Matchstick Men

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Matchstick Men Movie Poster Image
This is a movie about con games at every level.
  • PG-13
  • 2003
  • 116 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
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

The main characters lie, cheat, and steal.


Guns, some graphic violence and injuries. Characters in peril.


Sexual references, some nudity.


Some strong language.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking and smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie includes violence with some graphic injuries. Characters use strong language, drink, smoke, and self-medicate. There are some sexual references. And of course the main characters lie, cheat, and steal.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bykaagapay April 9, 2008
Adult Written byfritzsky April 9, 2008
Teen, 17 years old Written bycopperzinc June 9, 2009

What's the story?

Nicolas Cage plays Roy, who prefers to be referred to not as a con man but a "con artist," specializing in the "short con," the quick and simple cheat that does not require an elaborate set-up. But his conflicts about his success have left him feeling even more uneasy than he is willing to admit. Various circumstances lead him to a psychiatrist (Bruce Altman). He begins to explore unresolved issues from his past, including his longing for the child he never met. When his wife left him, she was pregnant. The doctor helps Roy find his daughter, Angela (Alison Lohman). When he finds that she has inherited his skills, he is very proud but also a little horrified. He wants something better for her than what he has had. He wants to be better for her than he has been. Maybe the thing to do is one last "long con" and then he and Angela can live happily ever after. But, as Roy tells Angela, the challenge for a con artist is being ready for things that you did not plan.

Is it any good?

Director Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Thelma and Louise, Blade Runner) has assembled the ingredients in MATCHSTICK MEN like a perfectly iced martini that is stirred, not shaken. The result is dry but refreshing -- and with a kick. Altman is excellent, Lohman and Rockwell are both impeccable, but Cage is mesmerizing. His performance perfectly matches Scott's direction, both exploring the movie's multi-layered themes of conflict, betrayal, counterpoint, inversion, imperatives, and longing. This is a movie about con games at every level; characters con each other and con themselves.

And of course the ultimate con artist here is the movie itself. Some audience members will think there is at least one twist too many, and others will find that the pieces do not hold together as well as they might like. But others will appreciate its superb performances and story-telling, as cool as cocktail music.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Roy's failure to be honest with himself and the people he stole from may have led to his symptoms. How did Angela change his life? How did he change hers?

Movie details

  • In theaters: September 12, 2003
  • On DVD or streaming: February 23, 2004
  • Cast: Alison Lohman, Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell
  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Studio: Warner Bros.
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 116 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG-13
  • MPAA explanation: thematic elements, violence, some sexual content, and language
  • Last updated: September 21, 2019

Our editors recommend

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