Margin Call Movie Poster Image

Margin Call

Thoughtful Wall Street drama has drinking, language.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 105 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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.

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:October 21, 2011
DVD/Streaming release date:December 20, 2011
Cast:Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Zachary Quinto
Director:J.C. Chandor
Studio:Roadside Attractions
Run time:105 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language

This review of Margin Call was written by

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Parent 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*nt", there's little else in terms of adult content. If you can find a teenager interested in such a film, they're probably mature enough to listen to some bad language.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
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 excellent study of humans in the face of the wreckage they will knowingly cause. Although the dialogue is dense and erudite, it doesn't really matter- the movie doesn't care if you understand what the characters are saying, instead what matters is that you get what they are feeling when there are no good options left. The movie skips along at alternately breakneck and crawling speeds yet, somehow, never seems to be moving too fast or too slow. It is engaging and fascinating, definitely for anyone who wants to understand the mentality of those responsible for the recession. However, there is a LOT of profanity. Over 60 uses of the f word alone, not to mention s-, p-, and even, in one instance, the c-word. Smoking and drinking is extensive. I was also dismayed at the ratio of female characters to male characters (only one major character out of a cast of 7 or 8 is female, so expect questions from discerning girls). However, I believe that this is a good movie to watch with 16 and up, it showcases the consequences of greed and the major impact it can have on everyday life. However, with a movie like this, good luck finding any teenager who would be interested.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
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 also drinking throughout and lots of arguing. Although this is a thoughtful, brilliant movie, the swearing and drinking could cause an impact on immature or younger viewers. I'd say Margin Call is best for middle-aged teens, 16+.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking