(Dis) Honesty: The Truth About Lies

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
(Dis) Honesty: The Truth About Lies Movie Poster Image
Fascinating docu on lying; some profanity, sex references.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 90 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Documentary discusses the seemingly innate tendencies people have to lie (or fudge, or stretch the truth) in some situations.

Positive Role Models & Representations

In interviews with people who lied in ways that had a devastating impact on themselves and those around them, those who engaged in lying show a deep awareness of and regret for their poor decisions and the consequences stemming from their actions. 


Images of college students protesting "rape culture" that they believe is celebrated in a best-selling book (I Hope They Sell Beer in Hell) that was adapted into a movie. Brief images of a teen boy in a hospital with burns covering 70 percent of his body.


In one scene concerning a best-selling book (I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max) that was adapted into a film, chapter and blog topics are shown on screen mentioning euphemisms for oral sex, anal sex, and ejaculation, as well as other references and euphemisms for sex. Brief images of scantily clad women from television phone sex ads from the '80s. An extramarital affair as a result of using the website Ashley Madison is discussed. 


One use of "f--k." During a scene discussing the guerilla marketing that went into the film adaptation of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, words such as "a--hole," "butt sex," "blow jobs," "douche bag," and "retards" appear on-screen from chapter headings, blog titles, and various signs promoting the movie. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Brief image of a man's hand holding a cigarette outside the driver's side window of a car. Discussion of "doping" in athletics. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that (Dis) Honesty: The Truth About Lies is a 2015 documentary that explores the reasons for lying, the scenarios in which lying is most likely to occur, and the rationalizations that even the best of us give when we're lying. Though this is a fascinating exploration of the detailed academic research and science behind lying, with plenty of testimonials from people from all walks of life who were caught lying to the detriment of themselves and those around them, there are some moments that are inappropriate for kids, most notably the scenes depicting the guerilla-marketing tactics that went into the film adaptation of the best-selling book I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell; this section has blog and chapter headings on-screen with various curse words, references to oral and anal sex, as well as sex with blind people and disparaging references to the mentally challenged. Another scene shows a woman discussing her marital infidelity by using the website Ashley Madison. There is one use of "f--k." There are brief sexual images of women from the 1-900 TV ads of the 1980s. There are also brief images of a teen boy in a hospital with burns covering 70 percent of his body. However, this movie also discusses ways and approaches in which we can curb our tendencies to lie and the positive personal and economic benefits of honesty; also, everyone who discusses lying shows remorse and understanding of the consequences of their actions. 

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What's the story?

Why do we lie? How do we rationalize lying? How much does continued lying -- to ourselves, our loved ones, our employers -- adversely affect our socioeconomic well-being? These are only some of the questions raised in (DIS) HONESTY: THE TRUTH ABOUT LIES. Centered on the work of academic researchers -- most notably Dan Arely from Duke University -- this documentary explores the science behind lying, as well as the situations and scenarios in which we are most likely to lie. The discussion of these findings is bolstered by the testimonies of many who were "caught in the act" and had to suffer the consequences for their lying: an NBA referee who bet on games which he officiated, a woman who cheated on her husband through the website Ashley Madison, a day trader, and others. Some potential solutions are discussed, such as methods by which we instruct our kids not to lie, as are psychological approaches that make people as a whole less likely to lie. 

Is it any good?

Though some might not be shocked by studies proving people tend to lie much more if it helps them and they can get away with it, this documentary is still an interesting look at why and how we lie. It also addresses how we as a species -- even the most honest among us -- seem hardwired to lie. While centered on the work and findings of Duke University researcher Dan Arely, the documentary also shows interviews with people who rationalized their lying and cheating, until the lying and cheating took on an unstoppable life of its own and they were caught and had to suffer the consequences. 

Some of the testimonials concerning lying are quite shocking -- most notably the advertising executive who started a thoroughly reprehensible marketing campaign for the movie adaptation of the best-selling book I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. The axiom "all publicity is good publicity" takes on a disturbing meaning when the executive makes anonymous calls and blog posts pretending to protest the "rape culture" many believe the book and the book's author celebrates, in the hopes that it will get more people to see the movie. Though this documentary could have shown a few more examples and suggestions of how we might curb our seemingly inborn tendencies to lie, it does offer the beginnings of some potential solutions. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about documentaries. How does this movie present its central assertions on dishonesty? 

  • In addition to discussing academic experiments and studies, this documentary also shows interviews with athletes, day traders, accountants, and referees -- among others -- who were caught lying and cheating. How do these interviews personalize the experiments and studies? What would be lost if they were not included? 

  • Did the documentary offer enough suggestions for changing the behaviors that create lying, or do you think there were not enough potential solutions proposed? 

  • For more discussion starters, check out the filmmakers' guide.

Movie details

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