Dark Skies

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Dark Skies Movie Poster Image
Subtle but dull alien invasion movie has scares, edgy stuff.
  • PG-13
  • 2013
  • 95 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 18 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

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 & Representations

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 6 and 10-year-old Written byKeegs M May 24, 2016

Subtle Film With A Chilling Conclusion

Dark Skies Is A Dull Movie That Is Questionable To Be Considered A Horror Film Rather Than Sci-Fi Or Fantasy. Ya The Film Has A Few Psychological Scares And Thi... Continue reading
Adult Written byclydetm74 May 26, 2014

Dark, Unexpected.

This film is about aliens who enter a family's house each night. They try to convince other people about it, but it doesn't go well., and they have to... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old May 15, 2016

Awesome horror film

This is a great scary movie but the scariest part is the greys and there design is very creepy but everything else is great
Teen, 13 years old Written byrebo344 July 1, 2015

Decent horror film.

It has some flaws, but it still has some good scares and tension and Keri Russell, J.K Simmons and the rest of the cast did well. Grade: C

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sci-fi

Themes & Topics

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