Margin Call

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Margin Call Movie Poster Image
Thoughtful Wall Street drama has drinking, language.
  • R
  • 2011
  • 105 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 1 review

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

In a time of financial crisis, these characters generally disagree on the right thing to do. Some of the characters appear to lean toward self-preservation at others' expense. But many of the main characters doubt this path, even though it's not clear exactly what they should do.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sam Rogers is arguably the most responsible character; he argues against the self-preservation action that the firm's leaders want to take. But in the end, he loses the argument and ends up going with the company.


Occasional arguing.


A brief scene takes place in a fancy bar, where waitresses are seen wearing sexy outfits while serving. One character mentions the amount of money he's spent on hookers.


Very strong, fairly frequent language includes multiple uses of "f--k," as well as "Jesus Christ," "s--t," "ass," and single uses of "p---y," "c--t," and "t-ts."


A McDonald's "M" (golden arches) is visible twice during an aerial view of the city. A bottle of Snapple brand water is visible on a desk. Nicorette gum is mentioned by name.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters smoke and drink constantly. One character frantically chews Nicorette gum but succumbs to having a real cigarette from time to time. Other characters smoke the occasional cigarette as well. One character drinks heavily throughout the night, swigging from a bottle in a paper bag. Main characters are seen drinking in a bar.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the biggest issue of concern in this dramatic thriller set on the eve of a huge Wall Street market crash is language. Characters liberally use "f--k," "s--t," and other strong words throughout the drama. They also drink and smoke frequently, seemingly as a response to stress. There's a brief scene in a fancy bar with sexy waitresses in skimpy clothes, and some brand names are visible from time to time. Despite all this, the movie is thoughtful and patient -- though teens may not be interested in the subject matter. But those who are could learn a bit about the ins and outs of recent Wall Street history.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMattman211989 June 24, 2013

Gripping corporate thriller for adults and older/mature teens

An excellent corporate thriller, generally suitable for mature teens. While there is frequent use of strong language ("f*ck") and one use of "c*... Continue reading
Adult Written byLTawny January 29, 2012

Fascinating drama for parents and mature teens

Thoughtful, muted, intelligent and terrifying tale of one financial firm in the beginning 36 hours of the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Margin Call is an excellen... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byMovieAddictionz December 21, 2016

Extremely well-done drama has drinking, swearing.

Parents need to know that Margin Call has frequent strong language, once very strong. This includes around 80 F-words and 1 use of 'c--t', there is al... Continue reading

What's the story?

In 2008, a Wall Street firm carries out a round of layoffs. One of the men to lose his job is Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci); he has discovered that the risky portfolios the company has been dealing with have stretched things too thin and that a huge crash is imminent. He leaves his findings with a young broker, Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto); by the middle of the night, all of the company's head honchos are sitting in tense meetings, trying to figure out what to do: protect the public interest or save their own jobs.

Is it any good?

J.C. Chandor makes his feature writing and directing debut here, and it's a very strong effort, suggesting a huge talent on the rise. MARGIN CALL is sometimes like a theatrical play, taking place on limited sets over a limited timeframe, with plenty of well-written, well-delivered monologues and dialogue. The plus side of this is that the movie gets some amazingly good performances from a wide range of actors, including Demi Moore, Simon Baker, Paul Bettany, and especially Jeremy Irons and Kevin Spacey (the latter has by far the richest role). 


Chandor also throws in some remarkable little touches here and there that no stage play could get at, such as a young broker ditching his bottle of alcohol just before entering a conference room, or a cleaning lady overhearing some vague but tense details of the night's drama. This is a quiet, thoughtful little movie that teens with an interest in national affairs will find highly impressive and hauntingly memorable.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way in which many of the characters drink alcohol and smoke, as if out of necessity. Are the characters enjoying their drinks and cigarettes? What are the other reasons they could be smoking and drinking so much? What are some healthier ways to respond to stress?

  • Does the movie have a clear message? Does it have a clear hero? What would have been the right thing to do in this situation?

  • What do stock brokers actually do, according to the movie? Why do they bring in such big paychecks?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate