Black Swan



Magnificent, macabre thriller too intense for young teens.
Popular with kidsParents recommend
  • Review Date: November 29, 2010
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 110 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

While Nina's dedication could be seen as admirable, it consumes her to the point of destruction. The message may be to find balance, that nothing is worth losing yourself -- not even what appears to be your dream come true. Viewers may also find themselves thinking about the concept that insanity can feed good art -- but is it necessary to make good art?

Positive role models

Nearly everyone is duplicitous, damaged, or manipulative, from Nina’s mother to her choreographer to Nina herself. That said, Nina’s fragility is borne out of her need to tamp down anything that appears unpleasant; she spares others, but not herself.


Characters torture themselves mentally and physically. A character purges and punishes her body with grueling workouts; she also cuts herself. When her mind starts to fall apart, she becomes delusional, sure that her skin is turning reptilian and that there are sharp objects oozing out of her wounds. She throws objects, rips drawings, screams. The movie shows the brutal aspects of ballet, including the injuries -- especially bleeding toenails, mangled feet, and achy bones. A woman is shown stabbing another with a shard of glass; the wound festers.


A woman masturbates; she’s clothed, but it’s clearly implied. A woman performs a sex act on another woman (viewers don’t see body parts, but there’s no mistaking what position they’re in). A woman makes out with a bunch of men in a drugged haze. A man touches a woman’s genitals while he’s teaching her some dance steps; he also forces her to kiss him. Bare breasts are flashed.


Fairly frequent swearing, including "f--k," "s--t," "pr-ck," "d--k," "p---y," "ass," "oh my God," and "damn."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Two young women get drunk at a nightclub. They also pop pills. Another woman, embittered because she has been replaced, causes a scene after getting drunk.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this dark gothic thriller centers on a dancer (played by Natalie Portman) who's so obsessed with perfection that she’s obliterated by it. Her pursuit is tragic, filled with self-mutilation and fear -- all of it intense material that may prove too much for younger viewers. Expect many disturbing scenes of mental and physical anguish, some violent fights, and a character who hurts herself and purges -- perhaps in response to the pressures she puts herself under. There's also some swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t"), pill-popping, and a few graphic, sexually-charged scenes (including one with bare breasts and another featuring two women).

What's the story?

Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) lives for ballet. She’s a beautiful but joyless dancer who's both afraid to fail and afraid to succeed. Her mother (Barbara Hershey), a former dancer, worries that the pressure will break Nina, but she doesn’t recognize how her own vise-like grip on her daughter’s life is harmful, too. When manipulative genius choreographer Thomas (Vincent Cassel) plucks Nina from the corps and gives her the role of the Black Swan in Swan Lake, Nina can almost taste triumph. But immediately, it weighs her down. She’s afraid she won’t live up to Thomas’ expectations. And she’s certain that a new dancer, Lily (Mila Kunis), is after her part, a conviction that strengthens when Thomas makes the other dancer Nina’s understudy. Watching Beth (Winona Ryder), whom Nina herself replaced, self-destruct only serves to emphasize the stakes. Worse, Nina’s demons -- the drive to purge, the need to hurt, and more -- are coming alive.

Is it any good?


BLACK SWAN is danse macabre personified, a grueling, tragic, obsessive and gripping film about a ballerina's quest for perfection at the expense of personality and sanity. Director Darren Aronofsky dances between beauty and blight, juxtaposing familiar ballet images (poised dancers with their lithe limbs and pintucked buns, impossibly balanced on the tips of their pink-shoed toes, silhouetted under the stagelights) with horrific ones (bleeding toenails, bony spines, skin scratched raw). The effect is unsettling, frightening even. Sometimes it all feels a little too much -- thankfully, not often.

The actors are in fine form: Kunis is bold and electrifying; Hershey, disquieting; Cassel, layered. Only Ryder, as a washed-up dancer, wobbles, playing Beth with an assured-yet-predictable touch. But the movie really is Portman’s. Her Nina is devastatingly fearful, dispiritingly fragile. She has command of her body but not her mind, and Portman, committed from first pirouette to the final moment, disappears. Only Nina remains. Cue the best actress awards.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the messages the movie sends about committing yourself to something. When is focusing on one passion/talent/dream healthy, and when does it go too far?

  • Do the consequences of the characters' behavior in this movie seem realistic? Have you ever seen anything similar happen to anyone you know?

  • Is Nina's relationship to ballet healthy? Does the film unmask anything about the world of ballet?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 3, 2010
DVD release date:March 29, 2011
Cast:Barbara Hershey, Mila Kunis, Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel
Director:Darren Aronofsky
Studio:Fox Searchlight
Run time:110 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language and some drug use

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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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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 9, 12, and 14 year old Written bymamide3 April 27, 2011
I wish I had seen these reviews before I started watching this movie with my 14 year-old. I put it on fast forward during the masturbation scene. The whole movie was way too disturbing and I turned it off before the lesbian scence started. I personally do not think it's appropriate for any age but especially not for kids and teens. I was very disappointed!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent of a 17 year old Written bygson December 27, 2010

NOT for younger minds - incredibly intense

Intense... very well acted! Definitely NOT for children, personally, I would not take a teenaged girl to this movie.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Adult Written byMia93 February 7, 2011

A movie masterpiece, but one that I will never see again. Not for anyone under 16!!! If that!

I am almost 18 and went to see this with a friend of mine. There's no doubt that this film is a masterpiece but at the same time I would never see it again. The movie contained a lot of highly explicit sex scenes (including a lesbian scene), masturbation scenes and a lot of blood an gore (a woman stabbing her own face with a nail file and a womans fingers getting crushed in a door over and over). The overall message of the film was to show the insane (literally) power that trying to be perfect can have on a fragile mind of an insecure person. I however found the details of the film hard to piece together as I found myself with my hand over my eyes so much so that I missed a fairly large percentage of the movie! This film is not meant to be a good time and it certainly isn't going to make you walk out with a smile. It is however very captivating and extremely intense! You get so absorbed in the insanity of the story and the scenes taking place that I found myself having to say to myself "it's just a movie..." over and over. Also, I am a ballet dancer so of course that was an intriguing aspect of the film. I found the dancing spectacular, however I would never go and see this movie purely for the dancing as it is a very small part of this epic film. So, definately a masterpiece but one that I would never watch again! Truly horrifying and disgusting! I would not recommend this movie for anyone full stop but if you are planning on seeing it, no one under the age of 16 should step near this film and even then, it must be a very mature 16 year old, that can handle a bit of blood, gore and sex scenes.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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