Dark Skies Movie Poster Image

Dark Skies

Subtle but dull alien invasion movie has scares, edgy stuff.
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 95 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Overall the movie has a rather hopeless message, but it does show a family working well to love and support one another, despite a few arguments and pitfalls.

Positive role models

The characters are realistically flawed and not particularly heroic or extraordinary, and none of them really learns any lessons, but the four family members do show love and support for one another.


Frequent scary scenes range from simple jump-shocks to more elaborate, creepy nightmare imagery (a child with no eyes and bloody sockets, etc.). One of the most shocking has a boy entering a kitchen to see his father holding a rifle, his mother dead, and the walls spattered with blood (it's a hallucination). In one sequence, hundreds of birds slam up against a window and a house, leaving little spots of blood. A grown man starts a fight with a teen boy; the boy's father intervenes, punching the man in the face. A woman bangs her head repeatedly against a glass door. A man's nose bleeds. Guns are fired. Scary creatures are briefly shown. Some arguing and yelling.


Young teens watch a so-called "adult video," wherein a man calls a woman a "bad girl," kisses her, and fondles her breast through her clothing (no nudity shown). A boy tries to repeat what he saw in the video, fondling a teen girl's breast. She yells at him but then gives him a little kiss anyway. A married couple kisses and is intimate with each other (no nudity shown).


Most of the strong language is said by an older teen, a "bad influence" secondary character who hangs around with the main character. His language includes "s--t," "bitch," "jock," "t-tties," "ass," and "p---y." The main 13-year-old character says "don't be a d--k." The father says "hell" in front of his youngest son. In another scene, he whispers "what the f--k" under his breath (it's not audible). Other words include "damn" and "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation).


Apple iPhones are used and shown throughout the movie.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A "bad influence" teen invites the 13-year-old main character and two girls to smoke pot. He slams the paraphernalia on a table and says, "light 'em up." In the next shot, the teens are acting high, but viewers never actually see them smoking. A main adult character is seen smoking a cigarette, and other adults are shown drinking wine with dinner.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Dark Skies is an alien invasion movie that, while not great, is at least subtler and more character-oriented than many in the genre; the focus is on solving problems rather than killing monsters. But it still has plenty of scary scenes, including a few jump-shock moments and some nightmare-like imagery (including blood, guns, and death). Most of the movie's content issues surround a secondary character, an older teen who hangs around with the 13-year-old main character: He introduces bad language ("s--t," "p---y," etc.), porn (a very tame but still inappropriate videotape), and drugs (it's suggested that teens have smoked pot). Overall, the movie feels like a throwback to moody 1970s and 1980s-era films, but it doesn't have much substance.

What's the story?

In troubled times, Daniel Barrett (Josh Hamilton) can't find a job, and his wife, Lacy (Keri Russell), must keep the family afloat as a real estate saleswoman. On top of that, intruders seem to be breaking into their house, making messes and stealing photos, as well as building bizarre sculptures out of kitchen items. Soon their youngest son, Sam (Kadan Rockett), starts exhibiting strange behavior, and hundreds of birds suddenly slam into the house. And older son Jesse (Dakota Goyo) begins to find teenage life extraordinarily difficult. A visit to a mysterious specialist (J.K. Simmons) confirms that aliens -- called "the greys" -- have been visiting, and that there's not much they can do to stop a potential abduction. Or is there?

Is it any good?


Without the aliens, the movie might actually have made an interesting drama. Director Scott Stewart, formerly of the San Francisco special effects house The Orphanage, has previously made two great-looking but jumbled movies, Legion and Priest, both drawing on strong ideas from the past but failing to make much new out of them. He continues in that vein here, although DARK SKIES is at least subtler and more character based than expected.

With the aliens, however, it appears to draw heavily on movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Poltergeist, building a mystery and making use of silences and empty spaces in addition to small character dramas. Unfortunately, it all adds up to very little. The story is oddly pessimistic. Nothing is learned, no victory is achieved, and even the expected "twist" ending is curiously dull. It's as if the aliens have already won.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Dark Skies' violence. How much is actually shown? How much is threatened, but not shown? Which is scarier, and why? What's the difference between the simple jump-shocks and the more nightmarish imagery?

  • What's the relationship among the four family members like? What mistakes do they make? What do they do right?

  • What makes alien invasion movies so popular? How does this one compare to others you've seen?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:February 22, 2013
DVD/Streaming release date:May 28, 2013
Cast:Dakota Goyo, J.K. Simmons, Keri Russell
Director:Scott Stewart
Genre:Science Fiction
Topics:Space and aliens
Run time:95 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:violence, terror throughout, sexual material, drug content and language - all involving teens

This review of Dark Skies was written by

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

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

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Kid, 12 years old March 13, 2013

Just okay...

I thought this movie had a bunch of loose ends in the plot and never did I get truly scared. In this movie, all there is to worry about is how mature you are. If you can get scared easily, then maybe this isn't right for you. But, there are some scenes that make you jump a little. The sexual innuendo was useless and kind of dumb. This PG-13 rating is good because it isn't so inappropriate but, you might get a little scared.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 15 years old Written byThe Movie Watcher May 29, 2013

Dark Skies

These kinds of movies (Science-fiction) could be taken and considered differently for many people. In this case, even though this movie is rated PG-13, it includes a lot of sci-fi violence, enough to completely disturb adult minds. I'd be careful about my sons watching this movie. It doesn't have too much bad REAL things though, but for the ones who think and believes most things they hear, this film might be completely shocking.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Teen, 14 years old Written bySouthernCutie1998 February 28, 2013

Stupid and Trashy!

This movie was blantely stupid first off.Please do me a favor,and don't waste your money.Me and my mom went to see it and I felt awkward sitting there watching teens watch porn and touching girls breast!. I would never let my 12 yr old brother see it.The language was bad and had a memorable F**k in it, and that was very unexpected.I didn't like it at all,but maybe others will.I woudn't take your kids if your a decent parent,because watching people touch breast and watch porn isn't worth watching and this cussing!!! Don't go!!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing