Patriots Day

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Patriots Day Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Tense, exhausting story of 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
  • R
  • 2016
  • 130 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 20 reviews

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Although the motivation for the manhunt can feel more like revenge than "love," ultimately the movie emphasizes community over religion and love over hate. The people of Boston work together to help one another in many ways, and the characters' love of/for one another triumphs over the hate that led to the bombings. Mention of anti-Muslim fears and how the attack will fuel them. Themes include courage and perseverance.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Exhausted but selfless, Sgt. Tommy Saunders is decent enough role model, aside from some strong drinking. And just about every citizen in the city helps in whatever way they can (even if some of them appear to be championing violence for violence's sake).


Extremely intense, gruesome bombing scene. Severed, broken, and bleeding limbs. Bloody wounds. Blood everywhere. Very violent, chaotic shootout, with pistols and automatic weapons. Cop shot in the face and hand. Multiple explosions. Legs amputated in hospital. Brothers fight, choke, slap each other. Car runs over a man.


Married characters kiss and are intimate with each other in bed; sex is implied but not shown. Lots of hugging, some kissing.


Constant use of "f--k," "f--king," and "motherf----r," plus "s--t," "bulls--t," "a--hole," "balls," "c--ksucking," "pussing out," "goddamn," and "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation).


Mentions of several brands, including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Tylenol, Crate & Barrel, iPod, Mercedes-Benz, etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens smoke pot. A cop drinks fairly frequently, coming home "after a couple of pops," downing a beer before going to sleep, stealing a gulp of whisky from an empty restaurant. His drinking doesn't seem to affect his job, behavior, or life. Other characters drink socially -- wine or beer, etc. Some characters smoke cigarettes (with an intended-to-be comical note of "I gotta quit smoking!").

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Patriots Day is an intense, mature drama based on the true story of the April 15, 2013, bombing of the Boston Marathon and the subsequent manhunt to bring down the terrorists who planned it. The bombing scene is extremely gruesome. Viewers will see severed, broken, and bleeding limbs, with blood everywhere. There are also explosions, guns (pistols, automatic weapons), violent shoot-outs, fighting, amputations, etc. Language is also very strong, with constant use of "f--k" and all its permutations, as well as other salty words. Characters are intimate with each other, but there aren't any sex scenes; just hugging and kissing are shown. Characters drink alcohol and smoke, and teens smoke pot, but there are no real consequences. Mark Wahlberg stars in this story, which has underlying themes of courage and perseverance.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bySteve Cooper April 3, 2021

Accurate telling of the 2013 Boston marathon bombing.

It is violent. But mature 10 year olds can handle it because it is historically accurate and kids need know what happens in life so they are prepared for the fu... Continue reading
Adult Written byBanana wannna August 22, 2019

Good movie based on a true story is very tense and violent

This is a good movie
that contains some very tense moments and some bloody violence.Best for mature teens
Teen, 15 years old Written byGirlyboy December 21, 2016
Teen, 17 years old Written byJohn Lanwick May 10, 2021

Age rating of this movie

I think it is a super good movie but for age 14 and up. Above 14 will enjoy it! Please listen to this comment, parents! Below 14 is inappropriate!

What's the story?

In PATRIOTS DAY, is April 15, 2013 -- the day of the Boston Marathon. Police Sgt. Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) is assigned to patrol the finish line. He complains but tries to do his job well. An enthusiastic crowd is gathered, when suddenly two explosions disrupt the race, and the police spring into action. The wounded are taken to hospitals, and FBI special agent Rick DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) arrives, declaring the bombing an act of terrorism. A command center is set up, and video surveillance is scrutinized until two suspects are found on the tapes. Then the manhunt begins, the biggest clue coming when the culprits steal a Mercedes, and the car's owner escapes and calls the police. After a showdown in Watertown and a citywide lockdown, the city of Boston shows that it won't let hate stand in the way of love.

Is it any good?

For this tense real-life drama, director Peter Berg weaves a wide, vivid tapestry of Boston; it's an admirable feat, but his unrefined techniques grow exhausting after a long 130 minutes. Written by Berg, along with Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer, Patriots Day appears exhaustively researched, drawing on actual stories and events, though somehow making room for a star turn by Wahlberg (His character suffers from a bad knee and has been put on probation; he's exhausted and has seen too much, but keeps going.)

Berg puts it all together, finding the pulse of a city and showing extraordinary moments from ordinary citizens, giving the movie a strong sense of color and community. Yet the nauseating use of hand-held cameras, as well as a kind of constant, droning/thrumming musical score, tends to induce a jittery, squirmy quality rather than genuine suspense. (A documentary might have been better.) It's awfully draining, but the message at the end of the day is that community is powerful and love is stronger than hate; for that, it's worth seeing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Patriots Day's violence. Is it used to shock? To create empathy? Is it realistic? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • Does Sgt. Saunders' speech about love vs. hate make sense? Does the movie effectively illustrate how love conquers hate?

  • How do the characters demonstrate courage and perseverance? Why are those important character strengths?

  • How accurate do you think the movie is? Why might filmmakers might change the facts in movies based on true stories? Does it make you want to do more research?

  • How often do characters drink and smoke in the movie? Do they do it for pleasure? Because of anxiety? Does they make smoking and drinking seem appealing?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love true stories

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