Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Nightcrawler Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Violent but thoughtful thriller about the state of media.
  • R
  • 2014
  • 117 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 21 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

This is an extremely cynical movie. The main character's position is that, as long as you can negotiate and never give in, you can get anywhere in the world, even if what you're doing is unethical or illegal. And if anyone stands in your way, it's OK to cut them down. Also thought-provoking themes regarding the nature of news and media.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character is pathological and perhaps even insane, yet he still represents some of the qualities that are admired in successful people. He argues and persuades his way into any situation and knows how to wear people down to get what he wants. He's willing to do just about anything, unethical or illegal, to help his own cause. But the movie presents him (mostly) as someone not to be emulated.


The violence, while often intense, is less shocking than the main character's callous attitude toward it. Whether it's a shooting or a car crash, he simply films it as if it's nothing. Several dead bodies, shootings, and blood. Gory news footage. The main character beats up a security guard and steals his watch. At a crime scene, he drags a dead body several feet to make for a better shot.


The main character negotiates a deal with a woman he likes to be his sex partner, even though she's not interested in him or attracted to him. None of this is shown, but there's a spoken reference to it. Also some brief innuendo.


"F--k" is used fairly frequently, as are "s--t," "a--hole," "ass," "d--k," and "goddamn."


The character uses a Sony camcorder. Several ads are seen during TV news broadcasts, including one for Bird's Eye frozen vegetables that's shown twice.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Nightcrawler is a crime drama/thriller about an outcast who finds he has a calling filming gory footage for the TV news -- and ends up going to extreme lengths in pursuit of his "talent." There's strong violence -- including shootings, car crashes, blood, and dead bodies -- but the most disturbing thing is the callous, cold nature with which it's all filmed. Language includes multiple uses of "f--k" and a few uses of "s--t." Sex comes up when the lead character negotiates sexual favors with a woman he likes; nothing is shown, but it's referred to. Despite the strong content, older teens might find the film thought provoking -- and come away with some interesting, relevant questions and ideas about the nature of news and the media.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymichaelmcgcp. March 4, 2015

Really 17+?

The movie is not bad everyone. There is a small discussion of a woman doing a favor for a man but it is so brief I was able to watch it with my parents. The act... Continue reading
Adult Written bycjlewis97 January 1, 2019
Teen, 13 years old Written byTom Cruise Fan March 18, 2015

"Nightcrawler" movie review

"Nightcrawler" is one of the best movies I've ever seen in the last 5 years. This film blew my mind. It was so excellent and brilliant. Jake Gyll... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bygaffer2602 February 26, 2021

A bit dark, a bit violent. 14+, not 17+

It's a bit violent, but there's worse violence on some TV-14 shows, e.g. Fox's Gotham

What's the story?

A driven and determined outcast, Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) makes his living stealing and selling scrap metal. But when he sees a "nightcrawler" (Bill Paxton) -- i.e. a freelance cameraman in search of news footage -- in action, he decides that it's the life for him. Using knowledge gleaned from the Internet and his salesman skills, he manages to sell some footage to a struggling Los Angeles TV news program run by Nina Romina (Rene Russo), who desperately needs it. As Louis' business grows, he takes on an assistant, Rick (Riz Ahmed), and begins to realize that, rather than simply waiting for it, he can lend a slight assist in actually making the news happen.

Is it any good?

The brother of filmmaker Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton), screenwriter Dan Gilroy (Real Steel, The Bourne Legacy) makes a dynamic directorial debut with NIGHTCRAWLER. He takes on the cutthroat world of TV news -- which today seems more concerned with spectacle and ratings ("if it bleeds, it leads") than with actual information -- in a way that's startling and not at all angry or preachy. It's a high-speed nocturnal movie, preoccupied with cars and streets, lights and cameras.

Gyllenhaal is a big reason for the movie's electrifying mood. He's gaunt and strange, but intense -- like a hypodermic needle. His eyes stick out of his skull, gleaming like daggers, unwilling to retract until a point is made. You're uncertain just how a creature like this came to be, but it's fascinating watching him work. When he sees the fake cityscape backdrop behind the TV news anchors' desk, he remarks, "it seems so real on TV." But it's all showbiz.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Nightcrawler's violence. How is it used to tell the story? Is any of it gratuitous? Does it feel thrilling or shocking?

  • What does Louis' job entail? Is he a journalist? Is he reporting actual news? Why would people need or want to see his footage? Does he cross the line? When/where/how?

  • What does the movie have to say about media in general?

  • What is Louis really like? Is he scary? Friendly? Fascinating? Are we drawn to him or repelled by him? Or both?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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