Oldboy (2013)

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Oldboy (2013) Movie Poster Image
Spike Lee's solid, literal remake is extremely violent.
  • R
  • 2013
  • 104 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

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
The movie is essentially a cruel revenge tale, with bad behavior met by more bad behavior.
Positive Role Models & Representations
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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bybooboo1_2 December 29, 2013

leave the kids at home

not a fan, not kid-friendly
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 o... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bycavanim August 11, 2018


mild sex (brief full frontal female nudity and behind male nudity) with implied masturbation. alot of violence but the violence is so poorly done for the most p... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love oddball stuff

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