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District 9

Movie review by
James Rocchi, Common Sense Media
District 9 Movie Poster Image
Sci-fi stunner is smart but gory; way too violent for kids.
  • R
  • 2009
  • 113 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 53 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 126 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Although it takes place in a sci-fi context, the movie offers a fascinating perspective on South Africa's struggle with apartheid -- and on any nation's struggle with immigration and fear of "the other." The realization that the filmmakers didn't have to build the slums that their disenfranchised alien immigrants live in should also offer pause for thought.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The movie ultimately culminates with two beings -- one human, one alien -- working together in the service of the common good and struggling to do the right thing at great personal cost and danger. A lot of painful, upsetting stuff happens to them and others along the way, of course.


Constant, bloody, and brutal violence, some of it involving humans and some involving humanoid, insect-like aliens. Kicking, fighting, severed limbs. Torture, including a man being jabbed with cattle prod so that his hand will pull the trigger of a gun. Characters use high-tech sci-fi firearms, some of which strike with such force that they liquefy their victims. Alien weapons are tested on living beings. Scary medical experimentation imagery, including bloody, explicit body modifications as a man has his DNA rewritten by an alien virus.


Some discussion of prostitution and exotic venereal diseases in connection with talk about human/alien interspecies sex.


Lots of harsh/strong language, including "f--k" used near constantly, as well as "bastard," "oh my God," "balls," "crap," and more. Some of the swearing may be hard for American audiences to understand given the actors' accents.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some smoking and drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this gritty, buzzworthy sci-fi epic filmed in South Africa (and produced by Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson) is full of extremely realistic, bloody violence, including severed limbs, lots of bodies, piles of high-tech weapons, and even torture. The movie's aliens aren't cute or appealing in any way -- they're scary-looking, insectoid creations with complex biologies and lives. Expect constant strong language (especially "f--k"), as well as some drinking, smoking, and discussion of sex.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byusagary August 22, 2009
This movie has more than just violence. Violence is targeted towards both humans and aliens. The humans are zapped with laser weapons which the aliens have br... Continue reading
Adult Written byjennfox August 24, 2009
Yes, this movie has strong language. And it is NOT for immature teens without strong critical thinking skills. But, as a High School teacher, I firmly believe... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byHopefullyThisHelps April 9, 2010


I'm a pretty mature 15-year-old and I thought it'd be ok for me to watch this movie before. I finally convinced my parents to let me see this "R... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byMikaylaaMadisonn October 8, 2009
Amazing. Period.

What's the story?

Set in an alternate present, DISTRICT 9 takes place in South Africa, where, 20 years ago, an alien ship came to rest in the skies above Johannesburg -- with more than a million workers and near-slaves aboard. Now, after two decades of uneasy co-existence, the local government is moving the alien "Prawns" from their ramshackle slums in District 9 to a new camp 200 kilometers away. But as part of the forced relocation, a government bureaucrat discovers that District 9 has secrets of its own.

Is it any good?

Produced by Peter Jackson, District 9 is a rarity -- a lower-budget science-fiction film with amazing effects, thrilling action, and, most importantly, emotional and intellectual depth. Turning the plight of marginalized groups into science fiction is nothing new, but District 9's dark vision of the apartheid years is somehow brain-bendingly exciting and painfully real.

Director/co-writer Neill Blomkamp makes a few mistakes -- some of the character arcs have a few rough edges, and the film's middle section is a bit interminable -- but, at the same time, District 9 is a welcome antidote to "science-fiction films" like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (which, of course, have no science in them whatsoever). The movie's willingness to take on complex political and moral questions is an equally welcome change from the bloodless, thoughtless gloss of big-budget action films like G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. And, of course, it's just plain exciting -- full of action, comedy, eye-popping effects, and tricky stunts. District 9 is a bloody, brutal action-science-fiction allegory served up rough and raw, but that's what makes it worth getting excited about.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's extreme violence. Is it meant to be realistic (in that, yes, high-tech alien weaponry could be this horrible) or is it just eye candy for action fans? Does it have more or less impact than the violence in a movie like G.I. Joe?

  • How does the movie's news footage/documentary-like style compare to that of other large-scale sci-fi films? Does it seem more realistic? Does that make it scarier?

  • How does the movie's setting echo the real-life conditions of poverty and prejudice during South Africa's apartheid era? Even though it's a sci-fi film, what messages does the movie send about that period?

  • Can you think of other sci-fi movies (or other types of media) that have tackled tough political ideas through metaphor and fantasy?

Movie details

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