Fahrenheit 451

Movie review by
Marty Brown, Common Sense Media
Fahrenheit 451 Movie Poster Image
Soggy, violent adaptation of book-burning sci-fi classic.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 100 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The ultimate message of the film is sacrificing one's self for the greater good, but the journey to that point is messy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

As Guy discovers that everything he has been told and taught about the world has been a lie, he learns how to make brave, selfless choices to improve the lives of others.

Violence

The firemen spend most of their time destroying things -- books, computers, buildings. Several people are burned alive, either by suicide or murder. There's a boxing match at the beginning and fistfights throughout.  

Sex

Guy Montag has a relationship with Clarisse, but we only see them kiss.

Language

Some infrequent cursing ("f--king," "f--k," "s--t").

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The firemen are drinkers and seem to spend a lot of time in bars. There's also a commonly used (fictional) drug that erases people's memories.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Fahrenheit 451 stars Michael B. Jordan and is a loose adaptation of the classic Ray Bradbury novel. There's a bit of overt sexuality and strong language, but the latter seems mostly incidental (it feels improvised by the actors, rather than emphasized in the script), so HBO likely intended for the adaptation to be seen by teens. The film does make a big deal about fire: The main characters are "firemen," but rather than putting out fires, they carry blowtorches that allow them to eradicate any cultural material (books, films, music, and electronics) that the government deems dangerous to the population. The firemen use their weapons to show off in classrooms, punish criminals, and destroy property -- and the film makes setting these fires look very cool. Fire is also used to kill people throughout the film. The movie takes major liberties with the book's plot, making substantial changes that end up muddying the message and blunting the impact of the original story.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bySono Sugoi N. June 16, 2018

Much more mature and original adaptation

Compared to the 1966 adaptation, this is a much more mature and gritty version. Farenheit 451 overall was a very good adaptation. Although it didn't follow... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byDragonFly02 May 22, 2018

A little underwhelming, but overall, a great movie.

I really enjoyed this movie despite its flaws. Be on the lookout for some F-bombs and the use of the N-word. I would recommend watching this movie.

What's the story?

In the totalitarian American society in FAHRENHEIT 451, books are banned and "firemen" don't put out fires -- they start them. The belief is that books, or any sort of culture that might present a point of view that conflicts with the government's, can literally drive people insane and therefore must be destroyed. Firemen like Captain Beatty (Michael Shannon) and his Master Trooper Guy Montag (Michael B. Jordan) use blowtorches to eradicate any unauthorized books, films, music, or computers they can find, usually smuggled by book-reading outcasts called "eels." Anyone caught with books is stripped of their identity for a number of years. 

After a few book raids on eel houses, Montag starts to question what he has been told about the dangers of reading, and he strikes up a friendship with an eel named Clarisse (Sofia Boutella), who helps to educate him about the real purpose of books. As he learns more and more, Montag must choose between being a fireman and reading, a choice that could lead him down a path toward rebellion against not only the government but Captain Beatty, who has been a father figure to him.

Is it any good?

This fiery book-based tale had potential, but this adaptation ultimately ends up as soggy as can be. "Who controls information?" is a prevalent question in America in 2018, whether it's applied toward cable news, social media, or government. So it's easy to see why the creators of this version of Fahrenheit 451 have seen parallels between Bradbury's allegorical novel and our present society. But after some chilling opening scenes where firemen Beatty (Shannon) and Montag (Jordan) indoctrinate a class of young children into believing that reading books can make you crazy, the director fails at even simply telling a cogent story, let alone a resonant one.

Fahrenheit 451 spends a lot of time on mundane aesthetics: a futuristic world lifted wholesale from Blade Runner 2049, terrible special effects (mostly just different types of screens), and showing how fun it is to burn things. But the film takes its characters for granted. The steps in Montag's turn from wolfish fireman to literate rebel are difficult to track, and there's confusion as to Beatty's motivations throughout -- he seems to have some hidden depths but turns out to just be a two-dimensional villain. With no one to really root for here, and tons of contradictions in the setup, the premise itself falls apart under its own weight. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it means to live in a society without books or a society where what you read is dictated by the government. Why would the government want to control what books people read, or what films they watch, or what music they make? How does the government in Fahrenheit 451 maintain this control? 

  • How does the world of Fahrenheit 451 compare to our current society? The story seems to be set in the future but with many of the same tools and technology that we currently have, like the internet, computers, and flash drives. What's different -- and do you think we would ever be in a similar situation? 

  • The main characters in Fahrenheit 451 are "firemen," who use fire to destroy things. What do you think the fire represents? What would it mean to have these kinds of fires and firemen in our society? 

Movie details

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love sci-fi

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate