Good Kill

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Good Kill Movie Poster Image
Disturbing scenes in heavy but effective war-related drama.
  • R
  • 2015
  • 102 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Raises interesting questions about the nature of war, giving older teens and grown-ups something to really think about and talk about.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The characters aren't particularly admirable, though they do suffer from a crisis of conscience. They're all very troubled and conflicted, and each tries to find some way of dealing with the stresses of the job, whether it's drinking, blindly following orders, or eventually quitting.


A man hits a woman and rapes her, twice, as seen from satellite cameras. Explosions, death, and destruction as shown on a video monitor. A man has explosions of temper. He briefly hits his wife, then punches a mirror.


A husband and wife have sex; she's on top, but there isn't any graphic nudity. Heavy sexual innuendo. Reference to oral sex. Flirting between a married man and another woman.


Heavy, constant language. Multiple uses of "f--k" and "f--king." Plus "s--t," "bitch," "piss," "crap," "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation), "Godforsaken."


Mention of Ferrari and Ford.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The main character seems on the verge of being an alcoholic; he sneaks drinks from a bottle of vodka in the bathroom and drinks in the car -- he's pulled over for drunk driving. Also beer drinking at parties and cigarette smoking. Reference to "coke" (cocaine). "War on drugs" is mentioned.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Good Kill is a war-related drama about a U.S. Air Force pilot (Ethan Hawke) who now fires drones at Middle Eastern targets from a safe bunker in Las Vegas. There are scenes of shocking, upsetting violence when victims are shown dying in explosions (seen via video monitors). And a man rapes a woman, twice, while airmen watch helplessly from their monitors. The main character has moments of explosive rage/violence himself and briefly strikes out at his wife. A married couple has sex; there's also some flirting and heavy sexual innuendo. Language is nearly constant, with "f--k" and "f---ing" both used a ton. The character also drinks very heavily -- and sometimes secretly, making it seem like he's on the verge of addiction. Characters also smoke, and there's a reference to cocaine. Though the movie isn't very subtle, it offers many thought-provoking themes for older teens and adults to ponder and discuss.

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What's the story?

In 2010, U.S. Air Force pilot Major Thomas Egan (Ethan Hawke) controls unmanned aerial vehicles (also called "drones") from a safe bunker in Las Vegas. On a daily basis, he must deal with the moral ramifications of killing people using a monitor -- and the damage to his ego that comes from performing a job with no risk. A new member of his team (Zoe Kravitz) becomes increasingly disillusioned with their duties, while others believe they're serving their country. Thomas also helplessly drifts away from his children and his wife, Molly (January Jones), retreating into drinking and daydreaming. When the chance to help someone comes along, even at the risk of everything else, he must decide whether to take it.

Is it any good?

Though the movie is heavy and preachy, with characters making too many speeches, Hawke's powerful performance humanizes the incendiary material and gives it an emotional heft. Writer/director Andrew Niccol specializes in movies about people trapped in mechanized worlds, though he usually achieves a bit more success with some irony infused in the storytelling.

In GOOD KILL, which is based on actual events, the irony is all spoken out loud: At least two characters -- seasoned Colonel Jack Johns (Bruce Greenwood) and new recruit Vera Suarez (Kravitz) -- seem to be in the film almost solely for that purpose. Thankfully, Hawke digs into a very dark place for his role (his anguish draws real empathy from viewers), and Jones matches him as his suffering wife who continually tries to reach him but also has a life of her own. And Niccol makes expert, thoughtful use of the bunker interiors, crossed with the wide-open spaces of Las Vegas.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Good Kill's violence. How does the fact that it takes place mostly on video monitors affect its impact? Does that make it seem less or more horrible? Does exposure to violent movies make kids more aggressive?

  • Why do you think the character drinks so much? Does he enjoy it? What are the signs that he's becoming addicted? Are there consequences for his drinking?

  • What does the movie have to say about the use of drones in war? Is it for or against them? What complicates the issue?

  • How are good and evil designated in this movie? Are there clear "good guys" and "bad guys"? Is there a gray area?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama and action

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