Babel

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
Babel Movie Poster Image
Explicit with mature themes; best for older teens, adults.
  • R
  • 2006
  • 141 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 8 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Bad decisions throughout: A high-school girl rebels (parties, does drugs, reveals her body); a young boy shoots rifle on a lark; U.S. tourists travel in a country where they're at once privileged and fearful (racist); a nanny travels with her young charges to Mexico, then has trouble crossing the border back into California; her nephew tries to race away from border guards. Some of these characters recover, others don't.

Violence

Violence involving children: A Moroccan boy accidentally shoots an American tourist (badly injured, she bleeds and weakens throughout the film and endures stitching without anesthesia); a boy is shot by authorities (bloody body); a boy and authorities exchange gunfire (boy enthusiastic, then horrified); discussion of a mother's suicide and her daughter's consideration of same; authorities threaten a Moroccan man with a gun to the head, then beat him (bloodied face); at a Mexican wedding, revellers shoot guns, scaring Caucasian/U.S.-born children.

Sex

A high-school student opens her legs to reveal underwearless crotch (revealing a dark area, very briefly); the same girl shows her naked body to a policeman in effort to "communicate" her sadness and loneliness (she has two shots of full-frontal nudity); girl licks her dentist (he sends her home); a boy watches his sister undress through a peephole, upsetting their father when he finds out; a boy masturbates; young people kiss/dance.

Language

Repeated (15+) uses of "f--k" (at least one in Japanese with subtitle); some other profanity ("s--t," "a--hole," "ass").

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cigarette smoking, drinking (some underage, and one character drives drunk), and drugs (high school students).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this film includes explicit, traumatic violence, especially by gunfire and especially involving young children. In one incident, a boy shoots a rifle at a tourists' bus from far away, accidentally hitting a young mother; she bleeds and becomes increasingly weak through the rest of the film. In another, authorities shoot at a father and his two young sons (one shoots back at them, and the other is shot dead, all shown in bloody, sad imagery). When a nanny is lost in the desert with two young children, the kids become badly dehydrated and very sick. To shock some boys, a high school student shows off what's under her school uniform skirt. She also discusses her mother's suicide and considers it for herself; at one point she stands on a high rise balcony, frightening her father. The same girl later appears naked before a policeman (there are two shots of frontal nudity). A boy masturbates. Characters drink, smoke, do drugs, and use profanity, especially "f--k."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymarketing April 9, 2008
Adult Written bysaward1 April 9, 2008

Thought-provoking adult movie

This movie reminds us that life doesn't always tie things up with a neat ribbon, that all is not as it may appear and that love doesn't always conquer... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bytrebleclefjordan April 9, 2008

!!!!

One of the most amazing movies I've ever seen.
Teen, 13 years old Written bySanjay407 November 25, 2011

Read

Rated R: Graphic Violence, Sex, and Language, and Drug Use

What's the story?

At once poetic, provocative, and plaintive, BABEL explores different people's efforts to communicate with one another. They range from desperate to exhilarating, and some fail while others succeed. All are difficult. Like director Alejandro González Iñárritu's other movies, this one tackles difficult themes using a complex, contrived structure. Three basic storylines intersect at different times and through too-clever allusions. Powerfully linked by instances of violence, the stories all concern children who are caught up in circumstances beyond their easy comprehension. Two plots are connected by family members: Richard (Brad Pitt) and his wife Susan (Cate Blanchett) have traveled to Morocco in an effort to get over a traumatic event. They've left their children, Debbie (Elle Fanning) and Mike (Nathan Gamble), at home in San Diego, under the care of their housekeeper, Amelia (Adriana Barraza).Tragedy strikes in Morocco when Susan is shot in the neck. Richard works frantically to get help. At the same time, Amelia, not knowing why Richard and Susan are delayed, is worried she'll miss her son's wedding in Mexico. At last, she decides to take the children with her to Tijuana, an idea questioned even by her reckless nephew Santiago (Gael García Bernal). He drives them to and from the wedding, but on their return they're stopped at the border, and Santiago's reaction leads to disaster. In the third story, deaf Tokyo high schooler Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi), struggles with her mother's recent suicide and rebels against her father Yasujiro (Kôji Yakusho), who is nominally linked to Susan's shooting, but the thematic links -- between nations, individuals, and images -- are more potent here, especially as all concern kids and parents.

Is it any good?

By its end, Babel both gathers together and unravels its many strands, allowing that communication -- by whatever form -- is at once elusive, crucial, and misleading. But it can also be sincere.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the film's central theme -- communication. How can you communicate with someone if you don't understand their language? How can communication help solve problems? How do parents and caregivers sometimes end up making poor decisions about the kids in their care? Could situations like that be avoided if rebellious children and their angry or anxious parents were able to talk? How do the movie's imagery and soundtrack evoke the experiences of being afraid, high, or even deaf?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate