Anna Karenina Movie Poster Image

Anna Karenina

Stylized retelling of Tolstoy classic best for older teens.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Running Time: 130 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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."

Not applicable
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.

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:November 16, 2012
DVD/Streaming release date:February 19, 2013
Cast:Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Jude Law, Keira Knightley
Director:Joe Wright
Studio:Focus Features
Topics:Book characters
Run time:130 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:some sexuality and violence

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What parents and kids say

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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 involved (and even for those that are not) ensues. Pretty serious stuff, as the MPAA rating suggests.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 11 years old July 9, 2013

Best for mature teens

Anna Karenina is a good movie but it is best for mature teens (spoilers) two people get hit by a train including Anna.Anna's being an act of suicide. The main part of the story is that anna falls in love with a man when she is already married so she has an affair which means it's a little heavy on adult content
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Teen, 13 years old Written bySonia S. June 2, 2013

I honestly love this movie, if your thinking about it you should definitely watch this
What other families should know
Too much sex