David Lynch's Inland Empire

  • Review Date: August 13, 2007
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2006
  • Running Time: 172 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Trippy, twisty thriller is totally out to Lynch.
  • Review Date: August 13, 2007
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2006
  • Running Time: 172 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

The "nice" version of the heroine, Nikki, cheats on her husband (or seems to), though their marriage shows no sign of warmth or companionship -- just jealousy and possession. Her alter ego, Susan Blue, is a trashy, foulmouthed woman who's into casual extramarital affairs. (Of course, neither one of the personalities may be real ... or both may be.) Characters worthy of emulation are in short supply.


Shocking scenes of stabbing murder by screwdriver, with bleeding, a close up of the wound, and an excruciating death. A woman is beaten. A gun is brandished, but viewers don't see the outcome. Dialogue contains graphic accounts of rape and genital mutilation (male and female).


A physically tame adulterous sex scene is rendered extremely lurid in the context of betrayal and desire. A number of scantily clad Hollywood Boulevard prostitutes recur in the film.


"F--k," "s--t," and graphic sexual description.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Lots of drinking, talk of drug addiction.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that most teens probably won't want to see this strange, practically "underground" David Lynch movie, despite its cast of relatively well-known actors and the fact that Lynch himself has a certain cachet among teens who like their entertainment weird, grotesque, and cool. Much of it defies standard logic, comprehension, and all Hollywood rules of linear storytelling. Plus, although not all experimental movies are filled with adult, disturbing, and taboo material, this one has its fair share.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Nikki (Laura Dern) is a successful Hollywood actress who has just won the female lead in a major production. Nikki's co-star, Devon (Justin Theroux), is notorious for his on-set love affairs; as rehearsals begin, Nikki's menacing Polish husband warns Devon not to try any funny stuff with her -- or else. Their director (Jeremy Irons) reveals that the movie they're shooting is a remake of a never-finished film that was based on an Eastern-European gypsy folktale -- which was never finished because the lead actors were both murdered. Then Nikki gets an ominous visit from a gypsy-type woman who cautions her in cryptic terms.

Is it any good?


Plenty of mainstream filmmakers (Jim Henson and Orson Welles, to name just two) start out doing abstract, weird, experimental productions you'd never associate with their typical Hollywood output. But director David Lynch has never quite left behind his oddball roots in troubling movies like his 1978 breakthrough Eraserhead -- a sort of cinematic bad dream you can't forget. For INLAND EMPIRE, Lynch goes back to that style in a big way (three hours' worth). Even though the movie stars relatively well-known actors whom kids might recognize -- like Lynch regular Dern -- Inland Empire isn't for kids, or even a lot of grownups. The film showcases Lynch at his most unleashed, nerve-jangled, and avant-garde, a mode that his die-hard fans find mesmerizing, but which a lot of unaccustomed viewers will just see as a creepy, borderline-unwatchable puzzle.

At the one-hour point, the movie seems warp into another reality -- maybe the film-within-the-film, or maybe a parallel universe of some sort. The ladylike, mansion-dwelling Nikki has now become Susan, a hard-bitten, foulmouthed woman who lives in a squalid bungalow and openly cheats on her Polish husband, who abuses her. Viewers also see the rabbit people again, a woman planning bloody murder with a screwdriver, Devon reappearing as a guy named Billy, and flashbacks to Eastern Europe in the early 20th century. What's up? Is Nikki taking her role too seriously and having a real affair with Devon? Is she just thinking about it? Or is Lynch playing an even trickier game with the idea of filmmaking as sort of dreaming? Or dreaming as filmmaking? People who are really into Lynch (or writing for serious film journals) will spend years answering those questions -- and if that's your notion of entertainment, enjoy.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the way the story is told. Is it even clear what the story (or stories) is (or are)? Do you think Lynch could have made the movie simpler and easier to understand and still captured the dreamlike ambiance? Why do you think he chose not to? How is this movie similar to Lynch's other films? How is it different? Why do you think well-known actors would appear in such an unconventional production?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 15, 2006
DVD release date:August 14, 2007
Cast:Jeremy Irons, Justin Theroux, Laura Dern
Director:David Lynch
Studio:Columbia Tristar
Run time:172 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language, some violence and sexuality/nudity.

This review of David Lynch's Inland Empire was written by

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  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Teen, 15 years old Written byKong90 November 11, 2013

Inland Empire

Ironic in the sense that, whilst surrealist David Lynch's latest film might well be his most socially grounded film since Blue Velvet (1986), it is all entirely encapsulated in one of the most brilliantly surreal and dreamily disturbing filmic settings as any one can recall in contemporary cinema. An artistic masterpiece that, in in alliance with Lynch's Mulholland Drive (2002), thoroughly certifies a seat for Lynch in the pantheon of great American cinema; his talents are now comparable with even the likes of Malick and Cassavetes.
Parent Written byLynchFan June 1, 2012


this is one of the best movies i ever seen! its amazing, beautiful and disturbing, scary sometimes, but hey, you cant ask for a happier ending xD Also this movie has a huge mystery/puzzle. I admit this movie isnt for anyone, but lynch fans wont be disappointed!!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 16 years old Written byjohnwi312 December 27, 2009

David Lynch is a madman.

Bizarre, crazy, terrifying, frustrating. Inland Empire isn't for everyone, but I found it to be a fascinating ride - it's scary, darkly funny, and downright weird. Not for kids, but mature teens can handle it.


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