Conviction Movie Poster Image




Intense, fact-based crime drama celebrates family ties.
Parents recommend
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 107 minutes

What parents need to know

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.

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:October 15, 2010
DVD/Streaming release date:February 1, 2011
Cast:Hilary Swank, Minnie Driver, Sam Rockwell
Director:Tony Goldwyn
Studio:Fox Searchlight
Run time:107 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language and some violent images

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Parent of a 15 year old Written bykompostownik November 18, 2010
Parent Written bykenward42 October 20, 2011

A must see movie

Great movie about a heartbreaking situation for the Waters family.
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 Minnie Driver and her character was fun-loving and I didn't expect to see Juliette Lewis who also did a fantastic job (Clea Duval is another one!). The movie is very sad sometimes especially the fact that it's based on a true story. It deals with lots of family drama and a courageous woman who would give her life for her brother. Growing up in a bad environment and being sent to over seven foster homes, Betty (Swank) and her brother Kenneth (Rockwell) only had each other, they were best friends and looked out for one another. Everything seemed to work out as adults, Betty has a nice family with two great sons but a non-supportive husband causes a divorce. Kenneth has a baby girl. One day, for no explanation at all, Kenneth was wrongly accused of a crime he never committed. It drives Betty crazy to see her brother go through life in prison, so she decides to become a lawyer! No matter how long it takes (ended up taking 18 years), she's determined to prove that he is innocent. The violence includes fighting, lots of arguing, a man shows his slit wrists from trying to commit suicide, close children (brother and sister) separated with screaming and crying, gory photos of a murdered woman. Language is very strong with lots of f-words, sh*t, b*tch, [email protected] and more. Sexual content is mild but has nudity at a bar of a man who strips for comedy but you see him from behind (bare butt and everything), a few kisses by a married couple. There is smoking and drinking (man gets tipsy at a bar). GREAT messages and role models. Overall, wonderful film, a definite must see. 15+ viewers.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking