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Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
2012 Movie Poster Image
Massive global destruction -- not for worriers.
  • PG-13
  • 2009
  • 158 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 41 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 151 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Despite the relentlessly depressing, gruesome subject matter and millions (billions?) of deaths, the film's main point is that family is ultimately the most important thing in life. Several characters risk their lives or well-being for family members, and one character tries (tragically) to contact his family too late. Certain selfish characters are redeemed by saving family members, and the movie makes a point of mentioning that the most selfish character of all has no family. Aside from that, a few characters look beyond family to try to rescue total strangers as well.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The characters aren't very deep, but some of them still demonstrate marked heroism and selflessness. Hero Jackson Curtis previously ignored his family in favor of his career, but he returns to them during the disaster, learning how to connect with,  love, and forgive them. Later, he risks his life to save thousands of people. Other characters clash over methods by which to choose who's rescued, with some seeing only the bottom line, but others arguing that everyone has a right to live. The president shows heroism and self sacrifice.


Not much blood and gore (one character gets his leg gouged in a giant gear), but the massive destruction results in countless anonymous deaths. The movie does focus dramatically on certain known faces as they meet their terrible fates, but it rarely stops to linger on them. Two children watch as their father falls to his death and another character is ground up in some machinery. Smaller moments of hostility at a boxing match, and a character punches another character in the face. A mass suicide is mentioned on a news report.


One character is a plastic surgeon who does breast implants. He meets one of his patients, and they mention her surgery several times. Gordon and Kate briefly discuss "making a baby" of their own. Kate and Jackson kiss once, and there's a near-kiss between Adrien and the president's daughter.


Fairly light use of strong language, although there's at least one "f--k," a few uses of "s--t," and other words like "damn," "ass," "hell," "goddamn," and "oh my God." One character flips another one off.


A wealthy character brags about his fancy new Bentley. Pull-Ups diapers are discussed and shown.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Two minor adult characters are shown drinking. One takes his first drink in 25 years when he discovers that the world is going to end.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that director Roland Emmerich's 2012 is an intense, violent disaster movie, with billions of anonymous characters getting killed during massive scenes of destruction (earthquakes, tsunamis, and more). Although the tone is mainly exciting, the relentless devastation could terrify or depress many viewers (both kids and grown-ups), especially those who've been through natural disasters themselves. In other words, this is no movie for kids anxious about the state of the world. Fans of the genre will find some of the effects truly impressive, but there's not much in the way of character or plot depth. Expect a little bit of kissing, drinking, and swearing (including "s--t"). All that and it's almost three hours long. ...

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written by2Simple October 30, 2010
Adult Written byMovie Man November 13, 2009
I loved this movie far more than I thought I would. I was expecting a dumb disaster flick; but what I got was the best disaster film since Armageddon. It was fu... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byBlueBalloon November 11, 2009
I'll just say, even though we all know that the mayan prophecy is just a bundle of crap, this does look like an incredibly intense and epic movie. :)
Teen, 14 years old Written bySilbixia November 15, 2009

Great movie, but not for younger kids

I personally love disaster movies like this one, as long as they're well made; and believe me, this one is very well made. This movie is similar to The Da... Continue reading

What's the story?

When the sun suddenly begins bombarding Earth with a higher neutrino count, heating up the planet's core, it all-too-quickly leads to massive natural disasters -- from earthquakes to tsunamis -- and even shifting of the north and south poles. A secret project is underway in Tibet to build "arks" to rescue a certain number of people, but most of the seats have been reserved for the world's richest and most important people. While scientist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) collects data and fights against greed and corruption, small-time Los Angeles author Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) tries to rescue his ex-wife (Amanda Peet) and their two kids, get them to Tibet, and secure them seats on one of the arks. But can he do this impossible task in time?

Is it any good?

At best, it's a nearly three-hour film packed with several tons of clichés whose best features are explosions and general destruction. At worst, it's a gruesome, depressing subject as viewed from the seat of a passing roller coaster.

Disaster movies are usually very popular and have long managed to thrill plenty of people with their huge scale and awesome special effects. Since 2012 (which is tied to a much-debated Mayan prophecy that supposedly names that year as the one in which the world will end) is one of the biggest and most spectacular to date, it will no doubt follow suit -- and, in terms of visual effects and clear, exciting filmmaking, it is well done. And the impressive, appealing cast does its level best to read through the third-rate dialogue without too much eye-rolling. But anyone looking for character depth, powerful emotional content, intelligence, poetic images, or personal expression of any kind is advised to look elsewhere.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's destruction and violence. Much of it is of a sci-fi/fantasy nature, but if you stop to think about it, the enormity and frequency of it can be overwhelming. Is this kind of violence more or less upsetting than gory horror movies?

  • One of the movie's major themes is the importance of family. Does that come through amid the chaos and destruction? Did the movie make you feel closer to your own family?

  • Why do you think the wealthiest and most important people were chosen for seats on the arks? Should other people have gotten a chance? What would have been a better way to go about the process?

  • Do you think a disaster like this could occur? If so, is it better to try and prepare or better not to worry about something we can't control?

Movie details

For kids who love science fiction

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