Misery

Movie review by
Kelly Kessler, Common Sense Media
Misery Movie Poster Image
Gripping tale of manipulation has cursing, violence.
  • R
  • 1990
  • 107 minutes
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 17 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 50 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

No real positive messages. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The antagonist is a mentally disturbed serial killer. The protagonist is a cynical hack novelist who churns out romance novels for money. 

Violence

The film begins with a terrible car accident and shows the resulting wounds. In the movie's most graphic scene, the lead character is "hobbled" when the antagonist takes a sledgehammer to both of his ankles while he's tied to a bed. A bloody and vicious primal fight to the death between the protagonist and antagonist that includes a gun, fire, and various heavy objects used to bludgeon. A man is shot and killed in the back with a shotgun. 

Sex
Language

During a bout of writer's block, a writer types "f--k" over and over again out of frustration. Occasional mild profanity, including "bitch" and "bastard." In the movie's climactic scene "f--k" and "c--ksucker" are used. The antagonist asks the name of the "dago" who painted the Sistine Chapel. Middle finger gesture used once. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The kidnapper repeatedly drugs her victim, with pills and later with a syringe. Wine and champagne drinking. The protagonist, a novelist, has a tradition where he smokes one cigarette with a glass of champagne upon completion of his manuscript, isn't shown smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Misery is a 1990 movie based on a Stephen King novel about a novelist who, after a car accident, is rescued by his "#1 fan," a former nurse who is also a deranged killer. While not as bloody as a slasher horror movie, there are some violent moments, including the movie's best-known scene in which the novelist is tied to a bed and "hobbled" with a sledgehammer to both of his ankles. A character is murdered, shot in the back with a shotgun. In the movie's climactic scene, the two lead characters fight to the death with a gun, lighter fluid, a typewriter, and other heavy objects used for bludgeoning. While forced to write a novel for his captor, the novelist, in a fit of writer's block, types "f--k" repeatedly on the page. Other profanity includes "c--ksucker" and "bitch." The writer is kept drugged for a time, at first with pills, then later with a forced syringe shot into his arm. While speaking highly of his work, the antagonist asks the name of the "dago" who made the Sistine Chapel. Overall, the suspense and psychological tension driving the movie to psychotic outbursts and violent altercations is way too much for kids, but older teens and adults should enjoy one of the better adaptations of Stephen King's novels. 

User Reviews

Parent of a 14 year old Written byMarvin Martian February 18, 2011

10-13 don't watch alone

I would rate it 12-15. One bit very disturbing (hammer scene), but rest fine, some strong language, and mild drugs
Adult Written bymeeru November 2, 2010

Violent but suitable for mature 8 year olds.

Fantastic film, Although there are some scenes of extremely storng violence, I would let a mature 8 year old watch and enjoy this superb film. Entertaining, sus... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bydavyborn October 16, 2011

Kathy Bates performance is fantastic, but could have potential for scarring and nightmares with children

I have actually read the Stephen King novel "Misery", which the classic movie of the same name was based on, and let me tell you, it follows it well,... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byBKrootz March 21, 2011
Loved it. Very intense and creepy. It does use some language (said and visual), and there is a very painful-looking violent scene. The title of the movie descri... Continue reading

What's the story?

Based on Stephen King's novel of the same name, MISERY details the unfortunate exploits of a romance novelist (James Caan) and his obsessively sadistic "number one fan," Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates). Upon rescuing the writer from a snowy car crash, Wilkes uses extreme measures to keep the object of her admiration at arm's length.

Is it any good?

Powerfully filmed, Misery grips the audience and presents a fascinating character study in psychosis. The truly in-your-face violence may prove to be too much for many adults and teens alike. Don'tt let the credits lure you into a false sense of security. Despite the inclusion of seemingly family-friendly names such as Rob Reiner (Stand by Me, The Princess Bride) and Kathy Bates (Fried Green Tomatoes, Primary Colors), you will find no warm fuzzy moments in this film as the story is filled with physical and emotional torture (including one of the most wince-worthy moments of film.)

The film presents a sadistic story of manipulation and torture as Annie struggles to preserve her favorite literary character by torturing its creator. Misery reeks with tension and suspense from beginning to end, as the fate of the writer appears darker and darker. Ultimately, the film culminates in a gruesome battle of wits and will. Watch out for the "hobbling" scene. Nonetheless, Misery did bring Bates critical acclaim and her first Oscar. The film also includes charming performances by Richard Farnsworth and Frances Sternhagen as the small-town sheriff and deputy.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how they feel about the violence in the movie. They can also use the movie as a basis for discussing safety and protecting themselves from strangers.

  • How does this compare with other movie adaptations of Stephen King's novels? 

  • How is Annie revealed to be mentally and emotionally disturbed? How is she made into a fully-developed character rather than just a one-dimensional murderer like in other horror movies? 

Movie details

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love to be scared

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

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 and learning potential.

Learn how we rate