Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Nebraska Movie Poster Image
Wonderful father-son bonding story with language, drinking.
  • R
  • 2013
  • 115 minutes

Parents say

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Kids say

age 13+
Based on 9 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages
A father and son become much closer to one another during a road trip, talking about their feelings for the first time and opening up more easily. This also leads to some occasional violent and/or illegal behavior, but nothing serious or unforgivable.
Positive Role Models & Representations
These characters are about as ordinary as you can get. Their problems and hang-ups are nothing unusual, and their achievements come to nothing more than finding a better connection between a father and son. They're not exactly bad people, but neither are they particularly heroic or inspiring. (The father may be an alcoholic; his family claims that he is, but he claims he's not.)
David gets into a bar fight, punching an older man. The father and son are jumped by two hooded, masked characters in an alley. Woody cuts his head open and some blood is shown. (He goes to the hospital for stitches.) There's also some arguing and threats.
Characters talk about sex, sometimes in fairly open, graphic ways (intended as humor). For example, the elderly mother character talks casually about her former lovers and -- in one scene -- lifts up her dress (her back to the camera) to show the grave of a dead boyfriend "what he missed out on." She uses phrases like "he wanted in my pants." No nudity is shown, and no sexual situations occur.

"S--t" is used fairly frequently, and "f--k" is used at least once. "Bitch," "c--ksucker," "t-ts," "damn," "whore," "slut," "moron," "sumbitch," "screwing," "Goddamn" and "Jesus Christ" are also used.


Various signs and billboards are often seen while the characters are on the road, and various brands are shown in bars and in kitchens. They include Pepsi, Goodyear, Land-o-Lakes, and Craftsman. In a bar characters order Coors, Mountain Dew and Bud. A character works in an audio shop, and signs for Bose and Sony are visible. Onkyo is mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The father may be an alcoholic. Others claim that he is, but he denies it. (He says that beer doesn't count.) He drinks a great deal of beer over the course of the movie, and is drunk a few times. The son does not drink but changes his mind and drinks beer with his dad in a bar.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Nebraska is a bittersweet character-based drama telling the story of a grown son and his father reconnecting while on a road trip. Language includes several uses of "s--t, "at least one "f--k," plus lots of other strong or coarse language. Alcoholism is a potential concern: the father is said to be an alcoholic, but he denies it, claiming that he only drinks beer. (He consumes a great deal of beer during the movie, and is drunk once or twice.) The main character sustains a head injury and goes to the hospital for stitches (some blood is shown). There's a quick bar fight and a quick mugging in a dark alley, with no real consequences. Older characters sometimes discuss sex, somewhat graphically, but with humorous intent. Though viewers younger than 15 may not be interested in this downbeat film, older teens and their parents should enjoy this.

User Reviews

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Teen, 15 years old Written byKaneBump November 17, 2018
Teen, 15 years old Written byCooltiger37 August 26, 2018

Excellent comedy-drama best for mature teens

OK, while I think CSM might be overreacting a bit by giving this film a 16+ rating, I definitely agree with them that it's best for more mature teens. Gran... Continue reading

What's the story?

Aged Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) has been suddenly disappearing from his Montana home and starting to walk along the freeways. His wife Kate (June Squibb) is worried and angry, but Woody insists that he's only on his way to Nebraska to claim a sweepstakes ticket he received in the mail. His son, stereo salesman David (Will Forte), tires of picking him up during his wanderings, and despite the fact that he knows the ticket isn't real, agrees to drive his father to the sweepstakes office. While on the road, they visit family, have various misadventures, get into a little trouble, and grow a lot closer as father and son.

Is it any good?

With NEBRASKA, director Alexander Payne has taken a combination father-son bonding story-road movie and made it feel entirely fresh. This is partly because of his choice to shoot in moody black-and-white, and partly because of his unusual and spot-on casting choices of veteran character actor Bruce Dern and Saturday Night Live alum Will Forte. But mostly it's because of the delicate, lovely, bittersweet tone he conjures up and sustains throughout the entire movie. This movie is patient but not slow, sad but funny, and downbeat but hopeful.
Some of the movie's small towners may come across as caricatures, though the movie shows no sign of ridicule or malice. Like Fargo, whatever cartoonish tendencies the characters show, they're always rooted in real, recognizable behavior. But since these characters are not exactly verbose or eloquent, the miracle is how much actually comes across in these minimalist performances. It's a wonderfully moving and satisfying experience.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the issue of alcoholism. Why doesn't the main character admit to being an alcoholic? Is it true that "beer doesn't count"? How is the viewer supposed to feel about the characters' alcohol use?
  • Does the movie make fun of small town characters? Are they caricatures or stereotypes? Do they remind you of your own family members, or are they pure fictional creations?

  • What makes a character like Woody -- non-verbal, grumpy, stubborn -- so interesting?

  • How does black-and-white cinematography change the way the movie looks and feels? Would you have preferred it to be in color?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

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