Nocturnal Animals

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Nocturnal Animals Movie Poster Image
Stylish, stylized, remote drama is violent, intense.
  • R
  • 2016
  • 116 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 5 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Memory is long, and forgiveness sometimes takes a circuitous route.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Edward is kind and passionate about his art, while Susan has good intentions.


Lots, and sometimes it's very intense. Groping and sexual assault, harassment on the road (including a car trying to force another off the road), abduction, rape (viewers don't see it, but it's clear what's about to happen), and murder. Naked, dead bodies are shown; the blows to their heads are pretty visible. A scene shows a man in a brutal fight that end in gunshots and death.


Nudity in opening sequence. A couple is shown after sex, with a woman's naked back visible. Flirting and kissing. A man is shown on the toilet, practically naked, wiping his backside. 


Everything from "bitch" and "s--t" to "f--k."


Wealth is signaled through products, including iPhone, Apple, and Mercedes Benz.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Plenty of social drinking, sometimes to excess. References to needing pills to calm yourself down. A man with lung cancer smokes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Nocturnal Animals is a fascinating but ultimately remote drama about deceit, misogyny, marital conflict, murder, and heartbreak -- a moody, morbid stew that's too mature for all but the oldest teens. Gruesome scenes show murdered bodies, and there are many other moments of violence, plus close-up shots that show the aftermath of struggles and fights. There's also smoking, drinking (mostly social, some depressingly isolated), and pill-popping, as well as nudity (some sexual, some not; some scatological) and plenty of swearing (including "s--t" and "f--k). Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaall co-star.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 12-year-old Written byMoviereviewsonandmom July 25, 2018
I watched this movie, way too inappropriate for kids, not letting my child watch it
Adult Written byKip W. May 31, 2018

Disturbing violence in gorgeously shot, deeply-plotted psychological thriller

Parents, be extremely cautious before letting your young teens see this film, as there are several disturbing, violent scenes including murder, abduction and im... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bymatthewm_06 February 20, 2019

Nocturnal Animals Review

The storyline was really good, and the acting was great, but overall, it was kind of bland and my mind started to wander halfway through.
Teen, 14 years old Written byHarry.trax January 23, 2017

Good but predictable!

Good psychological thriller! Has great visual and soundtrack and many messages. Really good acting and great performances. The story is predictable and not so c... Continue reading

What's the story?

In NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, Susan (Amy Adams) is a fairly successful museum curator married to a banker (Armie Hammer) who may or may not be on the cusp of losing his fortune but is most definitely having an affair. Then a package arrives at their house, accompanied by a note from Susan's long-estranged ex-husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaall). He's a novelist, and he's just sent her his about-to-be-published book, which is dedicated to her. Susan reads it, and she's soon pulled into the world Edward has created -- a place where a husband, Tony (Gyllenhaall) and a cop with a cancerous death sentence (Michael Shannon) try to avenge the ghastliest crime committed against him and his wife and daughter.

Is it any good?

Though it's visually stunning, there's something clinical about the way this drama dissects the relationships it depicts, no matter the heat, anxiety, fear, and passion at their heart. Even its gut-wrenching performances, specifically Gyllenhaal's, can't wrench Nocturnal Animals back to its beating-heart center, rendering it more aloof than it needs to be -- or should be.

That's a pity, because the film is revelatory in some ways, a study in how heartbreak can be as savage as physical assault. The story-within-a-story structure works, for the most part, though it also halts the momentum at times. Still, Nocturnal Animals -- which was inspired by Austin Wright's book Tony and Susan -- is worth watching. And not just for Adams, who's impressive here (as is Laura Linney in a small-but-pivotal role as Susan's mother), but also to witness writer-director Tom Ford's confidence. If only the film more closely embraced the emotions at its core.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Nocturnal Animals' violence. There's a lot of it, but it's shown in a very stylized way. How does that affect the impact of the crimes?

  • How does the movie's look and feel relate to its subject matter?

  • Why does Susan seem so adrift? What about her world makes her feel lost?

  • Who do you think the movie is intended to appeal to? How can you tell?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

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

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

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.

Learn how we rate