Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Catfish Movie Poster Image
Online life docu reels viewers in with suspense, humanity.
  • PG-13
  • 2010
  • 94 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

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 & Representations

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byjmo97 December 22, 2016

Intriguing premise has some iffy material

"Catfish" is a very interesting film that talks about risks of being on social media. It has a brisk pace that should be enough for older teens to kee... Continue reading
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... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bybananalover March 6, 2011
kinda weird i didn't really like as much as i thought i was going to do but it was ......
Teen, 14 years old Written byCityofbonesfan019 January 12, 2011
I did like this movie. It piled on the suspense but with no violence. It has the message that not everyone is who they say they are and you need to be careful.

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 succeeds in illustrating 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?

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love true stories

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