Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Boyhood Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Unique, affecting, mature drama about life and growing up.
  • R
  • 2014
  • 166 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 19 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 38 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

No hard-and-fast lessons, but characters do learn from simply getting through life's hardships and disappointments. The mother gives some advice to a man early in the film, and years later runs into him to find that her advice has paid off; she receives his heartfelt thanks.

Positive Role Models & Representations

These aren't necessarily bad people or good people -- just real people. They try to get by, they make mistakes, they learn, and they keep moving on. Most of them have good intentions.


The mother marries a man who turns out to be a violent drunk. There's a suggestion that he beats her; she's shown lying on the floor of the garage, sobbing. He's shown as being angry and threatening, with the children and the mother very clearly afraid of him. Mason receives a shotgun as a present. Characters argue.


Mason is shown kissing his girlfriend. Characters discuss sex and contraception. There's various innuendo, and a possible suggestion of Internet porn, but nothing is shown. The condescending phrase "hunting beaver" is used.


Strong language comes in fits and starts. "F--k" and various permutations are used a few times, plus "s--t," "bulls--t," "p---y," "a--hole," "penis," "c--k," "ass," "goddamn," "son of a bitch," "bitch," "faggot," "whore," "d--k," "damn," "hell," "piss," "numb-nuts," and "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation). A middle finger gesture is shown. The phrase "hunting beaver" is used.


Various brands are seen in passing over the years: computers (a desktop Apple), and video games (a Game Boy) are shown. Characters play a first-person shooter game on XBox. In one sequence, kids get dressed up to go to the bookstore to get the latest Harry Potter book. Coca-Cola is mentioned. Facebook is mentioned. Gatorade is mentioned/shown.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A secondary character is a dangerous alcoholic; at first he drinks secretly and later openly at the dinner table. He gets angry and abusive and is very clearly a threat to his wife and their kids. As a teen, Mason tries some beer while hanging out with some guy friends. He's later seen smoking pot. Still later, he attends a party with that has Jell-o shots and lots of beer, as well as drinking games. At college, he tries drugs with his roommate. Adults are seen drinking beer and other alcohol socially. The father smokes cigarettes from time to time and tries to quit at one point.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Boyhood is an extraordinary drama that was filmed over the course of 12 years, following the main character, Mason (Ellar Coltrane), as he grows from age 5 to age 18. Rather than sticking to a standard coming-of-age plot, the movie is more about the rhythms of life itself: trying to get by, making mistakes and moving on. There's strong language that comes in bursts, including "f--k" and "s--t." One sequence involves an abusive, alcoholic second husband. No onscreen violence is shown, but it's definitely suggested, and there's a sense of threat. Sex talk comes up from time to time, and the main character is seen briefly kissing his girlfriend. Teen characters also experiment with drugs and alcohol. Despite the mature content, this is a special movie that, if teens and parents watch together, could spark many fascinating discussions about life.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJonathan M. February 13, 2018

A Masterpiece

It took me a while to find the 2 hours 45 minutes to watch this movie. If only I knew how unforgettable and deeply moving it would be, I would have found the ti... Continue reading
Adult Written byracerx January 14, 2015

Boyhood is boringhood

This movie is not worth the 166 minutes of your time. All the hype is ridiculous. To think this is even nominated for an Oscar is a joke. A Razzie is more i... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byB-KMastah September 5, 2014

Really good, just not the masterpiece that people are saying it is.

This is obviously such a tremendous effort, and I obviously appreciate it. I mean, damn, this is filmed over twelve years with all of the same people? That... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byTom Cruise Fan March 24, 2015

"Boyhood" movie review

"Boyhood" is one of my all time favorite films and I genuinely think that it is one of the best films in the history of cinema. Watching "Boyhood... Continue reading

What's the story?

In BOYHOOD, Mason (Ellar Coltrane) literally grows up on camera, from age 5 to age 18. During this time, he faces life's little triumphs and tragedies, starting with divorced parents. His mother (Patricia Arquette) gets married again -- to a man who becomes increasingly drunk and abusive. He forces Mason to cut his long hair into a short crew cut, and eventually Mason, his mother, and his sister (Lorelei Linklater) must make their escape and start life anew. Mason's divorced father (Ethan Hawke) visits every so often for ball games, camping, and haphazard advice, and Mason encounters bullies, girls, and becomes interested in photography. The story ends as he goes off to college, meets his roommate and a new girl, and discovers that life is full of possibility.

Is it any good?

Director Richard Linklater accomplished something truly visionary with Boyhood. Over the course of 13 years, beginning in 2002, he filmed Coltrane each year, whenever scheduling allowed, adding to the script a bit at a time. The result is a true existential experience, a masterpiece. It's not driven by plot -- it can't return to pick up past plot threads -- but rather by life itself.

But Boyhood is far from a mere reality show. Linklater's thoughtful dialogue abounds, and the characters are constantly thinking and asking questions about their lives. Certain memories are never recovered (the promise of a GTO), and losses are never regained (the fate of the step-siblings), but characters learn from mistakes and pain and continue to move forward. The film has dozens of magical, memorable moments, from the early description of how wasps are made to a special Beatles mix CD. It's nearly three hours long, but it moves by nearly as quickly as life does.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the sequence with the alcoholic, abusive stepfather. How much tension is generated, and how much violence is actually shown? What's the overall effect? Did the movie need to show more or less?

  • Teens occasionally experiment with drugs and alcohol in Boyhood. How does the movie view these sequences? Is it right or wrong for teens to experiment? What are the consequences, if any, of these actions?

  • How early do these characters become interested in romantic relationships? What do they learn?

  • What are some of the lessons learned in this movie? What disappointments or failures did characters have to overcome? How did they overcome them?

  • Did you have any difficulty watching a movie of this length and with this format? How is it different from more mainstream movies?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

Themes & Topics

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