Cloud Atlas

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Cloud Atlas Movie Poster Image
Enormous scale and spectacle, but weak characters, story.
  • R
  • 2012
  • 172 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 14 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 13 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Amid the sometimes convoluted storytelling, the film promotes the ideas that all things/people are connected and that love can transcend space and time. There are small examples of bravery and trying to help others throughout.

Positive Role Models & Representations

None of the film's many characters has enough screen time to achieve much depth or resonance. But a few of them are good and brave, and a few fairly strong female characters emerge. One character has a kind of "bad conscience" demon that tries to convince him to do selfish and/or cowardly things. At first he gives into the demon's commands, but eventually he learns to stand up for himself and do things for others. Some characters risk their lives for what they believe in.


Many of the main characters die, and many are shot or stabbed, with spurting blood. One dies in an airplane explosion. There are bloody attacks and battles with blades and guns, a few one-on-one fights, and threats; both children and adults die. A character commits suicide with a gun (put in mouth). A man throws another man from a high balcony. A bad guy shoots a dog (off screen). A little girl is shown to be fatally sick, with a poisoned, swollen foot.


At least one female character appears topless, and there are two sex scenes (it's questionable that the act is consensual in one), with no other nudity shown. There's some strong innuendo in one scene as a rude customer in a futuristic restaurant uses a squeeze bottle of mayonnaise and pretends to ejaculate on a waitress' back. There's a scene in which a man escapes his lover's bedroom, presumably after sex; they share a kiss. In another scene, sex is interrupted by a cat, and there's some innuendo around the term "p---y."


Sporadic strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," "c--k," "p---y," "hell," "ass," "damn," "goddamn," racial slurs like the "N" word and "wetback," and "Jesus" (as an exclamation).


Samsung phone is shown, but not prominently.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Many characters drink alcohol (ranging from beer to wine to harder drinks), mostly in a social way. Once or twice, characters overindulge in a comic way, but only briefly. In one segment, the main characters smoke some pot. Some characters smoke cigarettes in a background way. In a futuristic sement, a character is addicted to a drug known as "soap" and overdoses.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Cloud Atlas -- the Wachowskis' massive sci-fi epic that takes place over six time periods, with several actors (including Tom Hanks and Halle Berry) playing roles in each -- has strong fantasy violence, including bloody attacks and battles with both guns and blades. Main characters die, and one commits suicide. Language is strong, though sporadic, with several uses of both "f--k" and "s--t." There are a few sex scenes, with one female appearing topless. Many characters drink, a few smoke cigarettes, and two smoke pot. Like Avatar, the movie's sheer, overwhelming size, scale, and spectacle may appeal to many audiences, and teens will likely be clamoring to see it; whether they'll enjoy it is less clear.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bypaul C. September 24, 2017

Waste of time

Do homework instead.
Adult Written byraymondjj January 5, 2016

Cloud Atlas Somewhat "Overcast" For a Movie

I 've just completed viewing "cloud Atlas" and I must agree with "Common Sense Media's" review of this film that it definately is... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byPrincessCharmed797 November 1, 2012

Cloud Atlas

You may not find the relatively complex story overwhelming, but the sheer scale and magnificence of this 3-hour feature will certainly blow your mind away. An a... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old May 3, 2021

Brilliant film!!!!

A very good film but quite complex. How they have layered the six story lines into one is very clever. Although some graphic sex (fast forward through those sce... Continue reading

What's the story?

With six interwoven stories, CLOUD ATLAS attempts to show how acts in one time period can resonate in another. In the 19th century, a notary (Jim Sturgess) receives mysterious treatments from a doctor (Tom Hanks) and befriends an escaped slave. In 1931, a young musician (Ben Whishaw) goes to work for a legendary composer (Jim Broadbent). In 1975, a journalist (Halle Berry) investigates a nuclear power company. In the present day, a publisher (Broadbent) escapes some gangsters by checking into a retirement home but can't check back out. In the near future, a clone waitress (Doona Bae) learns that she has a greater destiny. And in the far future, a simple tribesman (Hanks) receives a visit from a technologically advanced woman (Berry).

Is it any good?

By normal standards, this is a disappointing movie, but it isn't an ordinary movie. If the six stories were disentangled and laid out separately, it would be clear that none of them has much depth or surprise. Cloud Atlas cuts corners to rush the multitude of shallow characters through their story arcs, which results in a general lack of rhythm. It becomes one long, monotonous thrum. What's more, the almost fetishistic use of makeup to distinguish the characters from the actors who play them is highly distracting, and the guessing game of who's behind which fake appendage becomes more interesting than the story itself.

But since Cloud Atlas is an "epic folly" (like David Lynch's Dune), many audiences will find themselves swept away and perhaps even enchanted by the movie's mere efforts to be huge and impressive. Throughout Hollywood history, size and scale have often triumphed over content, and, for many, the magnifying and inflating of these empty stories may make them seem resonant.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Cloud Atlas' violence. Does "fantasy" violence have a different impact than "realistic" violence? How does the violence contribute to the story in this movie?

  • How does the movie portray sex/sexual relationships?

  • If the movie's theme is "connections" and events resonating throughout time, what are some examples of this? Can you think of a way that this has happened in real life?

  • Which character is the most admirable? Which story affected you the most?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sci-fi

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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