Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Galveston Movie Poster Image
Intense crime drama has graphic violence and sex.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 91 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Even the toughest and meanest guys may have a heart underneath.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Rather than jeopardize the safety of people he cares about, a man serves time in jail.


A man has several intense coughing fits, at times coughing up blood. A man is beaten nearly to death. His bloody nose is out of joint. A girl is found tied up and terrified, having witnessed a murder. People are shot to death. A man strangles someone who has threatened to expose crimes. A man stabs a driver waiting in his car. A man walks into a dangerous hurricane. Child rape is an underlying theme. A girl's nude body is seen prone, draped over a table. 


A man is seen in the dark, nude from the back while receiving oral sex. A woman's breast is seen. A girl turns tricks to make money. People are seen from behind nude.


"F--k," "s--t," "ass," "pr--k," "hell," and "whore."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

People drink alcohol to excess. A 19-year-old girl drinks and smokes cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Galveston is a dark drama about a small-time enforcer who is set up by his mobster boss and, as he escapes, rescues a murder witness, the sex worker who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The violence is intense at times, with on-screen murders as well as a beating so extreme it puts a man's bloodied nose out of joint. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "ass," "whore," and "pr--k." A man is seen in the dark, nude while receiving oral sex. A woman's breast is seen. A girl turns tricks to make money. A 19-year-old girl drinks to excess, as does her 40-year-old friend. They both smoke cigarettes. Child rape is an underlying theme.

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What's the story?

In GALVESTON, Roy (Ben Foster) is an enforcer for a small-time mob boss named Pitco (Beau Bridges). Sent on a mission, he's armed, despite Pitco's warning not to go packing. That's because it's a setup and Roy is meant to be whacked. Instead, Roy kills Pitco's men, unties a sex worker named Rocky (Elle Fanning), and goes on the lam with her. To avoid being traced by the vindictive Pitco, Roy switches cars and hops from motel to motel. Grizzled and seemingly loveless, he has no interest in 19-year-old Rocky despite her offer to make herself sexually available. On their way to refuge in Galveston, they stop at the shack where Rocky grew up. She runs in and runs out with a bag full of clothes and a 3-year-old girl. They jump in the car and tear away. Eventually Pitco's men catch up with Roy and Rocky. Will they make it out alive?

Is it any good?

As artfully revealed over the course of the movie, the silent and violent Roy starts out seeming to be nothing more than a cliché mob gang member. He's a tough, uncaring destroyer with unerring killer and survival instincts. But expert direction by Melanie Laurent guides us to see a man whose conscience and heart have long been buried. It takes a happenstance encounter with an abused teen and her innocent daughter to make him human again.

In the end, Galveston surpasses plot -- it doesn't really matter why he's running, who he's running from, or what blackmail documents he has on his boss, leverage that is scarcely explained at all. The circumstances seem constructed more to showcase the ultimate appearance of Roy's humanity, long hidden under a tough, well-armored exterior. All the alcohol, all the cigarettes, as well as the man-of-few-words pose, indicate a person coping with isolation, loneliness, and perhaps remorse. It's too dark and mature for kids, but older teens might appreciate it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the criminal world in which violence is ordinary and part of doing business. Can you imagine a backstory that might have led Roy to become the man he is at Galveston's start?

  • How do you think Rocky, a victim of childhood abuse, manages to seem hopeful? How do you judge her, knowing all that she's done to survive?

  • Do your views of Rocky and Roy change as they age? Why?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

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