Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Fear Movie Poster Image
Violent creepy-boyfriend thriller without helpful takeaways.
  • R
  • 1998
  • 97 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

This movie has very little good to say about the nature of relationships. Nicole is a "good" girl, but she winds up trusting the wrong guy and pays a huge price for it. Margo is a "bad" girl, and she also ends up paying a price for her choices. Aside from Nicole's father, and her friend Gary, the men in this movie are violent and possessive.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Nicole is arguably the most upright character here, but despite a good head on her shoulders, she winds up becoming involved with a violent psychopath, often choosing to believe his lies rather than accepting her family's help. Nicole's father seems to be a good man, but he's often seen working, and/or preoccupied, instead of spending time with his family.


The David character beats up a teen, kicking him while he's down, and slaps the Nicole character when she tries to intervene. He murders both offscreen and onscreen, sometimes with a gun, and sometimes with his bare hands (neck-snapping). He also kills the family dog and shoves the severed head through the doggie door. Aside from that, he threatens and intimidates various characters. A fight breaks out at a dance club, and various weapons are used during the climactic struggle (including a power drill to the hand, and stabbing in the back).


David and Nicole kiss passionately, and often. He touches her between her legs. They have safe sex in a bed, while her parents are out (a condom wrapper is later discovered). Margo gives a grinding lap dance to her older boyfriend. Later, a horrified Nicole witnesses as David violently seduces her best friend Margo, grabbing her buttocks, and dragging her away for implied, offscreen sex. There's also a brief same-sex kiss and a brief view of a nudie magazine.


"F--k" is used several times, and "s--t" is heard at least once. Additional words include "boobs," "slut," "bitch," and "Jesus" as an exclamation.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A friend of David's is seen smoking crack. Teen Margo smokes cigarettes, and there is some drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Fear is a "creepy boyfriend" thriller in the Cape Fear and Fatal Attraction mode, but geared toward teens. It's filled with violence, including fighting, use of weapons, murder, and a severed dog head. Teens are seen kissing and exploring in a sexual way, and eventually having sex. Other sexual situations are not so safe. Language is strong, including several uses of "f--k." One minor character uses crack and a teen girl regularly smokes cigarettes. Teens might be interested in seeing younger versions of actors Mark Wahlberg (then about 25) and Reese Witherspoon (about 20), but the material is probably too strong for any but the most mature teens.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byIce_queen_vanessa November 18, 2020

Very informative

I’m not a mom yet so I don’t know when’s the appropriate age to date ...but thinking back to dances ...I would say 14. 13 if ur kid is on the mature side. More... Continue reading
Adult Written bywonder dove May 25, 2012

Some people aren't who they appear to be!

If you like suspense and are a fan of the horror genre, you will likely enjoy this coming of age teen part-romance/part-thriller film. Starring Reese Witherspoo... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old July 29, 2021

Disturbing Movie!!!!!!!!

It's horrible, violent and bloody. Besides, it hasn't got any good influences nor messages
Teen, 14 years old Written byLeahjade1406 January 11, 2019


This film is not bad at all.It does have some swearing ,sex and smoking in it but its not that bad if you know how to be mature so i say 14 and up.

What's the story?

Teen Nicole (Reese Witherspoon) lives with her dad and her stepmom and goes to a normal high school with her friends Margo and Gary. Heading to an sleazy bar for lunch one day, Nicole sees David (Mark Wahlberg). Later, she meets him at a dance club, and they hit it off; he seems gentle and decent, and she begins to fall for him. They kiss and make love, but when David spots Nicole hugging Gary at school, he snaps and begins thrashing on Gary. Nicole tries to dump her new boyfriend, but he's very persistent, and it seems that he has a few dirty tricks up his sleeve. Not to mention that he has a terrifying dark side, and a murderous streak that eventually endangers Nicole and everyone around her.

Is it any good?

Director James Foley gets just below the surface of his two leads and coaxes strong, believable performances from both Wahlberg and Witherspoon. They click onscreen together, and the mounting terror is emotionally believable. William Petersen (later on TV's CSI) is also excellent. Foley had previously made some excellent, stylish films, including After Dark, My Sweet (1990) and Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), and his work with actors is always exemplary.

However, the movie as a whole never really rises above the conventions of this "creepy boyfriend" genre. There was more at stake in earlier examples like Fatal Attraction (1987) and Cape Fear (1962 and 1991), and this one feels too little, too late. It's a little too shallow and mean. Despite the strong performances, it feels made for naïve teens with no prior experience with this cliche of story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's violence. In what scenes is it thrilling and in what scenes is it terrifying? How does the movie accomplish these different moods? What would the movie have been like without the onscreen violence?

  • Why does Nicole trust David? What message does the movie send about relationships? Does it seem an accurate message?

  • Is there anything more Nicole's father could have done in this situation? Is there any point at which Nicole would have listened to his advice, or did she need to learn this lesson on her own? How can parents protect their kids while allowing them independence too?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills and scares

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