Don't Breathe

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Don't Breathe Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Brilliantly designed thriller weakened by heavy violence.
  • R
  • 2016
  • 88 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 16 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 28 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The movie more or less condones desperate measures, including theft and violence, to overcome a desperate situation. (Some characters are punished, some aren't.)

Positive Role Models & Representations

The protagonists are thieves who are capable of violence, while the "victim" is a violent sociopath. In other words? No role models here.


Women who are held hostage and abused are artificially inseminated against their will. Guns and shooting; spurts of blood, characters killed. Characters fall from heights. Painful injuries. Punching, pummeling, bashing heads and bodies (sometimes with hammer). Cuts and bruises. References to child abuse (girl locked in trunk of car). Nazi swastika shown. Vicious dog. Jump scares.


Reference to oral sex, miming oral sex with hand, mouth, and tongue. Women artificially inseminated. A character removes her top, revealing her bra.


Frequent uses of "f--k" and "bitch," as well as "p---y," "ass," and "hell."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters frequently smoke cigarettes. An adult character appears drunk, asks for more alcohol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Don't Breathe is an intense, gripping thriller set almost entirely in one house as a group of desperate thieves tries to steal a fortune from an elderly blind man. Frequent violence includes borderline torture and abuse. Women are held hostage and tormented; one is artificially inseminated against her will, and an attempt is made to inseminate the other. Guns are fired many times, with characters either wounded or killed. Blood splatters are shown. There's also fighting, punching, pummeling, and beating with blunt objects. Characters fall from heights and are injured. There's a reference to oral sex (using mouth, hands, and tongue to mime the action) and some partial undressing. Language is strong, with many uses of "f--k" and "bitch." Characters smoke a lot, and one character appears drunk (and is made to look bad as a result).

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written bychuggaconroyj August 27, 2016

Too Over The Top

This movie has 3 main problems
Violence: ok this movie was real violent at some points
Death 1. Money he gets shot in the face and it shows his jaw busting out... Continue reading
Parent of a 16-year-old Written byJenny S. August 27, 2016

It's really good, and perfectly fine for kids 15 and over

Honestly I would never let a 12,13 year old see it but if your kid it mature and doesn't get scared of horror movies then I would say it's perfectly f... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byCahillClan February 28, 2020

I didn't like it

Too violent, too much swearing, can be disturbing to some people. Honestly I wished I checked the rating of this movie before I watched because it's too in... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bymurdermystery December 8, 2019

Brilliant, Suspenseful

DON'T BREATHE is a suspenseful horror film that contains plenty of coarse language. The main thing parents will need to know about is the violence and terr...

What's the story?

In DON'T BREATHE, three down-and-out, desperate Detroit dwellers -- social outcast "Money" (Daniel Zovatto), his girlfriend, Rocky (Jane Levy); and clean-cut, worrying Alex (Dylan Minnette) -- have a scheme. They rob houses using keys and codes stolen from Alex's father's job at a security company. When they learn about an elderly, blind war veteran (Stephen Lang) who keeps several hundred thousand dollars in his house, they figure it can be their "one last final score." Rocky wants to get her young daughter out of town and away from her abusive mother, while Alex has unrequited feelings for Rocky and wants to join her. Unfortunately, their "simple" plan turns nasty when the old man turns out to be more than a meek victim.

Is it any good?

The first three-quarters of this simple, intense thriller are something close to masterful -- and then it goes a little too over the top, with an outlandish reveal and elements of torture and gore. Director Fede Alvarez (the 2013 Evil Dead remake), starts Don't Breathe with nary a misstep, using the desolate Detroit locations to strong effect and establishing the space of the veteran's house clearly and concisely, never resorting to shaky-cam.

Plus, the crisp sound design highlights every creak and crack of the house, without an overuse of music. Character development is slight, but at least Rocky is sympathetic, with abuse in her past and a desire to protect her daughter. And for a long time, all of this is brilliantly sustained, suggesting a trust in the audience -- but then the movie betrays that trust by unleashing a ridiculous back story for the victim, as well as unnecessarily heightened violence. A bit more thought could have made this a suspense classic, but at least it's nearly there.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Don't Breathe's violence. Is all of it necessary to the story? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How much did you care about the main characters, given that they're thieves and robbers? Does the movie generate sympathy for them? How?

  • What are the relationships like between the main characters and their parents (Rocky and her mother, and Alex and his father)? How are these relationships reflected in the characters' behavior?

  • How does smoking affect the characters? Does it make them seem cool? Dangerous? Desperate?

Movie details

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