Anna Karenina

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Anna Karenina Movie Poster Image
Stylized retelling of Tolstoy classic best for older teens.
  • R
  • 2012
  • 130 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

While the movie makes it clear that love comes in many forms and, for the most part, is life-affirming and soul-sustaining, the story is also about a woman who turns her back on her husband to be with her lover, putting her marriage, motherhood, and place in society in jeopardy and tearing her apart.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Anna Karenina is a good mother, if not necessarily a good wife. Characters are complex and flawed.


A man is shown pinned under a train and his bloody insides are visible for a few seconds; later, a woman is shown bloodied and dead after being hit by a train.


Gauzy scenes in close-up and soft focus imply strongly that a couple is having sex. Some moaning. Passionate kissing. A man is shown retrieving a birth control device before having sex. Talk of brothels, affairs/cheating, lovers. Some cleavage and scenes of shirtless men (plus one glimpse of the side of a man's bare bottom). Part of a wet nurse's breast is seen.


A few uses of "damn" and "my God."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some period-accurate smoking, as well as a few scenes of people drinking vodka and champagne. A woman resorts to using morphine to fall asleep.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Anna Karenina is a sensuous, visually sumptuous, beautifully stylized take on Tolstoy's classic novel about doomed love in late 1870s Russia. It's quite intense, focusing on how a woman (played by Keira Knightley) turns her back on her husband to be with her lover, putting her marriage, motherhood, and place in society in jeopardy and tearing her apart. There's little nudity beyond cleavage and men's bare chests, but some scenes definitely imply lovemaking, and there's moaning and passionate kissing. Also expect smoking and vodka drinking, as well as some tragic scenes and death.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byDan G. February 28, 2013

R-rated movies for children? No way.

An OK movie for adults, the whole thing is about people that cannot control themselves or keep their marital commitments. A lot of pain and suffering for all i... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byAgirl May 20, 2016

Honest Review (Just One Spoiler Towards the End) (I have written spoiler there)

I feel that it's a good adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's book and is a beautiful movie
Here are the pros and cons
1) it's a very unique story a... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old February 21, 2021

Love and lust

clearly emphasizes on that topic , if you want to see guilty pleasure movies and know the difference between love and lust this is a perfect movie

What's the story?

ANNA KARENINA takes us back to the late 1800s, when the members of Russian high society conducted their lives as if onstage, with one another as their audience. No wonder, then, that when Anna (Keira Knightley), the wife of studious politician Karenin (Jude Law), goes off-script by falling in love with a young soldier, Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), the play, if you will, grinds to a halt. Society shuns Anna as she falls deeply in love with Vronsky, who risks his own professional advancement to stay close to her. Anna, on the other hand, has more on the line; she could lose her son and social standing forever. Is Anna's and Vronsky's love worth the sacrifice, and can it withstand all this scrutiny?

Is it any good?

During the end credits, director Joe Wright's Anna Karenina is said to be "inspired by" the classic Leo Tolstoy novel of the same name; "inspired" is a fitting word to use. This isn't your usual costume drama with realistic backdrops and true-to-historical-detail scenery. Instead, while it is set during the late 1870s, it unfolds mostly in a theater, with the main events taking place onstage, under a proscenium arch. The unspoken, the underbelly, the illicit takes place above it, on the crossover and flyspace. The audience in the movie is Russian society, observing the drama as it happens.

It's all brilliant, even if it takes a while to get your bearings. Traditionalists may flinch at this interpretation, which distils Tolstoy's dense novel to its essence, focusing on Anna and Levin's quest for love -- two sides of the same coin. Knightley exhibits a whole host of transformations on her face; though she relies a bit too much on some obvious reactions to transmit emotions, she's an empathetic Anna, willing us to understand why she has done all she has done, in the name of love. Taylor-Johnson is a sensual Vronsky; Anna's attraction to him is understandable, if a folly. And Law is magnificent in the economy and power of his portrayal of the cuckolded Karenin. Bottom line? This adaptation, written by playwright Tom Stoppard, is brave and sometimes claustrophobic but for the most part a success, even if you do wonder about the possibilities that could have been explored had Wright taken a more conventional route.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Anna Karenina's message. What are audiences intended to take away? Are you meant to admire the characters?

  • Why is Anna shunned? Why isn't she able to divorce her husband? What does her situation say about the role of women at the time?

  • How is this period drama different from most period dramas? Is it a format that works?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance

Themes & Topics

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