J. Edgar

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
J. Edgar Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Well-acted biopic tackles complex character; OK for teens.
  • R
  • 2011
  • 137 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 6 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The message at the heart of J. Edgar is to be true to yourself, or every part of your life will be based on a false foundation. The movie suggests that Hoover's inability to be honest about his own identity possibly contributed to an excess of zeal in criminal investigations of sometimes questionable legality.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hoover dedicates his life to the FBI and his country; while his devotion is admirable, his tactics are questionable, and it's far from clear that the people and groups he judges as criminal are really deserving of his barely constitutional methods. He also has personal animosity toward minorities and "radicals."


A few scenes feature fist fights and shoot outs.


The undefined nature of Hoover's relationship with his assistant makes the question of sex, and sexual identity, an important part of the film. One scene involves a surveillance audiotape that seems to have recorded the sounds of people having sex.


Infrequent swearing; when the words "c--ksucker" and "f--king" are heard (in two scenes), they stand out since the rest of the film is so lacking in profanity. Also "for God's sake" as an exclamation.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some social drinking, though Hoover was a teetotaler and actively discouraged people from drinking, on and off the job. Some smoking (accurate for the time period).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this Clint Eastwood-directed biopic about longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) is rated R primarily for a couple of brief but notable scenes of strong language (including "f--k"). J. Edgar focuses on both Hoover's career and his personal life, especially the never-defined relationship with longtime companion Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer). While the movie raises questions about Hoover's sexuality that it doesn't answer, there's no actual sex in it (though one scene features apparent recorded noises of an amorous couple). Expect a few violent fist fights and shoot outs.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byApersonthatdoes... March 8, 2021


Violence 1.5/5
Sex 1/5
Language 3/5
Drinking/Drugs/Smoking 0.5/5
Adult Written bykipwalker44 February 13, 2015

Well-acted biopic is teen-friendly, but dull

Leonardo DiCaprio gave a solid performance, but the rest of this just dull. The movie went on for 2 and a half hours, and left me bored to tears. Another note:... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byWafflez360 March 30, 2012


It's Leonardo DUH, his movies r always rated R but watevr sooo anyways coming for a 13yr old watching this with my family which has 1 yr olds I would say..... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byJon Hardwick February 22, 2012

great teches about the history of j edgar hover

great hsitorical resprisentation brief strong profanity ( C-cksukcer is used twice once by j edgg file"ar hoover and the other by richard nixon f-c... Continue reading

What's the story?

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as J. Edgar Hoover, the man who led the FBI for almost 50 years, through eight presidents and three wars. Hoover devoted his life to the bureau, though his personal animosity toward minorities and radicals sometimes led to operations of dubious legality. J. EDGAR focuses on both Hoover's career and his personal life, especially his never-defined relationship with colleague/longtime companion Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer). Naomi Watts co-stars as Hoover's personal secretary, Helen Gandy, who was privy to many of his secrets, especially his personal files that supposedly contained damning secrets about many of the country's most powerful people.

Is it any good?

J. Edgar is a curious mix: It's slow, almost glacial, in parts, and then quickly, shockingly moving in others; it's cerebral, almost distant, and then emotionally raw. This much, though, isn't up for debate: DiCaprio's masterful performance. Insecure, aggressive, fragile, ambitious, and stunted, Hoover is a very complicated character -- and one who's very difficult to pull off. But DiCaprio leaves nothing on the table; he's all in, and it's a gamble he wins. He's matched by Hammer, who demonstrates again that he's an actor who understands nuance and delivers it. And Watts, too, proves why she's one of the best actresses around. Her withering stares wither, indeed, and her pitying glances are painful.

Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black takes on a mountain of a subject and mostly conquers it; he distills much of it manageably, if not always successfully. The Lindbergh case takes up a chunk of the storyline -- perhaps too much. Hoover's mother, played frighteningly, winningly close to the bone by grande dame Judi Dench, is so horrific that you have to wonder whether J. Edgar is laying too much of Hoover's dysfunction at her feet. But the abiding bond between Hoover and Tolson grounds much of this beautifully filmed history in emotion. It is by no means fact that Hoover and Tolson were lovers. But in J. Edgar, they're heartbreaking.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Hoover's relationship with Tolson. Were they friends or more than friends? Do you think the film is asking a question that can never really be answered? Should it be?

  • Was Hoover a reliable narrator? Do you think his memories are accurate?

  • Do you consider Hoover a role model? What does the movie say about the motivations of people in a position of power? Are they always noble?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

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