Kill Your Darlings Movie Poster Image

Kill Your Darlings



Docudrama digs into early Beat history with sex and drugs.
  • Review Date: December 2, 2013
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 104 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Although there is a lot of questionable behavior depicted in the movie, there are some insightful messages about the way artists don't often take the traditional path of college and education to success. Be aware that there's also messages about how free artists have always been with their views on sexuality and marriage and substance use.

Positive role models

This isn't a film about role models; it's a film about artists who often act selfishly and do a lot of narcissistic, egocentric things.


A violent scene is repeated a few times from different perspectives, but the outcome is always the same -- a man is stabbed, bound, weighted, and then thrown in a river where he dies. A man tries to hang himself, but is unsuccessful in an almost comical way. A mentally ill woman is shown with bloody hands. A man threatens another more than once. An older man displays stalker-like behavior toward a much younger man.


Adults kiss at parties and clubs. Allen Ginsberg has sexual daydreams of Lucien Carr. Several references to sex and relationships (ranging from longing looks to caresses to full-on sex). Allen masturbates at a desk (viewers can see his bare bottom on a chair) and later has sex with Jack Kerouac -- bare chests, backs, buttocks, and thrusting are visible. A college-aged woman shows a man her bra then bends down to perform oral sex. Other scenes include passionate kisses and half-dressed characters.


Occasional language includes "f--k"; "s--t," "a--hole,"  "d--k," plus exclamations like "Jesus Christ!" and "Oh my God!"; and discriminatory use of the word "Jew" and the anti-Semitic term "Hymies."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Famous poets (some of whom are 18-19 in the film) do drugs including marijuana, speed, and nitrous oxide. They also smoke cigars and cigarettes and drink a lot. They believe being in an altered state helps their artistic output.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Kill Your Darlings could potentially appeal to hardcore Harry Potter fans eager to see anything star Daniel Radcliffe does. But this is not an appropriate movie for young teen fans of The Boy Who Lived. It's a candid docudrama depicting the early friendship between Beat Generation poets Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac with Lucien Carr, who killed an older man who may or may not have been his lover. Graphic sex and substance abuse (alcohol, drugs, cigarettes) are all heavily referenced or visible throughout the movie, as is strong language ("f--k," "a--hole," derogatory terms for Jewish people) and a murder that's shown with additional details throughout the movie. Mature high-schoolers who do see it will learn more about the Beat Poets, how they met, what they believed, and how interconnected their lives were both intellectually and romantically.

What's the story?

KILL YOUR DARLINGS follows not only the early days of the Beat Generation, but an ugly chapter in the chronicle of the Beats -- the involvement of young Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) in the murder of David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), a much older man who was either his lover or a stalker. The drama is told from the perspective of young Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), who enters Columbia University in New York City an aspiring poet but quickly loses interest in traditional education when he meets Carr, and via Carr, the drug-addled but legendary writers William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster) and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston). Ginsberg, who is gay, and Carr, whose sexuality is ambiguous, experience the highs of mind-altering drugs, jazz music, and sexual awakening, but their friendship is tested when Carr is arrested for Kammerer's death.

Is it any good?


Filmmaker John Krokidas delivers an impressive feature debut with this well-acted exploration of the young Beats, before On the Road, before Howl. The film depicts them just as they were meeting and starting to develop their New Vision of literature and the arts. DeHaan is perfectly cast as golden-haired, golden-bred Midwesterner Carr, who despite being the initial glue between his Columbia classmate Ginsberg and Kerouac and Burroughs, wasn't really a writer himself. A thinker and innovator and provocateur, yes, but as the movie reveals, he wasn't an artist.

Radcliffe does well as a foil to DeHaan's well-heeled WASPiness. Ginsberg is ever the outsider: a Jewish kid from Paterson, New Jersey, with no money and not much personal experience except for a mentally ill mother. The actors, as with the young men they portray, are wonderful contrasts: Radcliffe's Ginsberg a manic bundle of frenetic (drug-fueled) artistic energy and DeHaan the kind of actor who says so much with his eyes and the subtlest of gestures. Foster is fabulous as the perpetually high Burroughs, and Hall and Huston are memorable in their small but pivotal roles as Carr's obsessive friend-or-foe Kammerer and the handsome and bisexual Kerouac, respectively. Krokidas' drama doesn't follow these young artists for much time, but it does offer a fascinating take on the bizarrely interconnected lives of the Beats.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what this movie reveals about the birth of the Beat Generation? Are you surprised by how open the writers were with drugs and sex?

  • Does knowledge about an artist's personal life affect how you enjoy or experience his/her work?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 16, 2013
DVD release date:March 18, 2014
Cast:Dane DeHaan, Daniel Radcliffe
Director:John Krokidas
Studio:Sony Pictures Classics
Run time:104 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:sexual content, language, drug use and brief violence

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 18+ and 18+ year old Written bysweet00907 March 25, 2014
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Easy to play/use
Safety and privacy concerns
Parent of a 2 and 4 year old Written byMomHulk August 6, 2015

More sex than plot

The acting was magnificent from all characters, and the casting was excellent. The drug use might be PG-13, and there's enough swearing to garner an R rating, but the sexual content is completely inappropriate for minors. The sexual acts—and there are many—were performed out of eroticism rather than love. Not one relationship portrayed in the film is a healthy one. The creativity of the Beats is shown here to be entirely drug-induced. I finished the movie feeling not inspired by artistry, as I'd expected, but feeling sorry for all of these men and how screwed up their lives were. I know great art is born out of longing or suffering, but this movie left me with no hope.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written byAstrid C May 5, 2015
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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