A Ghost Story

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
A Ghost Story Movie Poster Image
Moving, poetic meditation on life, death, love, place.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 92 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

No clearly articulated messages, but plenty of ideas about life, existence, the earth, love, place, time, and more. Do ghosts exist? Are they tied to a person, place, or time? Does it matter what we do while we're here on Earth? How long does anything last?

Positive Role Models & Representations

No clear role models. Most characters are simply enduring, although there's something heroic about that.


Disturbing images. Dead man in a car crash with blood trickling from his forehead. Parents and children killed by arrows. Bloody wounds shown. Bodies decompose over time, turning into scary, rotting corpses and skeletons. Scary noises, one or two jump scares. A temper tantrum, smashing plates.


A couple kisses tenderly in bed. More kissing. Shirtless male. Seemingly naked woman covering herself with a sheet.


A use of "f--king" and a use of "s--t."


Sony headphones shown in one scene.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Background drinking at party -- beer and liquor. A character asks another whether he's "OK to drive home."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Ghost Story is an artful, poetic meditation on life, death, love, place, and other things. Although it's not a horror movie (despite the title), it has a few brief moments of strong violence, including a dead body in a car crash (with a trickle of blood on his forehead) and a family slaughtered by arrows. Bloodstains are shown, and their bodies decompose over time, rotting somewhat graphically. A couple is shown lying in bed, perhaps naked (nothing sensitive shown), and kissing tenderly. Language is sparse but does include a single use of "f--king" and a use of "s--t." Some background drinking (beer, liquor) is shown. This is a simple movie that casts a delicate spell; many may resist it (some viewers may find it ridiculous), but others will find it profoundly transporting. Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara star.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymyopinionisbest July 26, 2017

Slow, dreamlike film tries to tackle complex, abstract themes

A Ghost Story is a slow burn with long dialogue-less sections, and most younger children probably wouldn't have the patience to sit through it. There are t... Continue reading
Adult Written bysaidItoyou September 19, 2020
Teen, 15 years old Written byAndrew04 September 22, 2019

A Ghost Story will just blow you away

All right let’s get down to it. I see a lot of reviews saying how it was slow and boring, but clearly you watched this movie seeing the title ‘A Ghost Story’, a... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byJakejrfjkfkfk March 4, 2018

What's the story?

In A GHOST STORY, a couple living together in a small Texas house argues. "C" (Casey Affleck) wants to stay in the house, but "M" (Rooney Mara) wants to move out. She's used to moving around and likes to hide little notes, stuck in the walls of homes she's lived in, as a way of leaving a piece of herself behind. The next day, C dies in a car crash, returning as a ghost. He silently watches M grieving, recovering, and -- eventually -- leaving. He watches others move into the house, sometimes haunting them, sometimes not. Time moves on, and things come and go. The picture grows larger and more cosmic, but the only thing the ghost really wants to see is what M left on her scrap of paper before she left their home.

Is it any good?

This very special movie casts a fine, delicate spell; many may resist it, but those who go along with it may find themselves profoundly moved, transported to a soul-stirring, poetically cosmic place. In A Ghost Story, writer/director David Lowery (Ain't Them Bodies Saints, Pete's Dragon) has created a deceptively small movie, confined in space (it uses the squarish, 1-to-1.33 screen aspect ratio), with very little dialogue and simple, spare effects. (The ghost is very deliberately nothing more than a guy in a sheet.)

But this simplicity is used to conjure mighty emotional reactions. Long, slow, still shots allow viewers to reflect on grief, death, life, love, and other things, while more startling transitions -- such as breathtaking leaps through time -- arouse larger, more existential questions. The haunting sound design and music are always note-perfect, and rarely, if ever, break the mood. A Ghost Story is everything from a heartbreakingly simple love story to a rumination on the meaning of place in our lives to a pondering of life itself.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about A Ghost Story's violence. How frequently is it shown, and what is it meant to illustrate? How does it compare to what you've seen in other movies with supernatural themes? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • Is the movie scary? Have you ever seen a movie about ghosts that wasn't scary? Are ghosts inherently scary?

  • The "prognosticator's" speech makes it sound as if life is pointless. Do you agree or disagree with his ideas? What might be some issues with his thinking?

  • What do you think was written on the scrap of paper? Does it matter to the story to know for sure? Why or why not?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

Themes & Topics

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