Jack Reacher

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Jack Reacher Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Serviceable but forgettable Cruise thriller is very violent.
  • PG-13
  • 2012
  • 130 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 14 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 39 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Bad guys get what's coming to them, courtesy of Jack Reacher, a loner/vigilante who dispenses his own brand of justice, which mostly bypasses the legal system. That said, there's also the message that it's worth looking beyond appearances to find out the truth.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Reacher doesn't hesitate to break the law to achieve his goals -- he participates in assault, auto theft, coercion, intimidation, and outright murder -- but all of his victims have it coming to them. (Well, mostly.) He uses smarts and intuition in many cases (in addition to his more violent methods). Helen is able to separate her emotions from her job.


Plenty of violence right from the start, when a lone gunman shoots five people with a sniper rifle (a scene that's revisited later in the movie). Jack Reacher, the main character, is a former soldier, highly trained with guns and in hand-to-hand combat, and the film finds plenty of chances to showcase his abilities. He takes on a group of toughs in a few street brawls, leaving them bloodied and sometimes with broken bones. Other scenes feature execution-style killings, allusions to torture, and men beating up women. Few of these scenes actually show blood or gore, but they do make it clear that bodies are taking serious damage and the people are in pain, and a few shots may be hard to watch. There's also a high-speed chase through city streets that damages plenty of cars.


One scene shows a woman in her underwear getting dressed; Reacher is shirtless in another. Some sexual tension between the two main characters never leads to anything. One scene has some flirty banter when a woman comes on to Reacher, though he's clearly not interested.


Relatively infrequent swearing includes a couple uses of "f--k," plus "p---y," "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," "prick," "damn," "hell," "ass," "goddamn," and more.


Several car brands are mentioned and/or get prominent screen time. Helen drives a Mercedes, and the bad guys spend a lot of time trailing Reacher in an Audi. Another character drives a Cadillac, which is referred to by name. Some of the characters drink Budweiser when relaxing, and Bud signage is visible in the background in a bar.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One scene takes place in a bar where plenty of people in the background are drinking, though Reacher sticks to coffee. He later shares a beer with Helen when they're relaxing in a motel room. References to meth use; drug paraphernalia is shown.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tom Cruise stars as the title character in Jack Reacher, an adaptation of Lee Child's novel One Shot. Reacher is a former military police offer who's enlisted to find a sniper who fired six shots into a crowd, killing five people. This thriller is violent, and vigilante Reacher shows no qualms breaking the law to make sure justice is done -- at least his version of justice. There's some swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t") and a bit of sexual tension between Reacher and co-star Rosamund Pike, but no actual sex and very little drinking. Still, there are allusions to torture, and the fight scenes are sometimes brutal; a few are very tough to stomach. Even though there's little blood or gore on screen, the film is more appropriate for older teens and up.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bySuszanne B. June 18, 2017


I saw no mention in the reviews of the multiple mentions of rape and sexual violence that start early on in this movie. Having a character tell a man who face... Continue reading
Adult Written byChance M. February 20, 2017

pg-13 What the heck!!!

Now this was a very good movie with a good plot and good action scenes but is BRUTAL (Jabbing a mans eye out finger seen in socket, Killing a young girl by choc... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byquthelights April 7, 2020

Good movie but quite dark

Not siutable for those under 12 and not great for any one under 14. I thought it was a good change from a classic action packed tom cruise film with not much vi... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bycatfishbam11 April 7, 2020

I really enjoyed this movie movie

This movie has some pretty serious content right at the start, so i would not watch it with anyone under 12 who has not watched other pretty serious movies. for... Continue reading

What's the story?

After a lone gunman shoots five people in a random spree of terror, all the evidence points to a former Army sniper, but the suspect makes one request: "Get JACK REACHER." Who's Reacher? A retired soldier, weapons expert, and martial artist who lives off the grid -- no car, no mobile phone, no credit card, no known address. The star of a popular series of novels by author Lee Childs, Reacher (Tom Cruise) travels from town to town, always managing to get himself involved in some kind of adventure. Here, he sets out to make sure the accused gets what he deserves, but soon begins to suspect he may actually be innocent. Working with a defense attorney (Rosamund Pike), Reacher uncovers a dangerous conspiracy run by violent thugs who are eager to shut him up, permanently. Robert Duvall and Richard Jenkins co-star.

Is it any good?

This movie is muscley but ultimately forgettable entertainment. The story in Jack Reacher has enough twists to keep viewers interested, and Cruise playing stoic, confident, and extremely competent is always watchable. Plus, there are a few set pieces that are good fun. (Watch as Cruise, weary and wary, takes on five punks after warning them they're in for more than they expect -- no spoiler, he wasn't lying.) 

But the film lacks momentum. It moves quickly through the action sequences and then too slowly as Cruise and Pike knit together the clues. The villains, led by a shadowy Russian, are generically evil, yet their motivation is unclear. Pike in particular has little to do other than look anxious in her damsel-in-distress role. And the movie seems indulgently violent. Besides the extended opening sequence of one murder after another, there are plenty of other sequences that leave both men and women battered, bloody, and broken. In short, Jack Reacher works as a serviceable thriller, but a masterpiece of the genre? Now that's a reach.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what makes Jack Reacher, which is rate PG-13, different from R-rated films. Is the violence less graphic or upsetting? Why or why not? What impact does seeing this kind of violence have on teens?

  • What do you think about Jack Reacher's vigilante actions? Is it right for one man to dispense justice to people who are clearly villains?

  • Why does Jack Reacher live the way he does? How do his actions in this film show what he wants out of life?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

Themes & Topics

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