Online life docu reels viewers in with suspense, humanity.
  • Review Date: September 13, 2010
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 94 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie sends the very important message for teens that you see online may not be what you get ... and that connections that can initially seem strong may not be after all, especially when they’re cultivated in the greenhouse known as the Internet. Basically, the movie asks the question: Who are you on the Web? And who are the people you talk to there, really?

Positive role models

The people who behave badly in the movie end up sympathetic and, in an odd way, noble, given their circumstances. And viewers see that it’s human to make mistakes and honorable to own up to them.


Some menacing, creepy moments, but nothing violent actually happens.


One of the lead subjects reads some steamy text messages aloud.


Infrequent use of "s--t," “crap,” “pissy," and "oh my God."


The Apple logo is often visible on the laptop the filmmakers are using; the logo for Ray-Ban is also often seen. The iPhone makes frequent appearances. Many scenes show the characters visiting social networking sites like YouTube and especially Facebook. JCPenney is mentioned.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some discussion of a subject being an alcoholic and checking into rehab.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this documentary chronicles the friendships that develop between an 8-year-old painter and her Michigan family and the New York City photographer they befriend online. The movie delves into many of the issues intrinsic in Web communities like Facebook: the personas that people present (and how accurate -- or not -- they are), how relationships develop quickly, and how those friendships don't always have the same safety nets that real-life associations do. All of these issues are exceptionally relevant for today's parents and teens, so we recommend watching it together. Anticipate a little swearing, a few steamy text messages (read aloud), and some twists that may prove too heavy for tweens and younger.

What's the story?

In 2007, New York City photographer Yaniv “Nev” Schulman receives a painting in the mail of one of his published pictures. It's by Abby, an 8-year-old girl from Ishpeming, Mich. In no time, they start communicating with each other through their art, sharing photos and paintings -- a friendship that Nev’s brother, Ariel Schulman, and his filmmaker friend, Henry Joost, start documenting with a camera. Soon, Nev becomes Facebook friends with Abby's entire family, including her mother, Angela, and her half-sister, Megan, a stunning 19-year-old dancer to whom Nev quickly grows attached. Through phone calls, text messages, and Facebook, their connection strengthens. Eventually the three New Yorkers decide that it’s time for Nev to meet Megan -- and the rest of the family -- face to face.

Is it any good?


It’s hard to discuss the potency of CATFISH without spoiling it, but suffice it to say that the film manages to illustrate the perils of online relationships without vilifying anyone -- even those who, under other circumstances, might shoulder much of the blame. Despite the movie's frequently grainy, shaky, and off-kilter footage, it manages to move forward with such momentum that we have no other choice but to ride along. And it perfectly captures what it’s like to live and love and learn online.

Yes, some viewers may suspect they know what’s around the bend within the first 20 minutes. And it’s true that the filmmakers, who are also characters in the documentary, at times come off as glib with their banter. But the way the movie twists -- and it may not be the twist you expect -- reveals so much about human nature and how compassion and wisdom lurk in places that you don’t always look. As one character explains when discussing why catfish is kept in the same vats as cod during transit, the catfish keep the cod agile. But just who is the catfish here, and who is the cod?

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about online personas. Do they completely capture a person’s character? How can you tell what's true about who a person says they area online?

  • Are relationships forged online as authentic and full-textured as those formed in real life?

  • What about the idea of online privacy? How much do you share? How much do you keep private? Parents, talk to your kids about staying safe online.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 17, 2010
DVD release date:January 4, 2011
Cast:Nev Schulman
Directors:Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost
Studio:Rogue Pictures
Run time:94 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:some sexual references

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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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Teen, 13 years old Written byBrandon Vander Hey September 26, 2010

Interesting thriller that will interest teens and adults.

MINI REVIEW: I love Catfish, I wish it would have explored Facebook a little more, but other than that, it's fast-paced, interesting, and suspenseful. It's some of the best stuff out there right now! Couldn't have been better for what it was.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Parent of a 17 year old Written byBob97531 May 2, 2011

I hated it

I let my daughter watch is film and she was horrified from the sexual and violent scenes I would ban this film or make it an 18+. I advise you not to watch this film with children or without.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 15 years old Written byBrando804 October 3, 2010

No need to TALK to your kids about online safety, just have them see "Catfish!"

I saw this film yesterday, and I must say, I was blown away. It presents such a personal, emotional, almost frightening, and TRUE story. If you're worried about your kids online safety habits, just have them watch this brilliant cautionary tale!
What other families should know
Great messages


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