Bad Times at the El Royale

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Bad Times at the El Royale Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Dark, violent crime movie has some inspired moments.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 141 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 13 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 9 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Messages aren't the point here, but there's some attempt at teamwork later in the movie, with characters using their skills/abilities to help others. Some forgiveness/compassion.

Positive Role Models & Representations

All the characters are on the wrong side of the law, are victims, or have shady pasts. Some keep trying -- and reveal goodness/humanity -- but overall these aren't characters to admire.


Extremely strong, over-the-top, bloody violence. Guns and shooting, with deaths via gun (very first scene is shotgun murder). Characters die; one murder revisited multiple times from different perspectives. Blood spatters. Bloody, gory wounds. Scene of Vietnam War shows hundreds of dead bodies. Woman tied to chair; hostages tied up. Knives and stabbing. Punching, hitting with blunt objects/bottles. A man hits a woman. Fighting; one fistfight involves a young girl. Flashback to a scene with abusive father, two little girls. Characters shoved up against wall. Car wreck. Reference to a man beating a "whore." References to many violent, twisted acts. A woman's career is threatened unless she does a producer a "favor."


Naked man on beach shown in silhouette. Reference to a "whore." References to people having sex/sexual acts. Shirtless man shown frequently. Brief image of a topless woman. Implied sexual relationship between a young girl and an adult man. 


Very strong language includes uses of "f--k," "s--t," "Jesus f---ing Christ," "hell," "a--hole," "goddamn," "negro," "whore."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Character shown passed out with a needle sticking out of his arm; he appears to be an addict. Fairly frequent smoking, social drinking (whiskey). A man slips a drug into a woman's drink.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Bad Times at the El Royale is a Tarantino-esque crime movie with tons of stylized, over-the-top violence. You'll see lots of guns and shooting (including murders via shotgun), bloody wounds, blood spatters, death, punching and hitting, knives, and stabbing. Women are shot, punched, and tied up, and a war flashback includes hundreds of dead bodies. A man is shown naked in silhouette; nothing sensitive is visible. There are also spoken references to sex/sex acts and prostitutes. Language is very strong, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," and more. A character is shown passed out with a needle sticking out of his arm, and there's fairly frequent smoking and drinking (whiskey). The director (Drew Goddard) and cast (Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, Chris Hemsworth, Jon Hamm, and more) will no doubt appeal to many, and while it's a bit flat in places, there's enough here to make it worth a viewing for mature moviegoers.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byStephen Shaw August 6, 2019

Just try to do a period picture better!.

I missed the fact that Rosie Murdered the Pediatrition and his wife the first viewing. I suspect that Billy Lee got her Preg. after the " Tussle" .... Continue reading
Adult Written byCastelluccio101 May 17, 2019

The Best Film Of 2018

I see countless films ever year and I consider myself a pretty series film critic, and I’ve gotta say not much impresses me that comes out these days. This film... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byMoviefan808 October 14, 2018

Good Times At The El Royale

Bad Times At The El Royale is more near boarding a R movie by today's standards with all the cursing and violence in today's movies. It's only re... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byEthan_whaterver March 3, 2021

Not given enough Credit!

Common Sense is really failing families when it comes to an actual review. This film was pretty well done for a period film in 2018. We've seen other abysm... Continue reading

What's the story?

In BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE, it's 1969, and several people arrive at the El Royale Hotel, which is on the border between California and Nevada. The group includes traveling salesman Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm), forgetful priest Father Flynn (Jeff Bridges), struggling singer Darlene Sweet (Tony-winner Cynthia Erivo, of Broadway's The Color Purple), and the mysterious Emily (Dakota Johnson), who appears to have kidnapped a young woman (Cailee Spaeny). They all check in with clerk Miles (Lewis Pullman), who seems to be running the entire hotel by himself. Once the guests lock their doors, the truth begins to come out. Nothing is as it seems, and shady secrets abound. But everything changes when magnetic cult leader Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) turns up. In a violent showdown, all secrets will be revealed.

Is it any good?

Part Agatha Christie and part Quentin Tarantino, this multi-character crime/chamber piece is too long, with too many stops and starts, but it has enough inspired moments to make it worth a look. Written and directed by Drew Goddard, Bad Times at the El Royale starts with a bang -- a flashback featuring Nick Offerman -- and then slows down for a long time. More flashbacks have the effect of stopping the movie dead in its tracks. And, despite the presence of such commanding actors as Hamm, Bridges, and Hemsworth, the characters are somehow a little flat.

But the movie is cleverly designed, with a fascinating use of space and sound. A sequence involving a kind of secret room is mesmerizing, especially when it involves Darlene. She's a real surprise in that she's actually not a criminal, though she certainly has a troubled past. When she cuts loose and sings in her room, all the characters stop and listen. The movie's canny use of echoey sound makes her songs all the more heartbreaking. The other ace in the hole is Miles, played by Bill Pullman's son, Lewis. Even though his flashback/origin story comes late in the film, his dark secrets are worth waiting for.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Bad Times at the El Royale's violence. Does the exaggerated nature make it more thrilling? More shocking? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How are drinking, smoking, and drug use portrayed? Are they glamorized? Are there consequences? Why does that matter?

  • Which of the characters would you say are good people? How can you tell? Are some characters likable even if they've done bad things or have a dark past?

  • Have you ever had a big secret? Would you ever share it? Why or why not?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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