Movie review by
Tony Nigro, Common Sense Media
Gattaca Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
'90s science fiction has mature themes, violence.
  • PG-13
  • 1997
  • 106 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 11 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 8 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Movie uses science fiction to address topics and concerns such as genetic engineering, bioethics, prejudice and bigotry, and the ramifications of a caste system based on those who are the beneficiaries of positive genetic modification, and those "in-valids" who were conceived without genetic modification and therefore predestined to spend their lives performing menial labor. Movie centers on an "in-valid" who finds a way to "beat the system" and pursue his dream of going into space. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

While born an "in-valid" and therefore destined to live a life of menial labor, Vincent finds a way to transcend a society rooted in a caste system and prejudice to fulfill his dream of one day going into space. 


A character is found murdered in his office, blood pooled around his head. Lead character punches a security guard until he's knocked out. One character commits suicide by immolation. 


Very brief sex scene with no explicit nudity. Doctor makes insinuations about the large size of the lead character's penis. 


Infrequent profanity. "F--k" used twice. "Piss." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One of the lead characters drinks heavily, and appears drunk from too much vodka in some scenes. Wine drinking. Cigarette smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Gattaca is a 1997 sci-fi movie in which Ethan Hawke must outwit a society centered on genetic engineering in order to fulfill his dream to go into space. For fans of science fiction with deep messages relevant to our world, this movie has plenty to reflect on and discuss with teens and adults. Bioethics, genetic engineering, individual free will versus predestined existence, and the possible ramifications of technological advancement are all explored. The lead character, Vincent, is born an "in-valid" -- conceived through traditional means rather than through genetic enhancement -- and is therefore relegated to a lifetime of menial labor, but nonetheless is undaunted in finding a way to transcend all societal obstacles in order to achieve his dream. One character is found murdered in his office, a pool of blood around his head. Another character commits suicide by immolation. Very brief sex scene with no explicit nudity. Doctor makes insinuations about the large size of the lead character's penis. One of the lead characters frequently appears drunk, has apparently turned to alcohol as an escape from the life trajectory he does not want to live. "F--k" used twice. Cigarette smoking. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 11-year-old Written byThe Big E August 15, 2011

There is No Gene for the Human Spirit.

Quite frankly, if whoever is doing your reviews gave this movie only two stars, then he or she knows next to nothing about good science fiction. This movie is... Continue reading
Parent of a 6 and 10-year-old Written byJayRo November 25, 2013

Consider God’s handiwork: who can straighten what He hath made crooked?

The CSM reviewer is way off when he says this movie doesn't contain a positive message. Quite the contrary. The character who prevails is the one who overc... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old August 16, 2012

2 Stars???

This is my absolute favorite movie. There is some strong profanity including the F word about 3 times. Also, there is one sex scene but no nudity. A man... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bybubbo April 9, 2008


CSM was totally and completely wrong about this movie. This is a smart sc-fi thriller, one of the few Hollywood movies that entertains you and makes you think a... Continue reading

What's the story?

GATTACA is set in the not-too-distant-future, in a world obsessed with human perfection to the point that genetic engineering is the norm, resulting in an unfortunate social dichotomy. The "haves" are Petri dish creations designed to be genetically perfect ("Valids"). The "have-nots" are naturally born, therefore, deemed imperfect ("In-valids"). Born naturally with a heart condition, Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) falls into the latter category, seemingly resigned to a life as a lowly janitor. His determination to travel into space is so strong that he goes to the extreme of "renting" the identity of the recently paralyzed Valid, Jerome Morrow (Jude Law). Vincent cannot escape his In-valid self; DNA found in a single eyelash implicates him in a crime he did not commit. Paranoia mounts as Vincent's identity and dream become endangered.

Is it any good?

Gattaca is a familiar story -- a high-concept movie that starts well, but falls prey to lazy storytelling. Its concept is strong enough to deliver a future dystopia worthy of a future noir like Blade Runner. However, by its end, the film's hollow retro-1950s style is one that only seasoned film buffs will recognize as a nod to Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville.

Plot hole after plot hole creates too many bumps in the road. We are never clearly told why space travel is so important to Vincent. Additionally, we are not told why his choice to masquerade as Jerome is any more heroic than bucking the system by simply being himself. After not-so-neatly tying up a love interest with a Valid named Irene (Uma Thurman), the movie's ending strives for metaphor, yet is unsatisfying. Still, it is pretty to look at.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about this movie's themes of identity, competition, and the future society's notions of perfection. Cloning, genetic research, and identity theft may also be topics of discussion.

  • What are some other examples of science fiction movies and TV shows that explore deeper themes relevant to issues of contemporary society? 

  • Why do you think science fiction is often used as a way to raise questions about our world and society? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love science fiction

Themes & Topics

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