J. Edgar Movie Poster Image

J. Edgar

Well-acted biopic tackles complex character; OK for teens.
Parents recommend
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 137 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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.

Not applicable
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).

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:November 9, 2011
DVD/Streaming release date:February 21, 2012
Cast:Armie Hammer, Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts
Director:Clint Eastwood
Studio:Warner Bros.
Run time:137 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:brief strong language

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Adult Written bymasterofthemovies November 14, 2011

unfairly rated R

1 f word, 2 uses of c**ksucker, brief non-graphic violence (10 seconds) in my opinion, that does not make a film R rated.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much swearing
Teen, 13 years old Written byfangningsheng November 14, 2011

OK, great acting

J. Edgar is an interesting, if somewhat average, film about (as the title says) J. Edgar Hoover. The acting, however, is great, especially Leonardo Dicaprio's performance as the title role. Expect a few uses of strong language, a few shootings with blood, a couple of fistfights, and some drinking and smoking. There is a brief scene that shows the shadows of two people having sex, and an audiotape with sex sounds recorded on it is played. There are strong implications that Hoover and Tolson are gay. Suggested MPAA rating: R for some violence, brief language and some sexual content.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 13 years old Written bySanjay407 November 10, 2011


Rated R: Fistfights, Sexual References, Language, and Drinking
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking