Charlie St. Cloud

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Charlie St. Cloud Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Poignant Efron drama too intense for younger fans.
  • PG-13
  • 2010
  • 100 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 13 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 48 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The movie seems to be telling audiences not to live in the past -- and that the best way out of tragedy is to take one step at a time toward joy, no matter how hard that may seem. It also says that putting off a dream doesn't mean losing it completely.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Charlie is an amazing brother -- but he's so dedicated and loyal that his own needs go by the wayside. He doesn’t know how to manage his grief and instead drowns in it. Charlie and Sam's parents are mostly out of the picture, either for sad reasons (abandonment) or out of necessity (work).


A child dies in a terrible car accident; viewers don’t see much gore, but they do see blood, cuts, and bruises. Guys talk trash after a sporting event and at a bar; one of them gets punched in the mouth.


Talk about “getting laid.” A couple kisses passionately and spends the night together; he's seen with his shoulders bare. Charlie is seen shirtless.


An 11-year-old says “ass” and “d--k.” “S--t” is also used a couple of times; other words include "hell," "damn," and "crap."


A few labels are flashed, including Kaenon (maker of sunglasses) and Tanqueray.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A terrible car accident is caused by a drunk driver. Teens talk about partying. A young man drowns his sorrows with hard liquor. Friends down Jaeger bombs at a bar.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this affecting drama starring High School Musical heartthrob Zac Efron tackles themes that may be too heavy for his legions of tween fans. His character is tortured with survivor's guilt over the death of his younger brother, which happens in a terrible car accident (some blood is shown). While there are other intense scenes of despair and sadness, there’s also hope and a strong message about leaving tragedy behind in favor of joy. Expect some swearing (including "s--t"), the suggestion of underage drinking (though none is shown), and some kissing and discussion of "getting laid."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMychemicalstinkpants January 23, 2011

powerful but heart breaking movie is to intense for kids

s**t is used 4 times ass is used 3 times and d**k is used 2 times
there is drunk people and a kid is killed
Adult Written byAcepar December 30, 2020


By far, my most favorite and unforgettable Zac Efron movie. I so love his acting skills, in all of his movie. He gives justice on it. His acting is superb. I d... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byzacefronfan1 June 15, 2020

Really Good

I thought it was a really good movie. It showed how a brother lived on after his brother died. There was one scene where two characters kiss and one of them ha... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byAandAreviews August 12, 2017

What just happened?????


We started the movie (my friend and I) and we were fine with it at first... then the brother died (BTW it was really sudden) and thought, oh that su... Continue reading

What's the story?

Charlie St. Cloud (Zac Efron) is a great sailor -- so much so that he’s been offered a scholarship at Stanford. But he’s an even better brother. He adores his 11-year-old sibling, Sam (Charlie Tahan), a Red Sox fan with a quick wit and a barrel of admiration for Charlie. And since their father is long gone and their mother (Kim Basinger) is busy pulling double shifts at work to support them, Charlie’s happy to take care of Sam. But on the way to a friend’s house one night, a drunk driver slams into their car, leaving Sam dead and Charlie bereft. The only way to manage the grief, it seems, is for Charlie to keep his pledge to Sam to spend an hour playing catch every day after work, even if that means putting his life on hold. Or is it?

Is it any good?

Make no mistake: CHARLIE ST. CLOUD aspires to be a tearjerker. As such, it commits a few sins that most tearjerkers do, including milking its tragic setups and hinting at their arrival a little too heavily. It also shamelessly taps into Efron’s pretty boy status; watch as the camera lingers on his worked-out chest and biceps when he removes his shirt in a pivotal scene near the end. Nevertheless, the movie is surprisingly poignant -- and for that, there’s Efron to thank. This heartthrob can act. He’s especially disarming paired with Charlie Tahan, who plays Sam. The film does an excellent job of establishing their rapport immediately; in fact, they’re so believable as brothers that when Sam dies and Charlie suffers plaintively, it feels like a punch to the gut.

Unfortunately, Efron and his love interest, played by Amanda Crew, don’t have much chemistry. And, as Charlie and Sam's mom, Basinger disappears too quickly and completely after an interesting cameo. Despite this, and a somewhat fuzzy spin on the afterlife, Charlie St. Cloud manages to move. It may even make you cry.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what audience the movie is intended to appeal to. Is it meant for Efron's younger fans? Do stars who are popular with younger kids have an obligation to make media that's appropriate for them?

  • What role does alcohol play in the movie's central tragedy? What are the real-life consequences of drinking?

  • Why is Charlie consumed by guilt? Can you keep the memory of a deceased loved one alive without getting lost in death? How does the movie handle this topic?

  • Do you believe in second chances? Why?

Movie details

  • In theaters: July 30, 2010
  • On DVD or streaming: November 9, 2010
  • Cast: Amanda Crew, Kim Basinger, Zac Efron
  • Director: Burr Steers
  • Studio: Universal Pictures
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 100 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG-13
  • MPAA explanation: language including some sexual references, an intense accident scene and some sensuality
  • Last updated: September 21, 2019

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