Looper Movie Poster Image


Smart, exciting sci-fi tale has violence, sex, and drugs.
Popular with kids
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Running Time: 118 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The main character -- at two different ages -- begins the story by thinking entirely about himself. But by the end, he's learned to put others first. In a secondary theme, the movie asserts that a child will avoid growing up into an angry criminal if he can be raised by a loving parent.

Positive role models

Though the main character eventually does something heroic, he's actually fairly selfish throughout most of the film. Sara, however, is a strong female role model, trying to make up for past mistakes and devoting herself to motherhood.


Plenty of sci-fi/fantasy violence. Just about everyone has a gun, and most characters are shot at some point (in the face, head, heart); many die. Noticeable amounts of blood. In the most shocking sequence (potential spoiler alert!), the older Joe kills a child (off screen), hoping to prevent future disasters. He breaks down and cries afterward. There's a mild suggestion that two other children are in danger. A child throws frightening, supernatural temper tantrums that cause serious harm (in some cases, gorily so). A man's hand is smashed with a hammer. A man is punished via time travel, as parts of his body suddenly disappear (fingers, nose, legs, etc.).


The main character has suggested offscreen sex with a showgirl who seems to double as a call girl or prostitute. Viewers see them after the fact, and she's seen topless for a few moments. In a later scene, the main character has sex with the female lead. She seduces him and kisses him, and he reciprocates. The sex occurs off screen, and the movie cuts to them in bed afterward.


Strong but not constant language includes several uses of "f--k," "a--hole," "ass," "s--t," "hell," "damn," and "p---y." Also, "goddamn," "Jesus Christ," and "oh my God" as exclamations.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The main character habitually uses a fictitious eye-drop drug. He's shown waking up after a night of partying and needing more drugs. He goes through painful withdrawals in one scene. In a "flashback" to an alternate timeline, he becomes an addict and is shown graduating to harder drugs, something in a needle. One character smokes a cigarette after sex.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Looper is a sci-fi/time travel/action movie with adult material that's handled in an intelligent and sensitive enough way that older teens should be OK. The violence is mostly of the sci-fi/fantasy variety, with many guns and most characters getting shot at some point (some blood). Potential spoiler alert: A child is shot and killed off screen. The main character has suggested sex with two women; one is shown topless, and there's also kissing and groping. Language is strong but infrequent and includes uses of "f--k" and "s--t." Drugs are an issue; the main character is shown to be addicted to fictitious drugs, but his habit grows worse, and he's shown going through painful withdrawals. Characters learn to be less selfish, and there's a strong female lead.

What's the story?

In 2044, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a "looper" -- aka hitman. Whenever gangsters from 30 years further in the future want to get rid of someone, they send the victims back in time, where loopers instantly dispatch them, leaving no record of anything. One day Joe is suddenly faced with the task of killing his own older self (Bruce Willis), who unfortunately escapes. Joe learns that the older Joe wants to kill three kids, one of whom will turn into a vicious gangster in the future. In trouble with his bosses, Joe hides out on a farm, the home of one of the three kids, Cid (Pierce Gagnon). He decides to wait there with Cid's mother, Sara (Emily Blunt), for the inevitable face-off with himself.

Is it any good?


Writer/director Rian Johnson delivers on the promise of his extraordinary debut Brick, with this, his ingenious third film. Looper has an unusual balance of intelligence and thrills, plus visual design and sharp dialogue. It's complex enough that sci-fi fans can dig deeper over multiple viewings, but thrilling enough that casual viewers can take it all in with one watch.

Perhaps the biggest drawback is that actors Gordon-Levitt and Willis don't look much alike, and Gordon-Levitt's makeup doesn't help much. But his performance is exceptional, and eventually the two actors start to seem like their characters, even if they don't look like them. Johnson also adds several little Western touches, including an ineffectual cowboy-like bad guy and an amazing use of wide-open spaces, stillness, and silence -- as well as a tribute to Shane. The characters are dark, but they each go on fulfilling journeys. This is the kind of movie Hollywood doesn't make enough of.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's gun violence. Why are characters obsessed with guns in this movie? Do all the guns and shooting help advance the story?

  • If you met your future self, what would you want to ask?

  • At what point does Joe learn to be less selfish? What made him change his mind?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 28, 2012
DVD/Streaming release date:December 31, 2012
Cast:Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Director:Rian Johnson
Genre:Science Fiction
Run time:118 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug use

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Parent of a 13 year old Written byFanner50 October 1, 2012

Some over-the-top violence. Hard to stomach.

Over the top violence: human dismemberment and the killing of toddler child. Interesting plot about time-travel and a dystopic future with good actors, but this violence was unneeded and disturbing. No one younger than 16. Wish I'd skipped it.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written bySynchronicity September 29, 2012

One of the best sci-fi films of all time, with a balance of action and substance. Older teens.

Not since Inception has there been a more engaging and thought-provoking science fiction film than Looper. This is only director Rian Johnson's third film after the indie film noir Brick and the criminally underrated The Brothers Bloom, but here he goes completely full circle in his capabilities. Looper is one of the smartest films not just of this decade, but of all time. However, it's not exactly a kiddie flick by any means, as it's also a violent, profane, sexual and drug-ridden crime thriller - but the fact that most of the bad is taken in a negative light offsets the impact, making it perfectly fine for older teens. The story starts out with Joe, a gun-for-hire called a looper who kills criminals dispatched from 30 years into the future. His life of crime has given him the opportunity to indulge in selfish pleasures such as sex, drugs and money. All loopers, however, must kill their future selves to "close the loop," and Joe's older self escapes. Joe then learns that his older self is trying to kill one of three children who could possibly be a crime lord in the future. While he waits for the older Joe, the younger Joe finds a family farm with one of the three kids, and ends up with the joint duty of protecting the family and killing his future self. The plot is intriguing in its own right, with plenty of twists and moral quandaries that keep things going, and since this is a Rian Johnson film, the script is witty and highly original. Also, the visual effects are well above the quality one would expect with a $30 million budget, with cool depictions of this new world's genetic mutation that involves telekinetic powers. In almost every respect, this film is actually slightly better than Inception - a film that had over five times Looper's budget, but was a less risky gamble due to the well-known Christopher Nolan directing it. But before The Dark Knight trilogy, before Inception, even before Insomnia, Nolan did a little film called Memento. Looper is basically Rian Johnson's Memento, a film that will go down in the history books and make this underrated director a household name. In other words, Looper is a wonderful film, but it's not really for anyone under 15. The violence is bloody at times, as this is a crime thriller about a gun for hire. Johnson's debut Brick unfairly got an R rating for a brief but bloody point-blank headshot seen from a distance. Looper has about two dozen similar scenes, with some more violence of its own. With the realization that any injuries inflicted on younger loopers are done so on their older selves who have time traveled to the present, we see an older version of a looper gradually lose his limbs and parts of his face, and we subsequently see the bloody operating table where the younger looper was basically eviscerated (the body is covered, however). Someone shoots another with a gun full of rock salt. One character has outbursts with his telekinetic powers that can be quite scary, and in one scene, he splits a bad guy in half; a slo-mo cloud of blood sprays out of his chest, and the character who killed him is next seen covered in blood. A man has his fingers crushed by a trap door and is shot in the ear, and someone later bangs a hammer onto the former wound. A man kills a child (offscreen), but feels horrible about it. Sex is also pretty rampant, as the club Joe does business at is full of prostitutes. There are two topless women in one scene, and there are two scenes of a suggestive nature. The first actually turns out to not be sexually related, but the second involves brief, clothed and nongraphic sex. Language is raw: there are about 30 f-bombs (2 paired with "mother" and 4 paired with Jesus' name), 20 s-words and the occasional milder word or two. Joe is addicted to a drug applied through the eyes and has withdrawal symptoms, and brief shots of syringes imply that, in his future life, he went on to do similar. There's also smoking and drinking, but that comes with the territory. Overall, though, older teens can do far, far worse than Looper. It's a smart and sexy futuristic crime thriller that will be remembered for generations to come.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 12 years old September 30, 2012

Spectacular movie, for those who can handle it.

Let me start out this review by saying that whatever I write following this, I absolutely think this movie is outstanding, both as an entry in science fiction and in art movies. The movie is phenomenal, however, that doesn't necessarily mean bring your eight year old, because it's "one of those Oscar movies". What I'm trying to say is, this movie's violence and sexual content correspond with the age that kids understand this at. Personally, I can handle violence, gore, and understand complex meanings (more than others my age may be able to). So, if your kid is nine but can handle violence, that doesn't mean he'll like the movie. The movie is mature both in it's ideas and the sex/violence. Quite frankly, many of the characters are sick, twisted, or outright horrible people. Most of the time characters have reasons for their violent/disturbing actions, but those reasons aren't very good reasons. The main character is the most selfish of them all until the end, and especially in future self form (Bruce Willis form), engages in bloody, hatred filled battle. Final Verdict: While this movie is fabulous, it's dark tone and dark characters aren't great for young children, not to mention the violence and nudity.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking