Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Brimstone Movie Poster Image
Brutal, sadistic Western with strong violence, graphic sex.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 148 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 3 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

The movie is opposed to zealots who use the Bible to justify appalling, sadistic behavior. It also opposes violence toward women (including prostitution and incest) -- but it doesn't seem to any have trouble showing all of these things in great detail.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main female character stands up to a terrifying, oppressive, and powerful villain. She shows great strength and bravery, even though she and many others suffer a great deal.


Extreme violence. A man beats a prostitute while having sex with her. Men strangle, beat, and whip women. Suggestion of rape. Women are tied up/imprisoned. Guns and shooting. Blood sprays/bone fragments flying. Baby dies during childbirth. Stabbing/slicing with blades. A boy shoots his father to put him out of his misery. Characters are hanged. Tongues bit/cut off. Burning buildings. Slaughtered sheep, bloody corpses. Dead horse. Sliced-open pig. Pigs shown eating human remains. Spoken violent imagery. A teen girl is sold into prostitution.


Graphic sex acts. Full-frontal female nudity, naked male bottoms. A man has sex with a prostitute while staring at a young girl. Disturbing sexual language.


Frequent swearing includes "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," "bitch," "bastard," "goddamn," "whore," "hell," and "idiot."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Secondary characters are shown drinking and drunk. Smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Brimstone is an epic Western, but it's not an old-fashioned cowboys-and-horses movie. Instead, it's an extremely brutal, gory, gruesome story about an evil preacher who uses religion to justify his horrific treatment of women. Although the movie doesn't take joy in violence, the violent content is still extreme: Blood, gore, and death are everywhere. Characters are beaten, strangled, and whipped, and there's the suggestion of rape. Guns and blades are used; blood sprays, bone fragments fly, characters are hanged, and more. A teen girl is sold into prostitution, and a man has sex with a prostitute while staring at a young girl. Graphic sex is depicted, with full-frontal female nudity and partial male nudity (mostly naked bottoms). Disturbing sexual language is heard, are words including "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," "bitch," etc. Secondary characters are shown drinking and drunk, and characters occasionally smoke cigarettes.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written by[email protected] September 6, 2018


Scenic beauty, storytelling great, the content was just appalling. For all the hell she went through, and semi happy ending would have been nice
Adult Written byNatalia L. April 5, 2018


This movie is not your everyday movie. It’s not for everyone either. It is haunting, dark, violent, and sadistic. However, it is brilliant. The story developmen... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bySenseCommonSense June 22, 2019


Teen, 15 years old Written byMegan5110 August 12, 2018


One of my favourite films but not for the faint hearted. Utterly traumatizing but a good thrill if you like gory horrors:)

What's the story?

In BRIMSTONE, mute midwife Liz (Dakota Fanning) lives and works on a farm with her daughter, her stepson, and her loving husband, Eli (William Houston). When the family goes to church, Liz is stunned to see the new preacher (Guy Pearce). Then, at the end of his sermon, a pregnant woman goes into labor, and Liz is unable to save the baby. The town turns on her, and the preacher appears at Liz's home, ominous and threatening. In flashbacks, Liz's story becomes clear. She escapes from an abusive home, becomes a prostitute at a young age, and eventually concocts a clever ruse to go into hiding. But, eventually, she must face the evil, sadistic preacher, who justifies his monstrous behavior with Bible quotes and has chosen his next target: Liz's daughter.

Is it any good?

Though this Western is interesting and artistically daring, it's far too brutal and sadistic (and far too long) to recommend for casual viewing; it requires strong resolve and a stomach to match. Brimstone is the English-language debut of Dutch director Martin Koolhoven, and it's quite a calling card, thanks to its four-part, backward-flashback structure and its epic, two-and-a-half hour running time. And both Fanning and Pearce seem totally committed to the story's hard, vicious quality, willing to go the distance for it.

But while the work is worth admiring, in a way, at the same time, it begs the question: How far is too far? The movie is clearly opposed to the violent treatment of women; instead, it condemns self-righteous, religious persecution conducted by men of the cloth. Yet it can't help depicting all this violence in gruesome, specific, soul-draining detail. For the movie's high level of unpleasantness and the queasy feeling it leaves in the end, the relatively small takeaway from the story doesn't seem worth the trouble.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Brimstone's extreme violence. Why do you think the filmmaker chose to show this much violence? What effect does it have? What message does it convey? Does exposure to violent media desensitize kids to violence?

  • How does the movie depict sex? Does it feel loving and meaningful or the opposite? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • Are there any role models here? If so, who, and why?

  • How does this movie compare with other Westerns you've seen? How is it similar/different? What makes a movie a Western?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love Westerns

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