Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Fences Movie Poster Image
Powerful adaptation of August Wilson's intense play.
  • PG-13
  • 2016
  • 138 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 17 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Most people are trying to do their best with the rusty tools they have in this world. Forgiveness is a powerful tool, if you're able to use it. Themes include perseverance.

Positive Role Models & Representations

All of the characters are realistically human -- and flawed; they represent various shades of gray. Rose stands out a a pillar of patience and devotion.


A father and son come to blows, shoving each other while screaming and yelling at each other. Their anger and rage is very clear. A main character seems to be struggling under the weight of so much resentment and disappointment at the world and his place in it. In one scene, a man describes a murder he committed. 


Frank conversation about a man's infidelity. Some allusions to sex, but no nudity. 


Infrequent swearing includes "s--t," "ass," "hell" and "goddammit." The "N" word is used very frequently.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A man buys a pint of gin every Friday and proceeds to drink it, with or without friends. He's also shown at a bar drowning his sorrows. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Denzel Washington and Viola Davis star in Fences, which was adapted by playwright August Wilson from his own play. It's a powerful drama that deals with intense subjects including infidelity, prejudice, crime and punishment, father/son anger, and forgiveness -- as well as perseverance. So, while things like sexual and violent content aren't graphic, the film is still likely too intense for younger viewers. You can expect infrequent swearing (including "s--t") and very frequent use of the "N" word, as well as drinking, verbal and physical confrontations, the description of a murder, and a frank conversation about an affair.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byddiesel December 31, 2016

Excessive use of the N word .

I completely disagree with the review on CSM in just about every way. Denzel's character is insufferable and uses the n word constantly including uses towa... Continue reading
Adult Written byRisa P December 26, 2016


Fences examines many issues. Most profoundly is father/son relationship. Another is literacy and the inherent value of education and how that may shape one... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byThebestMoviegoer99 December 25, 2016

Build a fence around yourself then Throw away the key so you don't have to see this movie.

I am writing this review to try and give some meaning to the two and a half hours of my life that I just wasted. The only scene of any value was when Viola Dav... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byMediaFreak January 19, 2017

Meaningful Adaptation

(CONTAINS SPOILERS!!) Fences, an adaptation of the play by the same name, is one of the most touching dramas of the year. The main characters, played by Denzel... Continue reading

What's the story?

In this adaptation of August Wilson's masterful play FENCES, Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) is a hardworking garbage collector trying to find his place in a 1950s world that still judges him by the color of his skin and places high expectations on him as a man and a father. Though he was a gifted athlete, Troy's opportunities in the Negro League landed him nothing but a dead-end job (and an earlier stint in prison); his brutal childhood still haunts him. But Troy seemingly doesn't see how the sins of his father have imprinted themselves on him, shaping the way he relates to his sons (Jovan Adepo and Russell Hornsby). By his side for many years has stood his wife, Rose (Viola Davis), who also suffers from the expectations placed upon her, sometimes by Troy himself.

Is it any good?

Wilson's screenplay, based on his own award-winning play, is a potent brew that warms your stomach upon the first swig and then simmers to a boil. It's intense, exhausting, and worth it. Washington directs as well as stars, and he takes great care to stay faithful to the source material, keeping things clear and pared down, so that the language and story's inherent drama can do the talking.

Though the action doesn't literally stay in one spot, the film's stage roots are evident in the way that almost everything takes place in one house. But this serves the story, echoing the constriction that Troy, Rose, and their sons feel. All the actors are superb, particularly Davis, who plays Rose with empathy, understanding, and texture. When she finally utters a fateful sentence toward the end of the film, you feel it slice through your heart. Fences will take some discipline and effort to stick with it in its cinematic form, stripped of the electricity of live theater, but it's still masterful.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the themes in Fences. How does it depict parenthood and marriage? How does Troy's experience with racism shape him -- and, as a result, his world view?

  • Do you consider the characters role models? Why or why not?

  • How does the film address the value of perseverance? Why is that an important character strength?

  • Have you seen other movies based on plays? How does this one compare? What do they tend to have in common?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

Character Strengths

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