Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Citizenfour Movie Poster Image
Bold docu explores Edward Snowden's controversial actions.
  • R
  • 2014
  • 114 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The power of one person to bring about profound change is shown through talk and example. Shows the power of investigative journalism to inform the public of what governments would rather people not know. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Whether you agree or disagree with his actions, Edward Snowden acted on his deepest convictions, at tremendous personal sacrifice, facing prison time and accusations of treason. Documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, in attempting to record Snowden's story, endures surveillance by the United States government and attempts at oppression by those who wish to silence her. Investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald experiences similar oppression after breaking Snowden's leaks to the public, and he experiences attempts to silence him when his lover is detained for several hours at Heathrow Airport. 


Though mostly contained in one scene, "f--k" is repeated multiple times. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Citizenfour is a 2014 Oscar-winning documentary covering the tension-filled days before, during, and after whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the depth and extent of NSA/U.S. government surveillance of its own citizens as well as citizens in many other countries. In one scene, "f--k" is used repeatedly in conversation. Whether you agree or disagree with Snowden's actions, this documentary, just like the revelations Snowden's leaks revealed, should inspire discussion among families on topics such as the power of one person to change the world, privacy, how much is "too much" when it comes to governments protecting their citizens through surveillance, government oppression and suppression, the effect massive surveillance has on its citizenry, and what freedom means in light of Snowden's revelations. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byaatikai January 30, 2018


Definitly a great documentry to show to your 10-14 year olds. it will teach them a good moral of the story. Enjoy!
Teen, 14 years old Written byabc123456123e23 March 12, 2017

Really great movie

This movie really explains the struggles of edward snowden and his point of view in relation to the whole struggle. It's really great, and I don't und... Continue reading

What's the story?

Documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras is contacted through encrypted email by someone who goes by "Citizenfour." "Citizenfour" claims to have evidence of extensive and illegal surveillance conducted by the NSA, working with intelligence agencies around the world. Poitras, along with investigative journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewan MacAskill, agree to meet with "Citizenfour" in a Hong Kong hotel room. "Citizenfour" is one Edward Snowden, an employee for an NSA contractor who provides them with hundreds of pages of classified NSA documents detailing "the greatest weapon of oppression in the history of man." This documentary chronicles the days before, during, and after Snowden's revelations become the world's top news story. It also shows the extent to which the U.S. and other governments seek to punish Snowden, Poitras, and Greenwald for their shocking revelations. 

Is it any good?

For those who followed these events on the news, this documentary reveals nothing new, but what we do see is Snowden himself. He remains a secret as long as he possibly can in the hopes that the story itself will be covered rather than the focus being on the media's obsession with "celebrity." He has deep convictions and well-thought-out reasons for what he did, and he's well-aware of the consequences. 

Whether you agree or disagree with Edward Snowden's actions, the overall portrait that emerges in CITIZENFOUR is of an American citizen willing to give up his normal and successful life in the interests of fighting what he calls "the greatest weapon for oppression in the history of man." The moments of tension and paranoia are heightened through the moments of banality: a man sitting in a Hong Kong hotel room combing his hair or working on his computer while music videos play on TV, all in the immediate moments before, during, and after his revelations shock the world. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the style of this documentary. How is information presented? How is Edward Snowden portrayed? How about the filmmaker herself, journalist Glenn Greenwald, and whistleblower William Binney? 

  • How would this documentary be different had it been made by someone who believed Edward Snowden is a traitor whose actions jeopardized the safety and security of his own country? 

  • How does the scene in which the Occupy Wall Street speaker explains how something as ordinary as a subway fare card can be used by the government to monitor its citizenry provide a context for the NSA's extensive access to so much information? 

  • How important is privacy to you?

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