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Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
Apocalypto Movie Poster Image
The bloody end of a civilization. Not for kids.
  • R
  • 2006
  • 148 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 14 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 28 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The noble hero must answer brutal, relentless villains with his own form of brutality.


Gory violence is explicit and almost non-stop, in some form or another. An early hunting scene sets the tone when a tapir is abruptly killed and cut open. Bloody assaults (rape is implied in some cases); weapons include spears, knives, arrows, poison darts, spiked traps, and other tools. Men are chased, hit, kicked, knifed, beaten, speared, cut open (their hearts are cut out and held up in ritual sacrifice while they're still alive), and beheaded (this is also graphic, with heads and bodies falling down a long staircase with loud thuds). Frequent shots of injured, bloody bodies and faces (including one particularly gruesome scene in which an exposed brain spurts blood). A man's throat is cut in front of his horrified son, and a jaguar rips a man to pieces before being brutally stabbed to death. Frequent deadly peril.


Naked or near-naked bodies throughout (16th-century tribal communities); jokey references to one man's impotence (he's given tapir "balls" to eat and a salve that makes his genitals burn, and his wife appears with her mouth also "burning," indicating off-screen fellatio).


In subtitles: One "f--ked," plus "damn."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this relentlessly brutal, subtitled action film isn't for kids. It features extreme and repetitive violence, including suggestions of rape (screaming women who are dragged off screen). But the greatest viciousness is directed against male bodies: Men are tortured, beaten, cut, kicked, thrown to the ground, speared, shot with arrows, beheaded, and cut open while they're still alive (their cut-out hearts appear in close-up). A man's throat is cut in front of his son, heads are set on sticks as totems, and a jaguar attacks a man and rips him to pieces on screen. A pregnant woman and her young child are left stranded in a dangerous situation, leading to some very tense moments; other children are left to fend for themselves when their parents are taken captive, and a young girl with smallpox (her face marked with open sores) is shown crying next to her mother's corpse. A man's alleged impotence is the source of some humor. One subtitled use of "f--k."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bycortright5 April 9, 2008

Realistic Historical Film

If you have a stomach for graphic violence lots of gore. Patience to read subtitles due to the film being spoken in their native tongue (very impressive) this... Continue reading
Adult Written bystrawbelly March 18, 2013

Real History

I watched this film finally and accidentally (thanks to TV) last night. I thought it was a brilliant piece of history and will no doubt be soon watching it with... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byHaiden Davis October 6, 2012

Mel Gibson's masterpiece

AMAZING film. It portrays a noble warrior who almost dies many times to protect his pregnant wife and young son. It is fairly violent but any amount of blood an... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byStrategist101 October 16, 2013


This movie was great. Somewhat historically inaccurate, but great. People ARE sacrificed, beaten, beheaded, stabbed, thrown off cliffs, stabbed more, shot wit... Continue reading

What's the story?

Young, optimistic 15th-century Mayan tribesman Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood) confronts real fear for the first time after he and his hunting party come across a band of terrified, homeless villagers seeking "a new beginning." Jaguar Paw soon has his own reason to be afraid, when a band of fierce Holcane warriors attack his village: They pillage, burn, rape, and murder, taking the able-bodied young adults away to their festering city, where they sell the women as servants and plan to sacrifice the men atop a pyramid overlooking the town square. Unexpectedly escaping this terrible fate, Jaguar Paw spends the rest of the movie trying to save his pregnant wife, Seven (Dalia Hernandez), and young son, whom he hid from the marauders in an empty well. Pursued by vengeful Holcane leader Zero Wolf (Raoul Trujillo) and his second, Snake Ink (Rodolfo Palacios), along with a crew of fleet runners and ferocious killers, Jaguar Paw has his work -- survival -- cut out for him.

Is it any good?

Another adventure in spectacular physical abuse directed by Mel Gibson, Apocalypto combines gorgeous imagery and stunning brutality. Even as bodies are falling and crashing, bleeding and drowning, Dean Semler's cinematography is breathtaking and the compositions ravishing, whether they're lush forest backgrounds or fascinating faces in close-up.

Jaguar Paw's story is an occasion for imagining what happened to the Mayan civilization. Assuming the Spanish "explorers" didn't destroy the Mayans in one fell swoop, Apocalypto offers up an assortment of explanations, both material and spiritual, for their downfall. The start of the collective fall, the film suggests, comes with assaults on individuals. While it's clear that the hero not only endures, but also exacts vengeance when he must, the film doesn't ever get around to considering consequences for all the mayhem.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the role of violence in the movie. Is it appropriate for the story that's being told? Which parts, if any, are gratuitous? How accurate do you think it is? Director Mel Gibson has become known for making very violent movies -- why do you think a filmmaker might be drawn to that kind of material? How about the subtitles? Why do you think Gibson chose to film the movie in Yucatec? Families can also talk about the relationships between the different groups of Mayans in the movie. Why does one group think the other is suitable for labor and sacrifice? How does the film represent Mayan religious rituals? How does Jaguar Paw's devotion to his family make him a familiar and also mythic hero?

Movie details

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