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Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Doubt Movie Poster Image
Brooding, play-based drama isn't for kids.
  • PG-13
  • 2008
  • 104 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 14 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The movie has complex, ambiguous messages about faith. A nun who rules a school with an iron fist accuses a priest of abusing a child, even though she has no proof. Adults subsequently discuss suspicions of pedophelia. A mother seems willing to turn a blind eye to her son's troubles. A novice gives her mother superior ammunition to destroy someone's reputation. Kids give a new student the cold shoulder and make fun of him in class.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Although the main characters are usually convinced that they're acting for the right reasons, the decisions they make have complicated, far-reaching consequences. They're too often ruled by manipulation and betrayal, as well as selfishness and fear.


A nun and a priest have a fiery shouting match about guilt and innocence. A thin layer of menace hangs over the film when the plot reveals suspected child abuse. A woman talks about how her son is being beaten up by her husband.


Little swearing. On one occasion, the word "bulls--t" is uttered by a child.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A priest smokes a cigarette, as does a student. A child is suspected of drinking some wine, which an adult may have given him.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this brooding, play-based drama isn't for kids. It tackles questions about God, faith, and evil in a way that will most likely be either uninteresting or too complex for young audiences. Though children are in the cast, the movie's themes are mature -- particularly the question of whether or not a priest has abused a child and how doubt about what happened undoes three main characters. Another storyline examines the patriarchal nature of the Catholic church, despite its dependence on the good works of its (female) nuns. Though there's little swearing, violence, or drinking, the movie isn't meant for kids (and isn't particularly likely to interest them, either).

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bywonder dove January 15, 2013


I thought it was an okay movie, but a little dull and somewhat slow. The concept is excellent (set in the 60's) and the actors were great (Loving Amy Adams... Continue reading
Parent Written byfif May 1, 2009

Very thought provoking

The movie is PG-13 due to thematic elements that younger kids won't understand fully. There is talk about abuse, but not in any real detail. Amazing acting... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byEmilyB123 August 7, 2010

Confusing for young teens and tweens

This movie will confuse a lot of younger teens like myself and tweens. I think to fully understand the concept of this movie you have to be at least 16.
Teen, 16 years old Written byMr581 July 27, 2009
there is no sexual elements seen but the whole movie is about a priest molesting a child

What's the story?

It's 1964, and young Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is transforming a Bronx parish with his thought-provoking homilies and easygoing manner. Already, the area's parochial school is feeling the winds of change: It has just admitted its first African-American student, Donald Miller (Joseph Foster). Taking it all in -- and not in stride -- is Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), the fearsome school principal who's not entirely sure about a priest who takes three cubes of sugar in his tea and wears his fingernails long. After novice teacher Sister James (Amy Adams) informs Sister Aloysius that Father Flynn called Donald to a private meeting from which the child returned with a whiff of wine on his breath, Sister Aloysius becomes certain that the priest has made inappropriate advances on the boy. She won't rest until all suspicions are laid to rest (hell hath no fury like a nun scorned), but what she uncovers is spiritual and emotional ambiguity.

Is it any good?

Often, adapting a play of this magnitude for the big screen gives birth to disappointment, but Doubt survives as an engrossing, provocative drama. On Broadway, John Patrick Shanley's DOUBT, winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award, riveted audiences with its unremitting scrutiny of faith and its worthy adversary: uncertainty.

Yes, there's a heavy handedness to the direction that's better suited to the stage. There are also far too many portentous elemental triggers (the wind-spun leaves, lashing rain, dreary skies -- we get the message, the end is bleak). And the usually excellent Adams is only passable here. Still, you can't deny the powerful themes Doubt dares to take on: Is it true, as Father Flynn says, that doubt can be "a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty"? Or is it, by its very nature, bad for the faithful? The film may not answer all of these questions mightily, but at least it tries.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's messages. What is it saying about religion? The Catholic church in particular?

  • Why do Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn clash? Who's right, and who's wrong? And what of doubt? Do you think Father Flynn is guilty or innocent?

  • What characteristics do movies based on plays tend to have in common? Do plays always make good movies? Why or why not?

Movie details

For kids who love dramas

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