Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Joe Movie Poster Image
Indie drama is well made but extremely grim and brutal.
  • R
  • 2014
  • 118 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Perhaps the harshest of all the messages in this dark drama are that a young teen needs to learn to grow up fast and that father figures are flawed and scarce. An older man tries to go straight but is unable to avoid his violent nature.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Joe tries to be a good role model to Gary, but even though he manages several good deeds and gives the boy a vague sense of direction, his drinking, smoking, and violent behavior tend to get in the way.


Some shocking scenes of violence involving a 15-year-old boy. The boy's father hits and threatens the boy several times. A creepy man on a bridge picks a fight with him and slaps his face; the boy beats him up. The main character receives a shotgun blast to the shoulder, with blood spattering. The main character sics his dog on another dog, and there's a background image of the second dog, dead, in a pool of blood. The first dog has blood on its chops. An old man kills a wino with a rusty wrench. A character almost stabs another with a broken bottle in a bar fight. The main character helps carve steaks from a dead deer. Plus other strong scenes of arguing and fighting.


The main character visits a whorehouse several times. One shot shows an unidentified man having sex with a prostitute, with the man's thrusting backside visible. The main character asks another prostitute to "blow me." The main character seems to have a girlfriend who stays with him for a brief period. They are shown passionately kissing and cuddling on the couch. Also some very strong innuendo.


Language includes regular use of very strong words, including "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," "ass," "a--hole," "hell," and "goddamn."


Characters drink Coca-Cola from visible/recognizable cans in several scenes, and it's mentioned by name once.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One of the secondary characters is a raging, violent alcoholic who's willing to kill for a drink. The main character drinks a great deal, both beer and mixed drinks. He also smokes cigarettes in most scenes and has withdrawal symptoms when he can't smoke. He gives beer to a 15-year-old boy, and they drink too much while driving around (looking for a lost dog). General talk about workers getting drunk in the evenings. (It seems like everybody in this town drinks.)

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Joe is an intense, often brutal indie drama starring Nicolas Cage, directed by David Gordon Green, and based on a novel by Larry Brown. Violent content includes fighting, guns, and blood, as well as very upsetting scenes of a father threatening and beating his 15-year-old son and bloody violence involving dogs. Some scenes take place inside a whorehouse, and a couple of scenes involve strong sexual imagery, as well as plenty of sex talk. Language is strong, with regular uses of "f--k" and "s--t." The main character is a regular drinker; he gets drunk and gives beer to the 15-year-old boy. The boy's father is a raging alcoholic, capable of terrible violence when drunk. The main character also regularly smokes cigarettes and is shown to be highly addicted.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byBestPicture1996 July 12, 2014

Brutal, realistic, with an actually very good Cage

Anyone who's been on the internet for over a year can tell you Nic Cage is the king of B-movie schlock, but he's (hopefully) turned his career around... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byTeenageCritic100 December 29, 2015

Brutal grim drama is hard to watch.

To be honest, I didn't like this movie much. It got pretty good reviews elsewhere and I was disappointed. I will say that Nicolas Cage's performance w... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byJustin Rivera July 17, 2014

Powerful and amazing

Carrying some of the most emotionally entrancing performances of the year by far, Nicholas Cage and Gary Poulter in particular, "Joe" delivers itself... Continue reading

What's the story?

In a grim little Texas town, Joe (Nicolas Cage) runs a grim little operation, using chemical-squirting axes to kill all the trees in the woods so that they can be replaced with stronger ones. He supervises a team of workers, and though the work is difficult, they all respect him. Everyone in town knows Joe, too, and knows they can count on him, despite his violent past and his time in prison. When young Gary (Tye Sheridan) comes to Joe for a job, Joe sees something worthy in him and agrees. Unfortunately, Gary's cruel, drunk father starts causing trouble, and Joe finds himself looking after Gary. But an old enemy of Joe's has come looking for vengeance, and Joe must keep himself from resorting to violence.

Is it any good?

Young Sheridan (also in The Tree of Life and Mud) gives a strong performance in an emotionally difficult role. But it's Cage who, after two decades' worth of rather terrible movies, proves once again that he's a real actor, capable of pushing himself to dangerous lengths. Gary Poulter, who shows genuine menace as Gary's nasty father, was a local homeless man who had never acted and died after the film wrapped.

Director David Gordon Green has divided his time between broad comedies (Pineapple Express, The Sitter) and thoughtful, lyrical dramas (Snow Angels, Prince Avalanche), but this is the first time he's descended into a world as violent and as hopeless as the one in JOE. Fortunately, Green is as observant as ever, and he not only conjures up a vivid, self-contained universe, but peoples it with fascinating, damaged characters. No matter how lowdown they may appear, Green seems to understand their humanity.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Joe's violence. What impact does it have? What does it tell you about the characters? How does it compare to what you might see in a horror movie? Which is more upsetting, and why?

  • Why do you think these characters drink and smoke so much? What are the consequences? Do they seem realistic?

  • How do you feel about Gary's relationship with his abusive father? How did the other members of his family relate to him? Do you think there are any ways the situation could be improved?

  • How do you feel about Joe? Can he be forgiven his bad side in favor of all the good he does? Is he a role model for Gary?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

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