Never Back Down

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Never Back Down Movie Poster Image
Bloody fight film has heart, but it's no champion.
  • PG-13
  • 2008
  • 113 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 13 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Teens videotape others while they fight, sometimes cheering them on, even though one or both could end up severely injured. One character relishes hurting others. But there are also some great examples of loyalty and friendship, as well as a supportive sibling relationship. And Jake learns the value of walking away from fights.


A barrage of brawls that leave participants bloodied and, in some cases, severely injured. Lots of close-ups of kicks and punches and their bloody aftermath. The big climax is a major "beat down."


Some kissing and sexual innuendoes. Some skimpy outfits.


"Bulls--t," "ass," and "bitch." Some trash talk during fights.


Mentions of YouTube, logos for Pepsi and Mustang GT. Students are shown toting around iPhones and digital cameras.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

At a party, teens are shown holding red plastic cups, implying that they're drinking beer. In another scene, an adult offers teenagers a drink.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this action-drama is very much a fight film -- it's filled with brutal, gory scenes of men (and women, too) engaged in physical combat. They punch, kick, and choke each other, and there's plenty of cuts, bruises, and blood. There's also some swearing ("s--t," "bitch") and underage drinking (though viewers don't see actual liquor, the red plastic cups the teens hold are clearly full of alcohol). In many scenes, women and men wear nothing but bikinis and swim trunks, and there's some kissing and a little innuendo.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJones2011 December 29, 2020

Nudity with PG-13 rating

I watched this movie years ago and thought I would rewatch it. Not 20 minutes into the movie while at a party, 2 girls are naked making out in a hot tub. Shows... Continue reading
Adult Written bySchulkman April 9, 2008

Do teenagers need more negative influences?

Even though this movie does have some redeeming value, I believe it is not appropriate for ages 13-15. It should have been rated R. I do not like the fact tha... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byJoseph S.H December 23, 2017

Great Movie

I personally believe it’s a great movie. It shows how brutal fights could be, while also showing how drama could kick start something bigger than anyone would e... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byandy45 July 31, 2011

Jake FTW

True, Jake beat up the guys in the yellow hummer. In my opinion they deserved it. THEY called him a "tough guy" and "fa***t" to his face,... Continue reading

What's the story?

After his father dies in a car accident, leaving him saddled with survivor's guilt, high school student Jake Tyler (Sean Faris) is barely able to control his rage. A move from Iowa to Florida with his mother and brother offers him a fresh start, but it's quickly ruined when the school's top brawler, Ryan (Cam Gigandet), baits Jake into an ugly fight that he loses -- miserably. Enter Jean Roqua (Djimon Hounsou), the mixed-martial arts guru whom Jake seeks out for guidance and training. With Jean's help, Jake may be able to tame his inner demons for good.

Is it any good?

Fight movies have their place in cinematic history (Rocky, anyone?); done right, they manage to capture the humanity in the brutality and the poetry in the punch, but NEVER BACK DOWN doesn't. The cuts are so quick that you can't appreciate any technique. And though, like better sports films, the film does attempt to reveal the internal struggles that fuel the physical ones, it does so with overly broad strokes. There's little nuance or complication and so many fight scenes that when the movie finally gets to the big beat down, it's almost anti-climactic -- it just feels like yet another battle. The movie's also riddled with cliches; there's a supportive girlfriend, a funny sidekick, mantras ("Control the outcome"), and even a race between the mentor and the mentee that's a straight rip-off of Rocky.

Director Jeff Wadlow does manage to drum up some excitement by letting the action unspool with a light touch. The script isn't memorable, but the dialogue is believable, and star Faris is blessed with an easy smile and a likable swagger. And Hounsou, though he delivers a one-note performance, is still fun to watch.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Jake feels compelled to fight. How does his approach to fighting change from the beginning to the end? What lessons does he learn from his mentor? How does he show that he's learned them? Does Jake teach Jean anything? Why are there so many movies about fighting? What's the attraction? How do you know who's the "good" guy and who's the "bad" guy in movies like this? Is that realistic?

Movie details

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