Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Brothers Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Well-acted war drama is too intense for kids.
  • R
  • 2009
  • 120 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 6 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Despite the devastating effects that war has on Sam and his family, his family remains supportive and loving. The movie explores how war and violence change soldiers and their ability to return to their lives as fathers and husbands.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Grace, Sam, and Tommy are all realistically flawed characters. Sam commits an unthinkable act in a life-and-death situation, but he does so because he'd die otherwise and wants to return to his family. Grace and Tommy, in a moment of grief, reconnect by kissing, but they realize their error and focus on Sam when he returns. On the definite plus side, all of the characters are devoted to their family.


Quite a bit of violence, especially in the war scenes thattake place in Afghanistan. A helicopter crashes; two American soldiersare taken hostage, held starving and captive, andthen tortured. A man is shot in the head; a man is forced to killanother man or be killed himself; many men are shot at and killed, etc. In a moment of fury, a character destroys his kitchen and scares hisfamily. A man points a gun at himself and looks like he's about tocommit suicide.


A married couple kisses passionately and is shown in bed after having had sex. They exchange a few more kisses and embraces. A widow kisses her brother-in-law once. A man discusses whether his brother "f--ked" his wife, and a young girl lies that her mother and uncle "have sex all the time."


Frequent strong language: many uses of the words "f--k" and "s--t," as well as "damn," "hell," "a--hole," "goddamn," "ass," "oh my God," "dick," and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Tommy gets drunk on a several occasions, and his father is shown drinking liquor a few times. Tommy smokes cigarettes; in one scene, he and Grace share a joint.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this mature drama (which stars Natalie Portman, Tobey Maguire, and Jake Gyllenhaal) about how the horrors of war affect both a soldier and his grieving family has several disturbing scenes of war, torture, and even domestic disputes -- making it far too intense for tweens and even younger teens. The war sequences involve atrocities, near-suicide, and two startling killings that are chillingly realistic; strong language includes frequent use of words like "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," and the like. Sexuality isn't too graphic, but there are a few passionate kisses and one shot of an obviously undressed, quilt-covered couple in bed.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 5, 12, and 16-year-old Written byChris T. January 2, 2018

Great Movie, but really scary moments.

This movie was beautifully acted by all of the main roles but is definitely not for kids. There is strong violence though most of it isn't directly seen on... Continue reading
Adult Written byTV-14-DLSV Teen Boy March 27, 2012

Brothers Just fine Movie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Brothers was kindoff good and disturbing for Teens under 16. Brothers was Just fine. I give Brothers 3 out of 5 stars and I RATE Brothers AGE: 16+. I Still R... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byDetroitLions21 March 6, 2021

Fabulous, well-acted film

First half tends to drag on a little to establish its characters, but oh boy is the second half worth the wait!
Teen, 17 years old Written byhaya0198 June 19, 2019

What's the story?

Based on the award-winning Danish film Brodre, BROTHERS is a family saga starring Tobey Maguire as U.S. Marine captain Sam Cahill and Jake Gyllenhaal as his younger brother, Tommy, who has just gotten out of prison. Sam is deployed to Afghanistan, where his combat team's helicopter crashes in enemy territory. He and a private survive, only to be captured and tortured for months. Since the Marines don't know there were any survivors, Sam's wife, Grace (Natalie Portman), is notified that she's now a widow -- and that her two young girls are without a father. Tommy begins to spend a lot of time with Grace and her girls; one night, he and Grace share a grief- and alcohol-fueled kiss. Meanwhile, Sam is forced to commit an unthinkable act of cruelty before he's eventually rescued by American soldiers. But the agony waiting back home may even be worse.

Is it any good?

Director Jim Sheridan is no stranger to intense family dramas -- the Irish filmmaker (In the Name of the Father, In America) seems like a natural choice to adapt Susanne Bier's affecting Brodre. At first, the three leads (especially Portman) all seem too much younger than their Danish counterparts, but with some obvious visual clues that Portman and Maguire's characters were high-school sweethearts, the characterizations start clicking into place, and each actor rises to the challenge. Portman is luminous as a grief-stricken young "widow," and Gyllenhaal is surprisingly believable as the edgier bad-boy brother trying to make amends. But it's Maguire who has to anchor the emotional intensity, capturing Sam's months of torture and then his return to civilization mostly with bulging eyes, set jaw, and an acidly dropped curse word.

To Americanize Bier's masterful original, screenwriter David Benioff makes Sam and Tommy's father (Sam Shepard) a Vietnam vet, lending even more credibility to the good-son/bad-son dynamic between the brothers. Portman's almost distracting loveliness is also taken into consideration, as it becomes the subject of small talk among Tommy's friends. There's more humor in this version as well, especially in a key scene in which Tommy and Grace bond over a joint and a U2 song. Overall, Sheridan's remake is beautifully acted and, unfortunately, quite timely. But everyone who sees it should, also watch Bier's subtle, harrowing original.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how war (both the Vietnam war and the war in Afghanistan) affects the Cahills. Did Sam really have a choice in what he did? The movie doesn't judge him, but what do you think?

  • How is grief portrayed in the movie?

  • Discuss how both brothers deal with their actions. How do their decisions and approaches differ?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

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