Live by Night

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Live by Night Movie Poster Image
Sluggish, uninspired mobster drama has lots of violence.
  • R
  • 2016
  • 128 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

While the film is about gangsters, the ones who succeed seem to understand that, even in their shady business, it's important to keep your word and honor your agreements.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Joe is a gangster, but he doesn't especially like to kill people, which is a bit of a handicap in his chosen profession. His business partner, Dion, is loyal and trustworthy, but the same can't be said for some of the people they work with, which tends to lead to very violent confrontations. 


Bloody action throughout the film, including car chases that end in deadly explosions, shoot-outs, fist fights and more. Characters are brutally beaten, pistol-whipped, shot at close range, and gunned down in a hail of machine-gun bullets. The body count is too high to count, and almost all of it happens on screen. 


Sex scenes, but no graphic nudity, and more is implied than shown. One scene briefly shows photos of a naked woman in a compromising position.


Frequent swearing throughout, including "a--hole," "s--t," "t-ts," "hell," "damn," and "f--k." Also racial epithets for Irish, Italian, and African-American people, including the "N" word. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The film is about bootleggers and set during Prohibition, so there's plenty of drinking, but nobody gets very drunk. Several of the characters also smoke cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Live by Night is a Ben Affleck-directed (and starring) drama about Prohibition-era rum-running Bostonian mobsters who take their business to Florida. Based on the book by popular crime writer Dennis Lehane, it's filled with bloody violence, including shoot-outs both up close and from afar, brutal beatings, explosive car chases, and more. The body count is almost too high to count. There's also smoking and illegal drinking, sex scenes (though nothing gets too graphic), briefly seen photos of a naked woman in a compromising position, and strong language (including "s--t," "f--k," the "N" word, and more). 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byStevie111 January 15, 2017

Ben Affleck delivers a slightly disappointing and violent gangster film

I had very high hopes for Live by Night, and wasn't completely thrilled with it. I liked it, but it wasn't everything I wanted it to be. The beginning... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bybrandonjbaseball June 30, 2017

Slow moving crime drama

Live by Night is not that great of a movie but is's not terrible, it is pretty violent with gory violence throughout also there is quite a few swear words.... Continue reading

What's the story?

In LIVE BY NIGHT, a Prohibition-era crime drama, Ben Affleck plays Joe Coughlin. A cop's son, Joe starts out as a small-time gangster with no ties to either of the two mob bosses who rule Boston: the calculating Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone) and the steely Al White (Robert Glenister) -- whose mistress, Emma Gould (Sienna Miller), Joe is secretly sleeping with. Recruited by both men, Joe says no. But when Al discovers Joe's affair with Emma, a series of events leads Joe south to Florida as Maso's deputy, starting another chapter of his life that's even more complicated and deadly than the previous one was.

Is it any good?

For a film about mobsters and Miami rum running that's headlined by big stars, this drama is shockingly slow, devoid of momentum and energy. Except for the pivotal final showdown --- a literal guns-blazing scene that finally pushes viewers to the edge of their seats -- Live by Night ambles from plot point to plot point, aided (or should we say hampered?) by an overly explanatory voiceover. Affleck's motto seems to be "Tell, don't show.

What a waste. Because the story itself is rich in possibilities, the action slinging from frigid Boston to balmy Florida, the characters an assortment of pain and ambition, rage and dysfunction. Stand-out cast members include Miller as Joe's troubled first love and Elle Fanning as a good-girl-gone-bad-gone-evangelical. Affleck himself is sadly inert as Joe -- though as a director, his visual imagery has punch. As a book by Dennis Lehane, Live by Night was a page-turner; as a film, it's a maddening slog. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in Live by Night. Is it necessary to the story? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • Who are the "good guys" and "bad guys" in this story? What separates them? How does the movie make it clear who to root for?

  • What role does alcohol/drinking play in the plot? How could you find out more about Prohibition?

  • How does the film portray the 1920s? Do you think it was as glamorous as it sometimes seems here?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love action and thrills

Themes & Topics

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