Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Colonia Movie Poster Image
Brutal, sadistic cult drama has lots of violence, language.
  • R
  • 2016
  • 110 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 4 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Good triumphs over evil ... but not really.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Heroes, especially female, are unselfish, brave, determined, resourceful -- and naive. Villain is a monstrous psychopath who enjoys sadism, pedophilia, and power.


Frequent savage violence includes beatings, torture (graphic use of electric prods, bashing, and more), killing by gunfire, mass brutal arrests, whippings, menacing dogs, trip wires, bodies in the street. A pedophile is seen stalking young boys naked in the shower. Vicious sexual intimidation and shaming.


A couple is shown in bed -- embracing, kissing, and after sex. Partial nudity.


Many cruel insults and harsh language directed at innocents: "harlot, " "c--t," "sonofabitch," "slut." Also "f--k," "s--t," sometimes in subtitles.


Lufthansa Airlines.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Women in a cult are forced to take unidentified blue pills at bedtime. Some smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Colonia starts out as a romance set against the impending overthrow of Salvador Allende's government in 1973 Chile and becomes the intense, lurid story of the main characters' imprisonment in a brutal religious cult. Based on the actual existence of Colonia Dignidad, a powerful fascist settlement in Chile that also served as a prison and torture chamber, the film loses its political perspective early on. Instead, it focuses on the characters' harsh fate at the merciless hands of a real-life ex-Nazi psychopath and his accomplices, who maintain order using violence (graphically depicted beatings and terrorizing), sexual humiliation, and cruelty. The violence is enhanced by name-calling and obscenities ("f--k," "slut," "c--t," "harlot," "s--t," and more) Killings and death are frequent; pedophilia is strongly alluded to.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bybaelien22 March 10, 2020

Undervalued & Important

This movie was not nearly as extreme as I expected. After reading the true stories of The Colony I didn’t know what I was going to see but they made a PG movie... Continue reading
Adult Written bySnek June 8, 2019

Reviews initially put me off-an interesting watch

This movie has many contrasting reviews. In terms of historical accuracy, it is known that the 2 main protagonists did not exist in real life but the colony was... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byPuppiedog23 March 4, 2020

This is a great movie but not appropriate at all

Ok so to all the kids my age or younger who are saying this can't be as bad as she says it is. No! STOP RIGHT NOW! Don't watch this if you are under s... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byannalise02 April 16, 2017


Leaves you on your toes. Incredible.

What's the story?

It's 1973, and Lena (Emma Watson), an English airline attendant, has a stopover in Chile, where she's hoping to spend time with the man she loves, Daniel (Daniel Bruhl), a German artist who's lending his talent to progressive Chilean leader Salvador Allende's allies in the politically chaotic climate. After two days of bliss, Lena and Daniel are caught up in the chaos when the Allende government is violently overthrown. Augusto Pinochet's military coup overtakes the city, killing some of the Allende supporters and arresting others. Daniel is taken; he disappears. Lena refuses to leave the city, setting out to find him amid the horrors on the streets. She learns that Daniel has been taken to Colonia Dignidad ("The Colony of Dignity"), a religious encampment commanded by Paul Schaefer (Michael Nyqvist), a sadistic torturer and sexual predator. Lena makes her way to Colonia and, pretending to be in search of God, willingly joins the cult. She finds that Daniel is there, but he's been tortured almost beyond recognition -- and, to save himself, he has adopted the demeanor of a severely mentally handicapped man. What follows is a dangerous game, played out against a series of catastrophically diabolical events as Lena attempts to find Daniel and escape with him. (Note: The infamous Colonia Dignidad did exist, and the real-life Schaefer was later caught and imprisoned.)

Is it any good?

Any intention the filmmakers might have had to make modern audiences aware of a particularly barbaric South American regime and its excesses are lost in this story of atrocity and madness. It must have been tempting for Harry Potter franchise co-star Watson to want to carry a movie on her own, and she does so as well as she can.

But the movie's exploitative nature, with its emphasis on brutality and graphic scenes of torture and torment -- as well as sloppy plotting in which so much depends upon lucky circumstance and coincidence -- doesn't help the cause. Nor does Nyqvist's over-the-top performance as the embodiment of evil. Watson may be terrific in her role, but her shift to plot-driving leading lady will have to wait for something better (as will the movie's admittedly important subject matter).

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what "based on a true story" means. Which parts of this story are true, and which are made up? Why might filmmakers change the facts of what happened? Is it important to you to know what is true and what isn't?

  • Why do the villains rely on torture? Does it get them what they want? How does the impact of this kind of violence compare to what you might see in an action movie?

  • What reasons does Colonia give for the obedience and consent of the cult's captive members? On a smaller scale, can you see similarities to bullies and those who go along with them? What risks are involved in standing up to those who do wrong?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love true stories

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate