Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Elle Movie Poster Image
Great lead performance, but very mature, graphic content.
  • R
  • 2016
  • 130 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The movie's main messages are that nothing is as it seems and that no one can be trusted.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A strong female character starts out as a victim and is continually victimized, but she never actually seems defeated, damaged, or humiliated; she maintains a certain amount of control and power. Her best attribute is that she stops lying about a transgression and tells the truth.


Multiple rape scenes, including one in which a man in a mask rapes a woman. Images from a violent video game (suggested violence against female game characters). Rough sex, with a woman thrown against the wall and slapped/hit. Beating/killing with blunt objects. Blood spurts. Bloody, gory crime scene; talk of a mass murderer. Guns, target practice. Car crash, with bloody injury. Characters die. Some arguing.


Full-frontal female nudity. Topless women. Naked bottoms, both male and female. Strong sexual situations, suggested sex acts. Rough sex. Ejaculate shown on a bedspread. Extramarital affairs. Graphic/frequent sex talk. Masturbation. Kissing.


In English subtitles, uses of "f--k," "c--t," "s--t," "bulls--t," "t-ts," "a--hole," "ass," "bitch," "hell," "d--k," "crap," "boner," "idiot," "moron," and "bimbo."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking. Characters tipsy at dinner party. Smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Elle is a French-language thriller from director Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Showgirls) that's filled with violence, rape, rough sex, and graphic sexual material. A woman is raped and beaten; other characters are bashed on the head, and spurting blood is shown. Images from a fictional, violent video game are shown, with suggested violence against female characters. A car crash causes a bloody injury, and guns are fired. A TV news report shows a mass murder, with gory crime scene photos. Characters die. Nudity includes full-frontal (female) ane topless women, and both men's and women's bare behinds are shown. Sex and masturbation are strongly implied. Language (in French, with English subtitles), includes "f--k," "c--t," "s--t," and lots more. Characters drink and smoke at parties, and some get tipsy. Fans of great performances will want to see Isabelle Huppert in an acclaimed role, but the movie is too mature for anyone but adult viewers.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written bynick t. January 9, 2017

For mature, smart teens

This is a great, often infuriating film that the mature, thoughtful teenager will appreciate. Young women may especially benefit from the questions it raises a... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byTornadosplash44 April 16, 2017

Mature graphic French drama that has an amazing lead actress!!!!!

This movie was excellent! The storyline was good but the acting from Isabelle Huppert was phenomenal! However the film does contain plenty of coarse language. I... Continue reading

What's the story?

In ELLE, video game designer Michele Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert) is raped in her home. The masked intruder escapes, and she goes on like nothing happened. Meanwhile, she's having an affair with the husband (Christian Berkel) of her best friend/partner (Anne Consigny), the game her company is working on is overdue, and her son is stuck in a horrible relationship with a pregnant woman. Then, a cruel and invasive video surfaces at the office, and Michele becomes convinced that her rapist is actually someone she works with. But when the attacker breaks into her home again, Michele's life takes a surprising, very dark turn.

Is it any good?

Director Paul Verhoeven's first movie in French features an elegant, powerful Isabelle Huppert; she adds weight to what's really a pretty basic, stretched-out story filled with sex and violence. The Dutch filmmaker (Basic Instinct, Showgirls) spent a couple of decades in Hollywood, making English-language movies that seemed trashy and sensational. Interestingly, now that he's working in French, the material somehow seems less shocking and more thoughtful.

Verhoeven is already known for pushing the boundaries of onscreen depravity, but when the furor dies down, it's clear that he tries to go deeper, hoping to expose hypocrisy and showing how symbols and representations can be turned upside down. In Elle, for example, a house decorated with a huge Christmas Nativity scene actually hides something much darker. But while certain images and ideas are powerful, it's not hard to solve the movie's big mystery, and the wrap-up is a bit rushed and tidy for the movie's 130-minute running time. Still, Huppert's icy, slightly cracked performance is strong -- and a big reason for the movie's overall success.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Elle's violence. Does it seem sensational/shocking, or does it fit in with the point of the story? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How is sex portrayed in the movie? Is it linked to love? Passion? Violence? What message does that send? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • Is Michele a strong female character? A role model?

  • How would you describe the movie's attitude toward video games? Do you think it's trying to make a specific point?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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