Uneven drama questions Shakespeare's identity.
  • Review Date: October 28, 2011
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 130 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

In this period drama, honesty is rarely the best policy. Almost all of the characters are lying about something, whether it's to achieve wealth, power, love, or some combination of the three. People are happy to engage in a huge theatrical deception because it's quite lucrative. Others conspire and manipulate people for political reasons.

Positive role models

The Earl of Oxford will do almost anything to pursue his passion (writing), even letting others take credit for his work just so he can see his plays performed. His passion is impressive, though he ignores his other responsibilities and his own family to pursue his work.


Several scenes feature swordfights and armed clashes between soldiers, as well as intense torture sequences and an angry mob attempting to storm a castle.


Love scenes show people embracing, passionately kissing, and lying in bed (during/after simulated sex), both clothed and partially clothed. Implied oral sex, and some sex sounds. Several cleavage shots and both partial and complete views of men's bare bottoms. Lots of innuendo/suggestive talk and discussions of the political impact of children being born out of wedlock. Infidelity and prostitution; references to incest.


"Bollocks," "my God," etc.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A few scenes show people drinking in pubs and occasionally being drunk.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that that this period drama set in Elizabethan England questions whether William Shakespeare was truly the author of the plays and poems attributed to his famous quill. The film focuses on several huge deceptions, so there's plenty of lying, manipulation, and scheming -- just about everyone is trying to obscure the truth. There are also some intense torture scenes and a few battles, as well as lots of innuendo and several scenes showing cleavage, glimpses of bare bottoms, and people in bed -- though there's no graphic nudity. Many of the movie's themes are rather adult, including the central literary hoax and the political implications of children born out of wedlock to royal parents.

What's the story?

Who really wrote Romeo and Juliet? ANONYMOUS posits that William Shakespeare wasn't actually the acclaimed author of the most famous plays in the English language. Instead, the movie says, they were penned by a frustrated nobleman (Rhys Ifans) who desired nothing more than to write but was instead dragged into the machinations of Queen Elizabeth's court and forced to hide his passion, letting an illiterate actor take credit for his life's work. The literary deception is set against a political conspiracy, as the queen's advisors scheme to capture the throne; the two threads tie together as the real playwright attempts to use his words -- rather than swords -- to steer history.

Is it any good?


Director Roland Emmerich is better known for his action blockbusters (Independence Day, 2012), and Anonymous works better when he's staging battles than in the many quiet moments when he's attempting to establish the literary fraud. The film also has a complex sequence, jumping back and forth between four different time periods, and can be hard to follow.

It's also hard to tell whether Emmerich actually believes in this great Shakespearean conspiracy or if he's just trying to spin a good tale. And it is a good story, with political intrigue, lusty lords and ladies, people with mysterious noble lineage, and some world-class schemers. Still, while the film is entertaining, some viewers might not be sure whether to take it as historical fact or simply a fanciful yarn.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Shakespeare. Do you buy the controversial theory that he might not have written his plays? Why do you think such ideas persist?

  • What are the movie's messages? What is it saying about honesty? Is it ever OK to lie?

  • What would you do if you were forbidden from pursuing the one source of passion in your life? Why was the Earl of Oxford willing to let others take credit for his work?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 28, 2011
DVD release date:February 7, 2012
Cast:David Thewlis, Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave
Director:Roland Emmerich
Studio:Columbia Pictures
Run time:130 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:some violence and sexual content

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  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written byCompass March 1, 2012

Great film, but needlessly sexual at times.

(Sexuality) As a 20 year-old man, I must admit that I found the first love/sex scene in the film, while not truly explicit, to be exceptionally gritty; there is no nudity, but the few shots of implied oral sex during the characters dialogue stood out as being far more sexual than the other 2 brief sexual scenes, almost shockingly so. The way it was presented- with the gritty, sensual lighting, the movement of the woman's head towards the mans waist, coupled with the recognizable sounds of oral sex- felt out of place, and I feel that the movie as a whole would have prospered if just those few seconds had been cut from the final film. (Other sexual content) Aside from that first scene, there is also a very brief shot of a man and a women having sex under a bed sheet, showing only the man's back, and another slightly-comedic scene in which a character is caught with a prostitute, which contains a few frames of his partially-exposed rear-end. Nothing overly explicit, but these scenes are a central aspect the the plot, and they should be noted. (Overall) Needless sexuality aside, the film is highly engaging, with powerful and complex dialogue throughout, fantastic performances by all actors, and tremendous costumes and sets. Very unique on all fronts. Due to the sexual nature of the film, as well is it's inherent complexity in both dialogue and plot, this is not a children's film in any way, and I would place it in the higher (R) end of the PG-13 spectrum. However, it's worth watching if the audience has substantial maturity.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Adult Written bystringbean February 21, 2012

Don't waste your time or money on this one!

This is a big waste of time and is hard to follow. There is also a quick glimpse of a man's butt while he is having sex with a prostitute whose breasts are barely covered. There are other scenes with lots of cleavage also.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Teen, 15 years old Written byevolinag February 5, 2012

Unoriginal hollywood flick is not too strong.

"Anonymous" is, even though the plot sounds interesting, nowhere a masterpiece. Director Roland Emmerich, usually known for his overblown, dumb disaster movies, tried to make something arty and serious, but eventually fails by the movie's typical hollywood structure. The movie may have a good optical look, but the movie is not as good as it could have been. More or less, the movie ends up like a usual blockbuster that just has an unusual setting. But i think it is the highlight of the Emmerich's career, which is pretty sad. It is okay, but there are many blockbusters that are better than this. The movie has a few violent moments. A character gets stabbed accidentally while hiding behind a curtain. A few mild innuendos, some not very explicit talk. There is not much inappropriate content. It is at the PG side of a PG-13. Suitabel for children 10 and up.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex


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