what it is and the way it has been handeled is just outstanding, screenplay is very engaging, good plot written very well. editing of this movie is excellent. cinematography is marvellous, everything else is good too. Noomi did a superb job, i liked her get up too. this movie is now one of my favorite movies.

i know most of you guys would have even seen the thw whole Triology but if you are planning to watch this movie, i would say go ahead. Two thumbs way high up for this movie.

What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Great role models


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Top Kids' Movies: An Essential Guide for Families