Arlington Road



Scary movie about terrorism. Not for kids.
  • Review Date: May 20, 2003
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 1999
  • Running Time: 119 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Issue of hate groups


Very intense




The usual four letter words

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Social drinking

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie will give thoughtful teens some things to think about -- balancing the need for security against individual rights, the difficulty of deciding whom to trust, and the factors that lead to hate crimes.

What's the story?

In ARLINGTON ROAD, Jeff Bridges plays Michael Faraday, a professor who specializes in terrorism, still grieving for the loss of his wife, an FBI agent who was killed in a Ruby Ridge-style shootout. He is befriended by a new neighbor, Oliver Lang (Tim Robbins). At first, Lang's family seems like an all-American family straight out of an "Up With People" concert, but Faraday begins to suspect that under their bright smiles and peppy friendship might be something very sinister. Faraday's friends think that he has become a little unhinged from his wife's experience. But as he continues to investigate, he discovers more and more disturbing information about the Langs.

Is it any good?


Arlington Road is a very scary movie about a very scary subject -- terrorism. Indeed, its release was delayed due to concerns about the sensitivity of the material. This movie will give thoughtful teens some things to think about -- balancing the need for security against individual rights, the difficulty of deciding whom to trust, and the factors that lead to hate crimes.

The references to acts of terrorism in the US are so close to reality that they make this thriller more thoughtful than standard films in the genre. The very first image, of a boy walking in an immaculate suburb, bleeding from an accident, sets the stage for the unsettling story, and the ending is not only scary, but hauntingly so.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about balancing the need for security against individual rights, the difficulty of deciding whom to trust, and the factors that lead to hate crimes.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 9, 1999
DVD release date:December 11, 2001
Cast:Jeff Bridges, Joan Cusack, Tim Robbins
Director:Mark Pellington
Studio:Columbia Tristar
Run time:119 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:violence and language

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 16 years old Written byAl_Piccone October 8, 2015

Excellent, Breathless Thriller about pre-9/11 Terrorism

I love this movie. Fair enough, it is a little depressing. This movie is not very "exciting," and much of the entertainment lies in the situations and the dialogue. Young kids will simply not enjoy it, but the older teens, will not get a good breath until the movie is over. The movie ends with the protagonist, Jeff Bridges, being killed in a bombing by antagonist Tim Robbins. There are no uplifting themes to this movie. Jeff Bridges spends the time after his wife was killed in a mistaken FBI raid, and spends the rest of his life obsessing about terrorist activity, only to be killed by one. The movie is very entertaining, but don't go expecting to feel wonderful after the film has ended. The film is very thought provoking, in that Jeff Bridges' character died in the same way as another presumed terrorist that he taught about in his college class. (Jeff Bridges was accused and remembered as a terrorist after his death, as the bomb that detonated came from his car) They even knew the same people. This leads the audience to think that perhaps the other terrorist was innocent as well. As for inappropriate content, there is a bit of swearing, (two or three f-words) and implied sex between the protagonist and his girlfriend. A fist-fight, a car chase, a shoot-out, and of course a bombing also occur. Other than that, the rest of the movie is dialogue. This movie is fine if you think your kid can handle the intensity and dark undertone of the film.
Parent of a 12 and 14 year old Written bystreborkb January 27, 2011

Adults or mature teens only - no kids

My son is very mature for age 14 - HE could probably 'handle' it. However, I don't plan to show it to him (we don't even do most PG-13 with him yet!). As stated, it is 'hauntingly' realistic and VERY thought-provoking. It is an intense thriller that can be a real eye-opener for adults. As a former soldier and concscientous conservative patriot, I enjoyed the movie immensely, however, I cannot say that I recommend it for ANY one under the recommended age for Rated-R movies (age 17). The four stars is for adults - children should NOT watch it.
What other families should know
Too much swearing


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