Domestic Disturbance

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Domestic Disturbance Movie Poster Image
Dark, suspenseful thriller has mature themes, profanity.
  • PG-13
  • 2001
  • 89 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

No positive messages in this dark mystery thriller.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Frank Morrison is a father willing to do whatever it takes to protect his son from danger.


A stepfather physically and verbally abuses his stepson. A man is stabbed to death in a vehicle. Another man is electrocuted. 


A man is in bed with a prostitute. This same man remarks on how he "doesn't see any adult bookstores" in a town he is visiting for the first time.


Frequent profanity. "F--k." "Bulls--t." "S--t." "Bitch." "Goddamn." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink champagne at a formal gathering. A man smokes cigarettes. One of the lead characters is a recovering alcoholic.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Domestic Disturbance is a 2001 thriller about a stepfather who is not the good citizen he appears to be. This stepfather is both physically and verbally abusive to his new stepson. This movie also addresses issues of alcoholism and divorce; the 12-year-old stepson is accused by everyone in the town of being a compulsive liar who wants attention in the aftermath of his parents' divorce. Characters are stabbed to death, electrocuted, and attacked with baseball bats. There is frequent profanity, including "f--k." One of the characters sleeps with a prostitute. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byEric A. January 12, 2015
Teen, 14 years old Written byanimateddisneyfan February 12, 2015

good movie wished it ended different

It was a pretty good movie but I felt like there should have been more to the ending. But just to warn you people do die in this film one guy gets stabbed in a... Continue reading

What's the story?

Frank Morrison (John Travolta) is a recovering alcoholic and recently divorced father who works as a shipbuilder in a small town in Maryland. His 12-year-old son Danny, hurt by the divorce of his parents, has begun getting into trouble and acting out, especially when his mother marries a man named Rick Barnes (Vince Vaughn), a recent arrival in town who comes across as a wealthy entrepreneur. But when Danny inadvertently witnesses Rick murder a man from his past (Steve Buscemi), he tries to convince everyone of the truth, but no one believes him. Meanwhile, as Rick begins making threats to Danny, Frank begins to suspect that there's a dark side to Rick, and begins to uncover the truth as he does his best to protect his son.

Is it any good?

It's hard to tell if John Travolta is trying to play his role as more of a laid-back recovering alcoholic or if his performance is simply flat and uninspired. In some scenes, he comes across as almost bored. Still, there's enough action and twists to make this a semi-enjoyable tale of suspense and mystery.

While the suspense in this thriller is heightened by Vince Vaughn's undercurrents of violence and general creepiness as the murderous stepfather with a dark past, what prevents DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE from being anything better than average are the storyline's cliches. There is a police detective who doesn't believe the story of murder and deceit coming out of the mouth of a tween boy. There is a tween boy who has cried wolf one too many times, and now that the proverbial wolf is here, no one believes him. There is a wicked stepfather. It all follows a predictable-enough formula, even if there are occasional unexpected moments. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how issues of alcoholism and divorce are addressed. Were these topics handled realistically? Why or why not?

  • What similarities and differences do you see between this film and other suspenseful movies?

  • How was violence used in this film? Was it necessary for the story or did it seem gratuitous?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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