Fast Food Nation

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
Fast Food Nation Movie Poster Image
Bloody exposé; not for kids. Want fries with that?
  • R
  • 2006
  • 106 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Thematic focus is corruption in fast food (contaminated meat, cover-ups); frustrated workers strike back as they can (e.g., spitting in food); characters lie, cheat, and argue.


The film's disturbing climax shows cattle slaughtered (actual bloody, graphic footage); crossing the U.S.-Mexican border is depicted as rough going (harsh conditions, thirst, exhaustion, passing out); discussion of McDonald's robbery (unseen); worker loses leg in plant machine (bloody and graphic).


Two brief sex scenes in vehicles (one shows breasts and indicates nude bodies, the other is "doggy style" and uncomfortable, as the creepy floor manager has sex with female employees in exchange for favors at work); another sex scene in the plant freezer (not explicit); sexual slang ("slut," "balls," "dick"); Doug plays a porn movie in his hotel room (you only hear moans, no image, as he looks at the screen); uncle offers his niece $1000 if she doesn't get pregnant by age 21.


Repeated uses of "f--k" (20+), plus other language, including "ass," "s--t," "hell," "damn," "crap," and "sons of bitches."


Thematic focus on marketing fast food (McDonald's-style, though the company in the movie is the fictional "Mickey's"); specific references to ESPN, McDonald's, Fuddruckers.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Smoking cigarettes, drinking, smoking marijuana, allusions to "meth freaks," snorting drugs; some workers are visibly high on the job.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that most kids probably won't be that interested in this exposé of the fast food industry (which is based on Eric Schlosser's non-fiction best-seller). And just as well. It includes an extremely graphic sequence on the "killing floor" of a meat-packing plant, which shows actual footage of brutal hacking at cattle. Other violence includes the difficult border crossing endured by Mexican workers and a bloody scene of a worker's leg getting caught and cut off in a grinding machine. Some sex scenes between a manager (who trades sex for favors at work) and his female workers show naked body parts. Characters drink, smoke marijuana, and take methamphetamines. Language includes some 20 uses of "f--k" and a variety of other curses.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byKara463 February 26, 2016

definitely not a movie I would recommend

Although educational, I would not recommed this movie to anyone. The sexual content is unnecessary and disgusting. Anyone with even a smidgen of moral sense wou... Continue reading
Adult Written bychristian2011 January 8, 2012

A Very Gritty Food Documental Film.

Fast Food Nation is a movie that portrays the dramatic independancies between workers and employees at fast food themed industries and restaurants, and the stre... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byReelBlonde April 9, 2008

Confusing movie with abusive sex

I thought the movie was over the top. It had a point that was important but it didn't need to get so graphic. I didn't like that when the man from the... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bySynchronicity April 9, 2008

Very good movie

I have to say, Fast Food Nation has to be the best independent film I have ever seen. This film has important moral themes and I can't recommend it enough.... Continue reading

What's the story?

FAST FOOD NATION follows the victims of the U.S. fast food industry. Don (Greg Kinnear), a marketer for fictionalized restaurant Mickey's, is troubled to learn of the meat packing plant's terrible working conditions and contaminations, but is told by two veterans of the business that he can't stop the corporate suits. The story of meat packing plant workers follows Sylvia (Catalina Sandino Moreno), her sister Coco (Ana Claudia Talancón) and boyfriend Raul (Wilmer Valderrama), who endure a horrible journey across the border to find work. Coco and Raul get jobs at the plant and succumb to drug addiction because their jobs are so miserable. In another part of the picture, the counter kids at the Mickey's find their own resistance. Brian (Paul Dano) spits in the obnoxious customers' orders, but Amber (Ashley Johnson) begins to research the production process and finds new friends among college-aged eco-activists. But for all their energy and creativity in protesting, they still can't slow down the system.

Is it any good?

Unabashedly didactic, the movie creates a fictional narrative from the facts presented in Eric Schlosser's 2001 exposé of McDonald's corrupt practices, also called Fast Food Nation. (A kids' version of the book was published under the title Chew On This.) As it does so, it adopts seemingly meandering structure, much like other films directed by the ever-inventive Richard Linklater. Such a structure makes sense here, as it underlines the connections between the different sorts of people affected by Mickey's corner-cutting policies.

Fast Food Nation doesn't end well, but it does end powerfully. As Sylvia at last gives in and takes a job on the killing floor, she sees for the first time -- and the camera shows explicitly -- what she's been hearing about since she arrived in the U.S. It's a gruesome, unforgettable sight, and she, standing in for the rest of us, is suitably horrified.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the ethics of producing fast food. Why do the producers sacrifice quality to save money? What is a corporation's responsibility in protecting its workers? How honest do corporations that produce food need to be? Should they disclose errors and regularly occurring contaminations? How does this movie show connections between the corruption that runs throughout the company's hierarchy (from floor workers to managers to marketers to executives)? Do you think this drama -- which is based on a non-fiction book -- is more effective than a documentary on the same topic would have been? Why or why not?

Movie details

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