Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Brightburn Movie Poster Image
"Superpowered monster child" plot gives way to blood, gore.
  • R
  • 2019
  • 91 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 17 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 19 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Movie takes a look at idea of consequences of not raising a superpowered being with a sense of right and wrong or generosity and kindness/empathy. It's not addressed very deeply, but thoughtful teen viewers may want to discuss further.

Positive Role Models & Representations

No role models here. The superpowered child is a literal monster, and adults around him, while sometimes sympathetic, are far from admirable.


Extreme blood and gore, with brutal killings. Glass shard in eyeball; character painfully pulls it out. Character in a smashed-up truck with a torn-off, wobbling jaw. Character dropped from height. Character's head blasted through with heat vision. A character is viciously attacked, gurgling on her own blood. A young girl's hand is crushed; girl is terrorized. Gory corpses. Several jump scares. Creepy sounds. Scary nightmare sequence. 12-year-old boy gets a rifle as a birthday present. Father-and-son hunting trip, with rifles. Guns fired. Boy shot at (bullet bounces off of him). Animal pen full of dead, bloody chickens. Boy falls, hits head on concrete. Gory drawings in notebook.


Kissing. A woman straddles a man; they talk about trying to get pregnant. Sex talk. Parents find strange "masturbating material" under boy's bed: pictures of women in bikinis, etc.


Several uses of "f--k," "s--t," "bulls--t," "goddamn," "ass," "hell," "stupid," "frickin'," "weirdo," "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters socialize at a bar. Drinking is discussed but not shown. Drunk driving discussed.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Brightburn, produced by Guardians of the Galaxy's James Gunn, is a gory horror movie crossed with a superhero story. It's about a child with Superman-like powers who decides to act selfishly and without remorse instead of for good/others. Expect extreme, bloody violence, including several brutal killings, dead bodies, and shock effects (a shard of glass in an eye, a torn-off jaw, gurgling and choking on blood, etc.). Characters have and use guns: A 12-year-old boy is presented with a rifle as a present. There are also jump scares, creepy sounds, a nightmare sequence, and more. Language is strong, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," and more. A married couple kisses and talks about having sex and getting pregnant. Characters socialize in a bar, and drinking and drunk driving are discussed. Elizabeth Banks and David Denman co-star.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written bynuenjins August 22, 2019

"Evil Superman" origin story is painfully predictable with no significance or fun.

This is a "what if" movie that does little to explore it's premise. It plays out by-the-numbers and does nothing to develop a sense of urgency, d... Continue reading
Adult Written byShouck84 June 8, 2019

Missed sexual content

I think the overall movie is covered. However, common sense media missed an instance of topless nudity when a dead woman’s body is pinned to the wall of a barn... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byOutlastplayer123 May 28, 2019

Great movie has to much gore and violence

The main character kills many people in brutal ways which will upset viewers
Teen, 13 years old Written bynikomay May 30, 2019


good movie lots of blood and jumpscares, real good acting.

What's the story?

In BRIGHTBURN, Kansas couple Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle Breyer (David Denman) wish and hope for a child, but their dream is denied until one eventful night. Years later, their sweet, smart son, Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn), turns 12 and suddenly everything changes. He starts acting strangely, so Kyle decides to have "the talk" with him. Afterward, Brandon starts to exhibit powers, such as super strength and speed and heat vision. And he starts using them to get what he wants and to protect himself -- up to the point of killing. He even devises a signature to leave at the scene of his crimes, as if proud of his handiwork. Meanwhile, a secret hidden in the family's barn reveals three words that will determine his dark path.

Is it any good?

This attempt at a fresh take on superhero movies falters just after its setup, never really exploring its potentially interesting theme. Instead, it just becomes a gory Omen knockoff with superpowers. Produced by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy and GOTG Vol. 2) and written by his cousin Mark Gunn and brother Brian Gunn, Brightburn does start with a terrific concept. What if, say, Superman's adoptive parents in Smallville failed to instill in him a sense of right and wrong, of generosity and kindness, of empathy? The answer is that he could easily have become a little monster, simply destroying everything. And that's about it.

The curious thing is that the parents, played by Banks and Denman, don't seem to be terrible people, and they more or less earn our sympathy -- for a time, anyway. As for Brandon, after he takes his first life, he becomes impossible to root for. Indeed, it's unclear exactly what we're supposed to root for. Brightburn quickly becomes a basic slasher movie, but without the simplicity of one; it's a tragedy demoted to a gorefest. At least The Omen -- and, even better, Joe Dante's "It's a Good Life" episode of Twilight Zone: The Movie -- dug a little deeper into the "evil child" theme. Brightburn instead stays on the surface, content to prioritize blood and guts over characters and ideas.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Brightburn's violence. Is it shocking or thrilling? Does it all feel necessary to the story?

  • How does Brightburn compare to other superhero movies? Do all superheroes make a choice of what to do with their powers? What helps make this decision?

  • Is the movie scary? What's the appeal of horror movies?

  • What makes the "evil child" subgenre of horror (The Bad Seed, Village of the Damned, The Omen, etc.) so interesting?

  • What's the relationship between the parents and the child like? Do they communicate? Do they show support?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love horror and superheroes

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

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

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.

Learn how we rate