Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Limitless Movie Poster Image
Story centered on drug abuse sends very iffy messages.
  • PG-13
  • 2011
  • 105 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 23 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 37 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The main character becomes addicted to a drug that enhances his mental powers and makes him capable of solving any problem (and thus overcoming his lack of confidence and motivation). While on the drug, he accomplishes many things, but most of them are self-serving and based on greed and lust. He engages in destructive behavior with few or no consequences. At one point, his girlfriend argues that he hasn't actually accomplished anything on his own. The ending doesn't solve this problem.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character isn't a positive role model. He becomes addicted to a drug that enhances his mental powers and begins to lust for power and money. He's selfish, willing to step on anyone who gets in his way.


Violence increasingly enters the main character's life as a result of the drug. He deals with gangsters and loan sharks, and there's some shooting and stabbing, dead bodies, and lots of blood (including one particularly gruesome moment in which the main character drinks blood). He makes a suicide attempt but backs off. In one scene, a man is blinded with a hypodermic needle. In another scene, a good character fights off a bad one by picking up a little girl wearing ice skates, flinging her feet in the villain's face, and using the blades on her feet to cut his face open.


The main character sleeps with many women during the course of the story, sometimes while he's in a relationship with his girlfriend. Viewers see kissing, fondling, and suggestions of sex.


Language isn't frequent but includes one "f--k" and a few uses of "s--t," plus "ass," "crap," "prick," "bitch," and "oh my God."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drugs are the main issue here -- NZT is fictitious, but it drives the movie's entire plot. The main character is clearly physically addicted to the pills and gets to the point at which he could die if he stopped taking them. The movie shows the excitement of the high as well as the horror of the crash, the sickness, the side-effects, etc. The movie even has different lighting schemes for the two states: bright and colorful for the high, and gray and drab for the crash. In addition to NZT, there's plenty of drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this sci-fi thriller based on a novel by Alan Glynn stars The Hangover's Bradley Cooper as a man who becomes addicted to a (fictional) drug that enhances users' mental powers, using it to further his own power and wealth. He becomes involved with gangsters and loan sharks, which leads to plenty of violence, including shooting, stabbing, and blood. He also sleeps with many women, and there's language (including one "f--k" and a few "s--t"s) and frequent drinking. Although the movie is rated PG-13, the message -- that drugs can help you overcome problems related to confidence and motivation -- and the lack of consequences for most of the main character's drug-fueled decisions and actions make Limitless a very iffy choice for teens.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byhulkfan2 January 13, 2019

Great, but should be rated R in the US

Parents need to know that this movie is difficult to understand. It's about taking a pill that produces enhanced mental acuity. I really liked this movie... Continue reading
Adult Written byMarcusLane May 3, 2013

An Honest Review

This movie no question should have been rated r. I am still wondering why they would rate this PG13, not too mention the four or five f-bombs in the movie alone... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byRealcommonsense kid April 28, 2021


You need to watch the whole movie to get the positive message, if you stop half way through then you might get a bad message. But if you do the actual research... Continue reading

What's the story?

Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is a slovenly writer who's supposedly working on a sci-fi novel, but he can't quite motivate himself to write a single word. His girlfriend, Lindy (Abbie Cornish), gets tired of it and breaks up with him. Then an old acquaintance gives him a pill called NZT that suddenly makes everything clear, boosting his concentration and knowledge to extraordinary levels. He gets hold of an entire supply of NZT and sets out to satisfy his desire for more money and power. Unfortunately, loan sharks are after him -- as are as thugs involved with the drug's illegal manufacture. Worst of all, Eddie gets mixed up with a financial wizard (Robert De Niro) who may be more dangerous than any of the others. Can Eddie ever get his life back? Does he want to?

Is it any good?

With LIMITLESS, director Neil Burger (The Lucky Ones) delivers a sci-fi thriller much like his earlier The Illusionist, but cleverer and more playful. In a way, the movie is as involving and addictive as the fictitious drug it conjures up. Burger cooks up many tricks, including a lighting scheme that visually illustrates the effects of the drug, as well as a memorable sequence depicting an 18-hour blackout that the hero experiences while on the drug.

Yes, the movie basically celebrates consequence-free behavior, but it also succeeds in tapping into a general human dissatisfaction and offering a vicarious escape (which, in a way, makes the iffiness of its messages even more questionable for teens!). Meanwhile, Burger guides Cooper through an appealing performance, and he's matched by De Niro in a snaky supporting role, as well as many other terrific turns in smaller parts. Ultimately, Limitless is a strong combination of the all-too-rare pairing of sci-fi ideas and human emotions, but it's best suited for adults.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the movie portrays drug use. What are the consequences? Does that seem realistic? If a drug like NZT was real, what do you think would happen to people who took it?

  • How can people find confidence and motivation without the use of illegal substances?

  • Is the movie's violence scary or threatening? How is the violence affected by the idea that the main character is in control of everything that happens?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills and sci-fi

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