Midnight Special

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Midnight Special Movie Poster Image
Powerful, emotional sci-fi drama about love and sacrifice.
  • PG-13
  • 2016
  • 111 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 7 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The movie is about selflessness and sacrifice, especially on the part of parents for their children. It also subtly addresses the dangers of blind faith/thought.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The good guys  here are the ones who believe in Alton as a person, rather than as a symbol or as a potential weapon -- so, his parents, Lucas, and Paul.

Violence

Several scenes of guns and shooting, with bloody wounds and characters falling when hit. Scary scenes of destruction, debris falling from the sky, tremors, collapsing rooms, kidnapping, etc., all involving an 8-year-old boy. He has a bloody nose and bleeding ears. A woman is smacked against a wall. A few realistic car crashes. A man is smacked in the head with a lamp. Some sudden, mildly scary visual effects.

Sex
Language

One use of "s--t," and one use of "a--hole."

Consumerism

Mention of Nissan during a radio ad, Isuzu car shown.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One character asks for "a drink." Two drinks are poured (whisky) but not consumed.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Midnight Special is a sci-fi drama that writer/director Jeff Nichols made to help process his feelings of becoming a father. Some of the movie's story ideas may seem very familiar, but it's more about emotions than special effects or thrills. That said, there are violent moments and scary effects involving an 8-year-old boy; he's kidnapped and shown with bleeding ears and a bloody nose. There are also very realistic car crashes, guns and shooting, bleeding wounds, and injured bodies. Sex isn't an issue, and language is infrequent but does include one use of "a--hole" and one use of "s--t." Glasses of whisky are poured by not consumed (at least on screen). The movie is thoughtful and emotional, but some story details are left deliberately vague.

User Reviews

Adult Written byTeenager Kod April 12, 2016
Parent Written byElle Quayle July 17, 2016

No suitable for children

This was too scary for my children they were extremely upset by the extreme gun violence and child abduction scenes. The plot was confusing for children and... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byLeafyIsHere April 12, 2016

Fantastic!

I saw this movie recently and have been touched ever sense. It evokes an emotional feeling stronger than most films can deliver. Be prepared to be overwhelmed w... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old April 9, 2016

Clever and original sci-fi drama is outstanding but can be very scary.

My rating:PG-13 for some sequences of sci-fi violence, brief bloody images, and some horror/jump shocks.

What's the story?

An Amber Alert has been issued for a missing child, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) -- but he's with his father, Roy (Michael Shannon), and Roy's childhood friend, Lucas (Joel Edgerton). It turns out that Alton has special powers. He can see things, read people's thoughts, and make things happen with his eyes. Roy and Lucas have taken the boy from a kind of religious compound, whose leader (Sam Shepard) very much wants him back. Roy's plan is to get Alton to a specific destination by a specific date. So, pursued by government agents, the fugitives -- aided by Alton's birth mother, Sarah (Kirsten Dunst) -- must travel by night to protect Alton from daylight, which harms him. But when Alton grows sicker and requests to see the sunlight, something unbelievable is revealed.

Is it any good?

Though talented indie filmmaker Jeff Nichols borrows from established sci-fi classics, this movie tells its story in a new way, rooted in characters and emotions, embracing uncertainty and loss. Nichols (Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter, Mud) has said that he made the movie to help him process becoming a father, and those ideas and feelings take precedence over the story details. It begins without exposition; the focus is on moods, lighting, silences, and a music score filled with wonder.

Sci-fi buffs may feel slighted that not every detail of this particular situation is explained in full, but that's not what MIDNIGHT SPECIAL is really about. Plus, if things were solidified, it would only draw concrete comparisons to Close Encounters, E.T., Starman, the Witch Mountain series, and many other similar stories. This Midnight is special because it's less about visual effects and more about connections, bonds that can't be broken, and the kind of fear, bravery, and acceptance that comes through them.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Midnight Special's violence. What purpose does it serve? Is it more upsetting/impactful when it involves the young boy? Does exposure to violent media desensitize kids to violence?

  • The filmmaker says he made the movie to deal with becoming a father. How did he achieve this? What ideas was he wrestling with? Do you think viewers who aren't parents can appreciate it?

  • How does Midnight Special compare to other sci-fi movies with similar stories? What's included, and what's left out? How are the characters different?

  • Are viewers intended to root for Alton to go back "home" or stay with his parents? How does the movie convince us?

Movie details

For kids who love science fiction

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