Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Cell Movie Poster Image
Lifeless zombie horror based on Stephen King novel.
  • R
  • 2016
  • 98 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 17+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Somewhere in here is a message about people spending too much time on their technological devices, which is always a good topic for discussion. But the movie doesn't dig very deep into the subject.

Positive Role Models & Representations

These characters are barely human, much less role models. Their main motivation is survival, although they don't seem to be that interested in it.


Shocking violence as people turn into zombies: howling in pain, punching, tackling, beating, bloody faces, a man eating a dog, head bashing against a wall, stabbings, shootings, fall from a height. A plane explodes. Zombies shot with guns. An axe to the chest. Broken leg. Dead bodies. Lots of blood. A truck drives over hundreds of zombie bodies, crushing them. Burning zombies. Exploding truck. A man blows himself up. A woman explains that she had to kill her mom.


A nightmare sequence shows a woman in front of a man, with oral sex suggested.


A use of "f--k," plus several uses of "s--t" and "goddamn."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink somewhat frequently and heavily, mostly whisky, sometimes becoming slurringly drunk. Cigarette smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Cell is a horror/zombie movie based on a Stephen King novel. There are several shocking/horrifying, cringe-worthy moments as people turn into zombies, then lots more zombie violence. Expect shootings, stabbings, dead bodies, explosions, and tons of blood. There's one moment of suggested sexuality (a woman shown in a position that implies she's performing oral sex on a man). Language isn't terribly frequent but does include uses of "f--k" and "s--t." Characters drink frequently and fairly heavily, sometimes becoming drunk; it seems to be their way of dealing with the stress of their situation. There's also some cigarette smoking.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byL.elkins July 9, 2018

Just my opinion

My overall opinion was that this is a really great movie. Very interesting and something sort of different. Kinda sorta like zombies but not really.
Adult Written byMiddNyte S. May 17, 2017

Time wasted

Garbage garbage garbage!!! That ending was pure garbage. I dn't like nothing Steven King makes or write...
Teen, 15 years old Written byDogcat December 21, 2020
Teen, 15 years old Written byLoranikas303 December 21, 2020
Trash! #Horror Movie Rants #Horror Movie Haters #Stephen King Rants #Stephen King Haters

What's the story?

In CELL, graphic novel artist Clay Riddell (John Cusack) arrives at the airport in Boston, having just landed a book deal. He calls his estranged wife and son and decides he wants to see them. Unexpectedly, a strange signal starts emitting from all cell phones, turning their users into ravenous zombies. Clay manages to escape with subway train driver Tom (Samuel L. Jackson) and finds a distraught neighbor in his building, Alice (Isabelle Fuhrman). The trio hits the road for Maine in hopes of finding Clay's family still alive. Along the way, they discover that the zombies (or "phoners") are exhibiting strange behavior, flocking together and somehow signaling each other, which makes the journey far more dangerous than expected.

Is it any good?

This aggravating, confusing zombie thriller now has the dishonor of being arguably the worst movie ever made based on a Stephen King novel. Others have nominated Maximum Overdrive, Graveyard Shift, and The Mangler for that "honor," but those three movies are at least ridiculous and fun; Cell reaches a new low, feeling somehow displaced from anything resembling humanity. In trying to send a message about people spending too much time on their technological devices, the movie itself winds up feeling impersonal and awkward.

Interestingly, stars Cusack and Jackson previously appeared together in a superior King adaptation, 1408 (2007), but they don't build on any kind of shared chemistry here; they almost seem like they're in separate movies. King himself co-wrote the screenplay, and Tod Williams directs with a shaky-cam technique that's both lifeless and annoying. It's as if the movie were made by cell-phone zombies rather than actual people who've experienced social interaction.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Cell's violence. How does it make you feel? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • Is the movie scary? What's the difference between scary and gory? What's the appeal of horror movies?

  • What does the movie have to say about cell phones and other technology and the way we interact with them?

  • If you've read the book Cell is based on, how does it compare? How does it compare to other movies based on Stephen King books?

  • According to the headmaster character, a world of zombies would be better in some ways. Do you agree?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love scares

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