Goya's Ghosts

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
Goya's Ghosts Movie Poster Image
Intense historical epic is for adults only.
  • R
  • 2007
  • 114 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 1 review

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

Positive Messages

Goya observes malevolence by authorities, Church officials, and wealthy clients.


The cruelty of the Spanish Inquisition and then the French Revolution is focused through very specific images of violence: Inés' painful torture (she screams and cries) is matched by the similar torture of Lorenzo, who also collapses emotionally; her abuse in imprison for years results in a devastating loss of weight, teeth, and hair (made very visible); insinuation that Lorenzo rapes Inés (she accepts his embrace, but she's in prison and afraid); discussion of the Revolution (decapitation); crowds loot and cause a ruckus; soldiers ride horses, shoot guns, cause screams and falling bodies; a woman's rape shown briefly; asylum is full of unkempt, beaten-looking inmates; sentenced to death, an Inquistor begs for his life; Goya's head is cut in a scuffle; rebels attack a party of soldiers traveling with women in a wagon; rebels attack Lorenzo.


Sexual imagery here is frequently entangled with violence. Inés' torture includes being hung up, naked (explicit image) so her arms are pulled backward; in prison, Lorenzo embraces her, intimating that he also rapes her (off-screen); Alicia is a prostitute (discussions of her appearance and procuring her services); when a woman is raped, her breasts are visible; discussion of prostitution (Lorenzo determines to ship prostitutes to America, references to "whore" and "harlot").


"Bastard," "whore," "harlot."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Wine drinking by upper classes; bawdy scenes at bars.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that teens may be interested because Natalie Portman stars, but that the film is too intense for tweens and younger teens. It's loosely based on a particularly violent period of history, perceived by the Spanish artist Francisco Goya. Images of torture (woman hangs naked from the ceiling by her wrists behind her back: very painful looking), rape, emaciated prisoners, riots in the street, soldiers on horseback assaulting crowds, underclass attacking a wealthy man who tries to escape; occasional talk of hanging, decapitation, prostitution, and torture.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 13-year-old Written bycolten97 October 10, 2012

Masterpiece from Forman, Carriere and maybe Buñuel

Masterpiece written by Jean Claude Carriere, who wrote, for example "El discreto encanto de la burguesía" or "El fantasma de la libertad" wi... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byclark kent April 9, 2008

What's the story?

Spanning the period from the Inquisition through the French Revolution and Napoleon, GOYA'S GHOSTS finds the Spanish Inquisitors upset about the latest etchings by royal court portraitist Francisco Goya (Stellan Skarsgård), which they believe are heretical and represent everything that's wrong with Spain. Prodded on by Brother Lorenzo (Javier Bardem), the Church takes action through secretive, intrusive, and inhumane tactics. As an observer, Goya is especially moved by the plight of his favorite portrait subject, Inés (Natalie Portman), who is unjustly tortured until she "confesses" to heresy, and is then imprisoned. Inés suffers decades of torment, alleviated only by occasional visits from Lorenzo, which eventually produce a child he denies. Outside, Goya continues to paint it as he sees it, from the beady eyes of Queen María Luisa (Blanca Portillo) to the Inquisition's looming shadows, his resilience speaking to the power of art and the truth of one man's vision. He leaves the Inquisitors to join the Enlightenment in France, and eventually returns to Spain to take part in sentencing his old boss in the Inquisition, Father Gregorio (Michael Lonsdale), to death.

Is it any good?

Structured as an odd, even glib series of plot turns, the films turms Goya into something of a Forrest Gump for his time. Miloš Forman's movie makes an argument that these troubled times resemble our own, as those in power work hard to maintain their position, encouraging fear and conformity among the mostly underclass population.

The excesses of authority were, of course, a favorite subject for Goya. And if the movie doesn't take up his distinctive visual style, it does embrace his broad satire, ferociously targeting religious, state, and financial leaders. When at last Inés is released, Goya helps find her teenage daughter (also played by Portman), who is now a prostitute. By this point, Goya has lost his hearing, and must speak through an interpreter. Here Goya's Ghosts underscores both the need for communication and its elusiveness.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the ways that history is portrayed in fictional movies: How does this movie use Goya's ideas (as well as his paintings and other artwork) to shape its own story of the corruption of the time? You might look at some of Goya's famous "Black Paintings" to see how they compare to images in the film. You can also discuss the idea that art can be used to protest social and political injustice, as Goya tried to use his art. Or you can talk about how the film shows his fight against intolerance.

Movie details

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