Parents' Guide to


By Jeffrey Anderson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Powerful, provocative depiction of high school shootings.

Movie R 2003 81 minutes
Elephant Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 15+

Based on 1 parent review

age 15+

A movie that teaches the possibilities and the aftermaths of a school shooting.

Elephant is a film where it shows the story of two male students who attended the Colombine High School and on July 20th, 1999, everything changed, when they go on a school shooting spree caused by the everyday stressful challenges they had to endure including being bullied and psychologically abused before the shooting, which could've been a major factor that triggered it. It can be an educational video for teens just to show them the possibility of someone who's a high risk of planning a school shooting and how to avoid the situation. This film has a very dark and intense atmosphere throughout, and the school shooting is VERY graphic and realistic, which can be disturbing to some viewers who're sensitive / faint hearted. However, this film has the potential risk of teaching younger children the negative aspects of the film, especially the infamous school shooting scene. Children 15 and up are ok to watch this, but if they're younger, like I said before, must be seriously mature for their age. This is a film that depicts the causes and effects of a school shooting, not for pure enjoyment.

This title has:

Too much violence
Too much swearing

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1):
Kids say (2):

Director Gus Van Sant takes a powerful approach to this material, without being heavy-handed. First, he interchanges timelines; events do not happen strictly in chronological order, as we can see from a moment of three teens meeting briefly in a hallway. We see it three times, from three different points of view. This creates a displacing, dreamy effect, as do lengthy shots, following characters as they walk down hallways or across school grounds.

Van Sant's aim is not suspense. Rather, the shootings are just as anti-climactic as the walking scenes, and all the more sickening for it. Another character, Benny, turns up late in the film (with his own introductory title card), though his story is yet another anti-climax. Moreover, the movie is almost entirely absent of adults, and the ones that are present seem hopelessly out of touch with the teens around them. Is there really an "elephant" in the room, and what can we do about it?

Movie Details

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