Parents' Guide to

Jacob's Ladder

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

'90s drama about Vietnam vet has language, violence.

Movie R 1990 113 minutes
Jacob's Ladder Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 18+

Based on 1 parent review

age 18+

A Bleak, Twisted Classic

This is definitely NOT a family film. Period. It is a very adult, psychological horror movie that also tends to be extremely sad to the point of crying endlessly during the end. It's NOT your typical "horror" movie, though it is a very tough movie to watch. Those bible lovers will surely love it cause the whole movie is filled with bible references, from angel and demos, to heaven and hell. And if you can believe it, it is one of the most touching films you'll see in your lifetime. Tim Robbins should've won and Oscar for this!

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1):
Kids say (3):

It shouldn't surprise anyone that this film has attained the status of "cult classic." Exploring themes of PTSD in Vietnam veterans, conspiracy theories involving the Pentagon testing out mind-altering substances on unknowing soldiers, the afterlife, and the very nature of existence itself, it's all but inevitable that this heady and unsettling horror movie would have its fair share of adherents valuing big ideas more than the basic blood-and-gore horror. Throw in some hallucinogenic monster visions straight out of Naked Lunch central casting on top, and the cultish appeal is complete.

It's a good movie in terms of style, substance, and execution, but not a great movie. Jacob's Ladder is a rare movie that somehow manages not to spell it out for you when the help is needed, and spells it out for you when you don't need it. The dreams within nightmares within dreams within death and dying, heaven, and hell get to be so disorienting and overwhelming, one can't be blamed for wanting to step away from this difficult and heavy vision and go for a walk on the beach, or smell the roses, or karaoke some Abba -- any reminder that life and existence aren't always this gray and ponderous. And as the significance of the name "Gabe" starts to become revealed, it's already so obvious what's happening that it feels like overkill. And yet, it's a solid movie overall, but the enjoyment and love of Jacob's Ladder is ultimately dependent upon how much you like these kinds of explorations of deep thought via psychological horror.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: November 2, 1990
  • On DVD or streaming: February 26, 1998
  • Cast: Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Pena, Danny Aiello
  • Director: Adrian Lyne
  • Inclusion Information: Latinx actors
  • Studio: TriStar Pictures
  • Genre: Horror
  • Run time: 113 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: Language, some violence, sexuality and drug content.
  • Last updated: February 13, 2023

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