Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead Movie Poster Image
Mature heist film full of violence, explicit sex.
  • R
  • 2007
  • 117 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 17+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Characters include thieves, addicts, bullies, and cheaters. Both brothers are insecure, competitive, and violent; their father is distant and cruel; wives are vindictive and resentful. A character's presumed homosexuality is equated with deviance.


Brutal violence during the central robbery, when a masked thief and the elderly jewelry store owner face off, shooting each other repeatedly (lots of blood, crawling on the ground). Justin, an upscale drug dealer, regularly answers the door with his gun in hand. After she's shot, an old woman appears in a hospital room with tubes and monitors; ultimately, a decision must be made about keeping her on life support. A widower crashes his car into a police cruiser in despair. Father slaps son. Lots of shooting and fighting near the end (panicky gunfire, yelling, blood on walls and bodies).


Repeated sex scenes showing naked breasts, buttocks, and sexual activity. First scene takes place in a mirrored hotel room and shows explicit sex from various angles. Other scenes show an adulterous couple (a man with his brother's wife) and reveal her breasts and his bottom. A couple of scenes show tongue-kissing. Andy undresses (not explicit).


Language includes frequent uses of "f--k" and "s--t" (a couple with "bull"), and far fewer instances of "ass" (one with "hole"), "hell," "goddamn," and derisive slang ("faggoty" and "prick").


Brief visual or verbal references to Dell laptop, Tiffany's jewelry.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Several scenes take place in bars, where characters drink beer and liquor. Frequent cigarette smoking. Some marijuana smoking and cocaine snorting. In a business/potentially kinky sex arrangement, Andy pays a young man to inject him with heroin a couple of times (needles, powder, and spoon visible). Hank appears drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this intense, mature heist film about two adult brothers who conspire to rob their parents -- no one is supposed to get hurt, but things go very awry -- definitely isn't for kids. It's full of loud, bloody, harrowing violence (including a robber exchanging gunfire with an elderly woman) and some pretty explicit sex scenes (thrusting, panting, naked bottoms, visible breasts/nipples). Several scenes show drinking and explicit drug use (cocaine, marijuana, heroin), and there's adultery, cigarette smoking, and plenty of strong language ("f--k," "s--t," and more).

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byKen R. November 10, 2020

Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead – Invites Slow Thinkers

There’s a film making device that not even the sometimes overrated Kubrick could make work (IE; check out his heist movie: ‘The Killing’) It’s the tired old fla... Continue reading
Adult Written bykmattson April 9, 2008
Teen, 13 years old Written bySanjay407 October 28, 2011


Rated R: Gory Violence, Graphic Sex, Strong Language, and Strong Drug Use
Teen, 14 years old Written byKrozo April 9, 2008

Suspenseful Thriller of a Dysfunctional Family

This movie is inappropriate for almost everyone under the age of 17 so I gave this movie and "off" instead of a "pause." This movie is also... Continue reading

What's the story?

In BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD, greedy Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) convinces his younger, more earnest, and less clever brother Hank (Ethan Hawke) to carry out a robbery at their parents' jewelry store. The crime is meant to be victimless, but it goes very badly, leaving a masked accomplice dead, Andy and Hank's mother Nanette (Rosemary Harris) in a coma, and Hank in a complete panic. The rest of the film provides sketchy, somewhat predictable context for each brother: While Andy fears losing his wife, Hank is desperately behind on child. At the same time, they must put on a show for their distraught father, Charles (Albert Finney), while their mother lies dying in the hospital. As each brother reveals his fears and disappointments, he also discovers that his life is too far gone to recover. Addicted to cocaine and heroin, Andy can't find a dark enough hole in which to disappear. And Hank, making one bad decision after another, discovers that he'll never be as rich -- or as miserable -- as his brother.

Is it any good?

At its best, Sidney Lumet's latest movie reflects the characters' torment and rage in its complex structure and excellent performances. As the story cuts back and forth in time, viewers come to see motives and consequences gradually, piecing characters together as they come to understand themselves. But at its worst, the movie lapses into melodramatic formula, with men clashing and competing while women suffer.

Though the brothers' gnarly relationship creates a compelling puzzle, the women around them tend to fall by the wayside, serving more as evidence of the men's failures than as characters with their own lives -- or deaths. Even Nanette's passing becomes an occasion for the boys to argue and flail about. As reckless and forlorn as the brothers and their father may be, you can only imagine how much worse it is for the women who live with them.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the characters' bad/strained family relationships. Why do the brothers resent their father? How do they act out with each other? What role does Gina fulfill for both of the brothers? Do you think relationships like these are realistic? Is it more "entertaining" to see a movie about dysfunctional characters or functional ones? Why?

Movie details

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