A Most Violent Year

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
A Most Violent Year Movie Poster Image
Moody, violent thriller doesn't quite sustain its promise.
  • R
  • 2014
  • 124 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Abel works hard and rises to the top, but the backdrop to this is a gritty, violent world in which people are targeted for being too successful.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Abel mostly plays by the rules. He violates a few laws, but it's hardly unusual in his line of work. He's loyal to friends and employees and dismayed to realize that his rivals may be violating unspoken codes of his industry and stealing from him.


A trucking company is hijacked repeatedly; the drivers are violently beaten. One arms himself, and an attempted hijacking becomes a shoot-out in the middle of the day on a crowded city street. A man chases one of the hijackers for many blocks on foot, eventually catching him, beating him severely, and threatening him with a gun.


A woman wears a revealing dress. A couple embraces and kisses.


Frequent strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some social drinking during meals and at home. Many characters smoke cigarettes (accurate for the era).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Most Violent Year lives up to its name, with several brutal beatings. Set in 1981 New York, one of the city's roughest periods, this taut thriller centers on a successful immigrant whose rivals are trying to run him out of business; his trucks are hijacked and his drivers cruelly attacked. There's a shoot-out in the middle of the day, gun threats, and realistic fight scenes that leave people bloodied, battered, and scared. Language isn't constant, but the words are strong, including "f--k" and "p---y." Expect a little kissing/embracing and some revealing outfits; characters drink socially, and a lot of them smoke -- which wasn't unusual for the time.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byWhizzy the Elephant October 5, 2020

Builds tightness and tension but fails to develop plot points while concluding poorly

A confused film that seems to harbour a pretence of violence from early on, yet the film primarily focuses on business and conversations about estate procuremen... Continue reading
Adult Written byMalcom Johnson August 26, 2018

This movie should not be rated MA15+

This movie has very little violence and not very much language, unsure why is was given an MA rating, most people should be able to watch this flim

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

It's 1981, one of the most crime-ridden years in New York City's history, and Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) is about to pull off the most important deal of his life. An immigrant who's worked hard to become the head of a fuel-delivery business, he's ready to buy a harbor terminal that will make him one of the biggest operators in the city. The problem is that someone keeps hijacking his trucks, and soon Abel is getting dragged into an all-out war, with truck drivers getting into shoot-outs in broad daylight on crowded streets. It doesn't help that the city is investigating his industry, and Morales may have cut a few corners. His deal is close to falling apart, and so is his entire life in what's turning out to be A MOST VIOLENT YEAR.

Is it any good?

When it comes to setting the vibe for gritty, early '80s New York City, A Most Violent Year is a tour de force. From the hairstyles and the graffitied buildings down to the film's very patina, it captures a specific time in the city when hope was in short supply and violence doled out in large doses. In this arena, director J.C. Chandor proves again that he's a master of dark, moody dramas. Kudos also to Isaac and co-star Jessica Chastain, who rise above the paltry material and make their mark every time they're on camera with their realistic and textured portrayals of two characters brought to the brink.

But, yes, the material is paltry. It's true that everything hinges on a single transaction, but the stakes feel high because we're told they are, not because the storytelling makes it so. The big reveal doesn't feel like a big reveal, and we're left out of the loop at key moments that, had we been brought inside the action, would have felt more significant than they do. Being at a remove means the audience doesn't care as much, and that's a disappointment.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about A Most Violent Year's violence. Is it necessary to the story? Why, or why not?

  • How does the New York City of 1981 differ from how Manhattan is portrayed in films set in the present? How/why do you think things changed?

  • Talk about Abel's business practices. Is he running a clean operation? Is he breaking the same rules as all of his peers? Does that make him a criminal? Can a character do iffy things and still be sympathetic?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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