Oldboy (2013) Movie Poster Image

Oldboy (2013)



Spike Lee's solid, literal remake is extremely violent.

What parents need to know

Positive messages
The movie is essentially a cruel revenge tale, with bad behavior met by more bad behavior.
Positive role models
The main character is single-minded and bent on revenge, inflicting great violence on anyone that gets in his way. He does perform one noble deed at the end, but only after it's too late. None of the characters is worth emulating in any way.
The character is abducted and imprisoned for 20 years. He bashes his head against the wall and tries to kill himself. Upon his release he beats up dozens of men, including some innocent bystanders. He bashes people in the head with a hammer, and gets a knife stuck in his back. Characters are tied down and tortured. In a flashback, a father kills his entire family, and himself, with a shotgun. Lots of blood is shown. We also see a bloody suicide. There's an attempted rape.
There's a graphic sex scene with female toplessness and male and female backsides shown. The scene takes on a greater, and more disturbing resonance after the big reveal at the end. Another sex scene is in the dark, but you can hear sounds. The character is shown masturbating under a pillow while watching a workout show on TV. Incest is part of the plot. In an early scene, the character attempts and fails to seduce a woman during a business meeting. 
Language includes several uses of "f--k," "s--t," "bulls--t," "bitch," "dick," and "piss," plus "Jesus H. Christ" and "Goddamn."
Apple iPhones are shown. Google searches are important to the plot.
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
The main character starts the movie as a hardcore alcoholic, pouring vodka in a paper cup to make it look like he's drinking soda. He's shown raging drunk one night, screaming on the streets and searching for more booze. (He's also shown smoking a cigarette.) During his imprisonment, he's given a bottle of vodka a day, which he guzzles down greedily. Eventually he stops drinking through hard work and persistence. An old friend of his is also a strong drinker, seen with a glass of whisky at all times. Another character is said to be a former drug user, but recovered.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Oldboy is Spike Lee's remake of the extremely violent Korean movie of 2003. This retains the violence and deals with dark, subversive ideas as part of their plots. The character becomes a fighter, and beats up several people (sometimes using a hammer as a weapon). He's stabbed in the back. Characters are tortured, shot, and killed, and commit suicide, and there's an attempted rape. There's a graphic sex scene with female toplessness and male and female backsides shown, plus some other unsavory sexual elements central to the movie's story. Language is also strong, with many uses of "f--k" and "s--t." The main character begins the story as a hardcore alcoholic, though he recovers. Many savvy teens will already be aware of the original film, a much loved cult classic, and the new one does not change much of the basic plot. But many curious teens will want to see this new version, especially if they don't care for subtitles.

What's the story?

After a bad business deal and a night of drinking, Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) is abducted and locked in what looks like a hotel room. He's given meals, a TV to watch, and vodka to drink. A spray of gas puts him to sleep each night. One day he learns that he has been accused of killing his wife, and that his baby daughter has been adopted by a new family. He gives up drinking and begins exercising and learning how to fight. He starts working on letters to his daughter. After some 20 years, he is suddenly, unexpectedly released and left with a single mission: to figure out what happened to him and why. One thing is for sure. His new fighting skills will come in handy. Elizabeth Olsen co-stars as a helpful nurse.

Is it any good?

Spike Lee has never devoted his vicious talents to a pure exploitation film before. But his hard, brutal OLDBOY tackles that mind-bending, subversive story without flinching. On the other hand, Lee does do the American thing by adding a little more backstory, both to the lead character and to his situation; the Korean version leaves these things a little more opaque. Sometimes, this more literal approach opens up unwanted new questions about characters and motivations.
The main problem with OLDBOY, though, is that anyone familiar with the original story won't have much to be surprised about; Lee doesn't mess around with it much, and, indeed, it's so solid there's not much to mess around with. Josh Brolin gives an appealingly fearless, nearly lunatic performance and Elizabeth Olsen nicely compliments him. Samuel L. Jackson provides a loony, sinister presence, even if Sharlto Copley overacts.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's extreme violence. What is the mood of it? How does watching it affect you?
  • Why is a movie like this appealing? How does the movie compare to the Korean version? Why do you think Spike Lee chose to remake it?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 27, 2013
DVD/Streaming release date:March 4, 2014
Cast:Elizabeth Olsen, Josh Brolin, Sharlto Copley
Director:Spike Lee
Run time:104 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:strong brutal violence, disturbing images, some graphic sexuality and nudity, and language

This review of Oldboy (2013) was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

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

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 17 years old Written byB-KMastah November 27, 2013

Woefully unnecessary and powerless.

The Park Chan-wook original is arguably my favorite foreign film of all time, so when I first saw this trailer, I was 60% apprehensive and 40% interested. The original is a masterpiece because it's beautiful, sad, thought-provoking, and has a slightly ambiguous ending. This, however, changes what it shouldn't and keeps what ends up making it slightly awkward as an American film. There are small plot changes that are actually more graphic, and needlessly at that, but they also make the film shallower. There were people in my audience laughing because it was so odd at times, but that really isn't anyone's fault; cultural differences elicit different reactions, and this will definitely not work for the mainstream. If they did want the film to play better for others, then they should have revised the script. This version, even standing as itself without it being a remake, feels empty and woefully unnecessary. It just doesn't work at times. The main example is the recreation of the legendary hallway fight scene, which here feels suddenly cartoony and tongue in cheek, like something out of Kick-Ass. The ending and its reveal are skimmed over and changed a bit, making it seem more tasteless since it isn't handled as well, and just cementing its forgettable nature. The original's visual style and symbolism are lost, and there are very little thrills, no great characters, and no good dialogue.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 14 years old Written byJacktheCool November 30, 2013

Bad movie

Yuck man! So violent! And so many sex content. Don't watch it if your not 16 or up!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Teen, 15 years old Written byStevie111 December 1, 2013

Twisted but brilliant movie

Whoever wrote the story has to be brilliant the way everything came together. This is very brutal and there are some quite creative plot points
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing