Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Conviction Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Intense, fact-based crime drama celebrates family ties.
  • R
  • 2010
  • 107 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 5 reviews

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

Two messages come across clearly: First, that loyalty is a virtue, especially when bolstered by faith and love. Betty Anne never wavered in her belief that her brother was innocent, and it strengthened both of them. (The downside was that she clashed with others who did have doubts, sometimes destroying relationships.) Second, that you can achieve anything with focus and hard work. No matter how long it took, Betty Anne was determined to become a lawyer.

Positive Role Models

The siblings' support and love is truly admirable, especially in light of their difficult upbringing. Their parents weren't role models; they only had each other. And though they're different in many ways, Betty Anne and Kenneth respect each other as individuals. Neither was saintly, but being a good person doesn't mean being perfect.


Disturbing images from a crime scene; graphic photos of a body are shown during trial. Much discussion of how a victim is killed. A man head-butts another during a bar fight. A character shows cuts he made on his wrists in an attempted suicide.


Couples kiss and flirt.


Language includes many uses of "s--t" and "f--k," plus "bitch," "c--ksucker," "damn," "hell, "ass," goddamn," "oh my God," and more.


Signage and logos for Coca-Cola, Bushmill, Boston Globe.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adult characters smoke cigarettes; they also drink in bars, sometimes to the point of inebriation.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this fact-based drama celebrates one woman's tenacity and loyalty to her brother. It's uplifting and fairly moving, but given the heavy subject matter -- crime, prison, and difficult odds -- it's too intense for younger viewers. Some scenes depict characters examining graphic crime scene photos of a 

murdered woman, and the film begins with cameras moving through a house in which someone has been killed in a violent crime. There's also frequent swearing (including "s--t" and "f--k") and references to suicide.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bywonder dove September 15, 2013

Absolutely wonderful!

Conviction was a very good film!! Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell were amazing together. Lots of popular actors in this one that I didn't see coming...I love... Continue reading
Adult Written bykenward42 October 20, 2011

A must see movie

Great movie about a heartbreaking situation for the Waters family.
Teen, 14 years old Written byBrandon4News March 9, 2011

Inspiring drama for older kids.

This film features some strong language but that shouldn't prevent you from showing your older kids this inspiring drama.

What's the story?

When her older brother, Kenneth (Sam Rockwell), is arrested and convicted for a crime he insists he didn't commit, Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank) fights to exonerate him, no matter how much time or effort it takes. And it turns out to take 18 years, most of which she spends getting first her high school diploma, then going to college, then attending law school and passing the bar so she can serve as Kenneth's counsel and make sure he clears his name. But Betty Anne's dedication has a cost: Her husband's not sure how much longer he can hang on, and her kids get less and less of her time. Yet she perseveres, determined to get her brother out of jail. Is he innocent? Will she succeed? This drama based on the life of the real Betty Anne Waters charts Betty Anne and Kenneth's journey through the criminal justice system.

Is it any good?

If CONVICTION were a present wrapped up in shiny paper and tied with a big red bow, it would have "Happy Oscar nomination!" stamped on it specifically for Swank. The film seems engineered for maximum make-the-audience-feel effect, with a compelling storyline and a heartwarming message about family loyalty and tenacity. Swank cries, persists, moves, overcomes, and survives: the perfect awards concoction. The movie is inspirational with a capital "I."

Despite that transparency and that fact that it follows the typical conventions of the courtroom-drama-with-uplifting-ending genre, Conviction is, cynicism aside, quite moving. How can you not sympathize with a woman who isn't merely a figment of some screenwriter's imagination but an actual human being who displays such fortitude and faith? How can you not admire a sibling relationship that encourages such dedication? Rockwell gives his performance ample bite without undercutting the film's tender message; whenever he's onscreen, he compels. And though there's something a little mechanical in Swank's Best-Actress-y repertoire, she makes us forget that she's a Hollywood actress playing make-believe. Art imitates life, and what a powerful movie it made.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Betty Anne's unwavering faith in her brother. Why does she believe in him so steadfastly? Do you think she ever had doubts? If so, why might the filmmakers decide not to dwell on that?

  • How does the film depict Betty Anne's journey? Has it been sugar coated, or does it seem realistic?

  • What is the film saying about the criminal justice system? How does it compare to most movies depicting a crime and its consequences?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

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