Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Chi-Raq Movie Poster Image
Complex messages in messy, sex-oriented Spike Lee drama.
  • R
  • 2015
  • 127 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Amid the mature material, the movie has plenty to say about the negative consequences of violence, guns, and prisons -- as well as the value of doing the right thing.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lysistrata is, in some ways, a strong role model: She goes out and does something risky in the hope for peace. Her methods might be questionable, but you could argue that she's using whatever she has in her arsenal.


Violence/gang war is a key subject. Heavy gun use and shooting; characters are shot and killed. Some blood shown. (A character cleans blood from sidewalk.) House set on fire. Strong, frequent arguing and fighting.


Sex is a central subject. Graphic sex scenes show thrusting, naked male and female bottoms, and topless women. Oral sex suggested. Women wear revealing negligees. Heavy, frequent sex talk/innuendo.


Frequent use of extremely strong language, including "f--k," "p---y," "motherf----r," the "N" word, "c---sucker," "s--t," "t-ts," "bitch," "goddamn," "vagina" (plus various alternate terms), "d--k," "balls," "bastard," "prick," "booty," "twat," "hos," "hell."


Whopper mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Main characters regularly take various kinds of drugs. Several scenes of pot smoking. in one scene, the main character mixes several kinds at once. Also some social smoking, drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Spike Lee's Chi-Raq is based on a centuries-old play by Aristophanes (the title is a reference to the high death rates in both Chicago and Iraq); it's written in hip-hop rhyme and has a few musical/dance numbers. The main character encourages women everywhere to withhold sex from their men until the men agree to stop fighting, so sex is a big issue -- it's discussed frequently, and there are some pretty graphic sex scenes, with naked bottoms, breasts, thrusting, and suggested oral sex. Language is also very strong, with frequent uses of "f--k," the "N" word, "p---y," and more. Violence includes lots of shooting and gun use, with characters dying and some blood shown. Characters also smoke pot and take combinations of various drugs; background drinking and smoking are shown. The message, a plea for tolerance and compassion, is well intentioned, but the content is too mature for anyone but adults.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymovienerd95 December 5, 2015

Emotional, Edgy, and Hilariouus

This movie does not have a dull moment. It is very hard to categorize because of how much it bounces from politics to dramatic life loss, and vulgar sex and inn... Continue reading

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What's the story?

In Chicago -- nicknamed "Chi-Raq" because the city's level of violence and murder is comparable to Iraq -- two rival gangs terrorize the citizens. The leader of the Spartans is also called "Chi-Raq" (Nick Cannon), while the head of the Trojans is "Cyclops" (Wesley Snipes). After a 12-year-old girl is killed by a stray bullet, and with help from the well-read Miss Helen (Angela Bassett), Chi-Raq's girlfriend, Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris), decides to hold a sex strike: No more sex until peace is declared. Meanwhile, the mother (Jennifer Hudson) of the little girl and a local priest (John Cusack) won't stop until they find the man responsible for the killing.

Is it any good?

Director Spike Lee based his movie on the 411 B.C. play Lysistrata by Aristophanes; written in hip-hop rhyme, it's a reckless, ambitious, overlong mess, but its message is furiously passionate. With Samuel L. Jackson serving as a funny, flamboyant "Greek Chorus," the movie definitely has a few laughs (Snipes brings a loony quality to his character, and the always-hilarious Dave Chappelle is on hand for one scene), as well as lively musical and dance numbers. Moreover, the presence of Snipes and Bassett help recall Lee's earlier work rather than his more recent misfires.

With all that's going on, the characters sometimes get lost, but Lee and co-writer Kevin Willmott remain clear on what they want to say. Cusack, in his role as a priest in a black church, gets the bulk of the movie's sermoning; he talks about the evils of guns and the role of prisons. Yet CHI-RAQ isn't an angry film; it's ultimately a call for compassion and tolerance.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Chi-Raq's violence and its message of peace, tolerance, and compassion. Is that juxtaposition jarring? Why do the characters fight, and why is it so hard to stop? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How is sex used as a means to combat the violence? What are the possible ramifications of the plan? What value is placed on sex in the movie?

  • Does the movie glamorize drugs? What would the real-life consequences be?

  • Is Lysistrata a role model? Why, or why not?

  • How did you like watching a movie written in rhyme? Did it take time to get used to it? Did it sound good or bad?

Movie details

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