Nightmare Alley

Movie review by Jeffrey Anderson, Common Sense Media
Nightmare Alley Poster Image

Common Sense says

age 16+

Dark, brutal psychological terror from Guillermo Del Toro.

R 2021 150 minutes

Parents say

age 17+

Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 17+

Based on 2 reviews

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

Community Reviews

age 16+

Film noir but for mature teens

This is a dark, gorgeous, intense, art-deco film with the occult, carnival acts, swindling, human degradation for carnival acts, and violence to be sure, but Guillermo Del Toro's style and storytelling might win over the audience. It's a rise and fall story. I've hesitated in showing my teen kids the Shape of Water (that I loved) due to it's sex scenes but this one might do. There is one scene where Bradley Cooper is seduced in the bathtub by Toni Colette character but all you see is her hand going in the water and they kiss. You also see him kiss the Cate Blanchette character, and she opens her blouse but only to reveal her décolletage and a scar (not her breasts). You see a man degraded to biting a live chicken and find out his alcohol was laced with opium and he was drugged and degraded to get to that state then put on display for the carnival. Bradley Cooper, in fear and defense, beats a man to death. If your child can appreciate that the violence is all make-believe, and human "freak shows" used to be entertainment, and appreciates film making and is intrigued by psychology, this might work. I try to watch all the Oscar nominated films and this one is one I think my 15 1/2 year old son would like but definitely too dark and intense for my 13 year old girl. She might like Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. The only redemptive character is played by Romey Mara and she regrets the illusions and walks away from the deception.
1 person found this helpful.
age 18+


First half takes place in the carnival; dark, depressing, cruel. Full nudity and gory imagery. Second half is more "film noir". Not an admirable character among them. There is no redemptive value here.

This title has:

Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

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