A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Though the film is full of dark and hopeless situations, its core message is positive: We should all strive to listen to each other more and have compassion. Otherwise, the consequences are dire.
Positive Role Models
Though characters are portrayed with nuance and compassion, they make poor decisions (with dire consequences). Kids shoot a rifle for fun, White tourists act entitled and fearful in Morocco, an underage teen drinks and takes drugs, an adult drives while drunk, and an employer doesn't allow his nanny to take a day off from work so she can attend her son's wedding.
Plenty of diversity in front of and behind the screen. Mexican filmmakers Alejandro González Iñárritu and Guillermo Arriaga show the consequences of fear and prejudice with this globe-trotting film. Moroccan, White American, Japanese, and Mexican characters have main roles. Among them, there's age diversity, and a main character is deaf (but played by hearing actor Rinko Kikuchi). A Mexican nanny who's undocumented is portrayed three-dimensionally. But even though the film uses cultural stereotypes to question them, and all main characters are written sympathetically, clichés are present: Moroccans are shown as violent and backward (boys play with rifles, police officers abuse their power and beat up locals, a brother spies on his sister and masturbates). A female Japanese high schooler is hypersexualized; she's the only character with nude and explicit scenes. And Deaf culture is portrayed inaccurately, with the script assuming that all deaf characters can lip-read and using the outdated term "deaf-mute" to describe characters who regularly vocalize.
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Violence & Scariness
Kids playing with a gun shoot at a bus and accidentally hit someone -- lots of injury scenes with a lot of blood. Brief scene of a doctor stitching a wound while the patient kicks and screams. A police officer forces an innocent elder to the ground with a handgun to his head, then punches him during interrogation. A dad slaps his kids in the face. During a gunfight, police shoot a child (blood visible), and a boy shoots a police officer. A character rips the head off a chicken; a little blood spurts, and the headless chicken briefly flaps around. Characters discuss a death by suicide. An adult is lost in the desert with two young children; the kids become badly dehydrated, and one passes out. Harassment of a sexual nature: When a dentist examines a patient and leans in, the patient licks his mouth (she's sent away). A boy watches his sister undress through a peephole; she smiles when she catches him spying, implying she's OK with it, but consent is unclear.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A teen removes her underwear and opens her legs to flash a group of young men, revealing her crotch (explicit). Full-frontal nudity of a young woman -- she pulls an adult's hand to her breast, and he grabs for a moment but stops before anything more happens. A commercial shows a young woman in a bra and panties playing jump rope. Characters kiss, make out, get married, discuss relationship problems. A boy masturbates, his hand moving quickly under his pants (nothing sensitive is shown).
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Many uses of "f--k" (including one use of "motherf----rs" in subtitles), as well as "s--t," "a--hole," and "ass." The film uses the outdated and incorrect term "deaf-mute" to describe deaf characters who regularly vocalize throughout the movie.
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Products & Purchases
Characters drive a Toyota and order Diet Coke and Coke at a restaurant. Rold Gold package of pretzels visible on a counter.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters drink alcohol, including underage drinking; one adult drives while drunk. High schoolers take pills and appear high and elated. Minor characters smoke cigarettes. An injured character smokes from a pipe for medicinal use and becomes heavily sedated.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Babel is the final film in writer Guillermo Arriaga and director Alejandro González Iñárritu's "Death Trilogy" (the others are Amores Perros and 21 Grams). The film has traumatic violence, including kids who play with a rifle and accidentally shoot a stranger -- with lots of injury scenes and blood. Characters stitch open wounds, abuse local elders, slap their kids, and discuss a parent's death by suicide. During a gunfight, police shoot a child (blood visible), and a boy shoots a police officer. A character rips the head off a chicken on-screen. A boy watches his sister undress through a peephole; she smiles when she catches him spying, implying she's OK with it, but consent is unclear. When an adult is lost in the desert with two young children, the kids become badly dehydrated, and one passes out. Characters drink, smoke, and take pills to get high. A woman smokes from a pipe in a medical context and becomes heavily sedated. There are many uses of "f--k," as well as "s--t" and "a--hole." The film also often uses the outdated and inaccurate term "deaf-mute." Sexual content includes a high schooler who takes off her underwear and flashes a group of young men (explicit). She later appears with full-frontal nudity in front of an adult, grabbing his hand to place on her breast. A boy masturbates (nothing sensitive is shown). Though characters make poor decisions, they're treated with compassion, and the film has an underlying message about the power of listening rather than judging. Babel is inclusive, with Mexican filmmakers behind the camera and a diverse cast on-screen, even if cultural stereotypes are sometimes in effect. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
At once poetic, provocative, and plaintive, this film explores people's efforts to communicate with one another. This difficult theme is made easier by Babel's veteran cast, with stalwarts like Blanchett, Pitt, Barraza, and Yakusho bringing gravitas, while younger stars Bernal and Kikuchi easily keep pace. The film's kids also deliver touching performances, with Moroccan son Yussef (Boubker Ait El Caid) standing out with his impish bravado. Uniting these far-flung characters are their respective traumas, as the film covers mature themes with a humanistic lens. By its end, Babel both gathers together and unravels its many strands, allowing that communication may be elusive and misleading but insisting that it's crucial for understanding and healing to take place.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.