Prisoners Movie Poster Image




Engrossing revenge thriller is very violent and intense.
Popular with kidsParents recommend
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 146 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Sometimes otherwise moral people make murky (and even illegal) choices in order to take justice into their own hands -- particularly when their loved ones' lives are at stake. Keller tells his son that the only thing standing between a man and a sudden threat is his ability to protect himself and those he loves.

Positive role models

All of the parents in the movie are flawed and confused. They're desperate for their girls and in some cases feel compelled to do unthinkable things to get closer to information on their whereabouts.


Many scenes of bloody torture and imprisonment, including close-ups of a chained and brutally beat-up man's face, a young man who shoots himself in the head, a man forced to drink a sedative, a girl who's about to be poisoned to death, the screams and cries of victims, and police killing a criminal. A father yells angrily and curses at his son. People are shot, bludgeoned, tortured with scalding or freezing water, and imprisoned. Young girls are missing.


Two married couples are affectionate, but they usually embrace out of grief rather than passion. A very brief glimpse of a teen girl in a tub (just her head and shoulders).


Frequent strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," "damn it," "hell," "goddamn," "oh my God," etc.


A few vehicle brands -- Ford Crown Victoria, Trans-Am.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults drink, sometimes to excess. A priest is so drunk on whiskey that he's basically passed out on the floor, and a man who says he hasn't had a drink in nine years then starts to drink regularly. An upset mother takes sleeping pills and other prescription opiates. A kidnapper forces prisoners to consume a drug-laced drink.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Prisoners is a brutally intense crime thriller/revenge film starring Hugh Jackman. Characters make unthinkable choices to find their missing kids, and there's frequent bloody violence. In addition to the central kidnapping of two little girls, people are shot and killed (or kill themselves), beaten to an unrecognizable pulp, and tortured in various ways. One man shoots himself in the head, and a police officer must shoot a suspect. There's frequent strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "a--hole"), as well as excessive alcohol use by adults and some use of pills and other drugs. The movie's disturbing themes and unflinching violence make it best suited for adults and possibly some very mature teens.

What's the story?

PRISONERS follows Pennsylvanian carpenter Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman), who strongly believes in hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. And that's just what happens on Thanksgiving, while Keller and his wife, Grace (Maria Bello), celebrate the holiday with their neighbors, Franklin and Nancy Birch (Terrence Howard, Viola Davis). After dinner, Keller's daughter, Anna (Erin Gerasimovich), and Franklin's little girl, Joy (Kyla Drew Simmons), walk back to the Dovers' house alone, even though they were told to ask their teen siblings to accompany them. Unable to find the girls, Keller's son, Ralph (Dylan Minnette), mentions a suspicious, idling RV the kids encountered earlier in the day. Once the cops are involved, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) finds the RV and its driver, Alex Jones (Paul Dano), a mentally disabled adult with no criminal record. Alex is released, but Keller is convinced that the young man knows more than he's letting on. Keller manages to kidnap and imprison Alex and then convinces a horrified Franklin that if they don't torture Alex for information, they'll never find their girls.

Is it any good?


Prisoners is a thinking audience's revenge film -- that is, if moviegoers (particularly parents) can stomach the subject matter. It's long, disturbing, and nerve-wracking to watch, but the performances, the imagery, and the fabulous cinematography (courtesy of 10-time Oscar nominee Roger Deakins) make it worth sitting through all of the angst, violence, and horror. Jackman is unforgettable as Keller, a God-fearing carpenter who can do so much with his hands -- including beating an unarmed, mentally disabled younger man until he's no longer recognizable. These are the things he believes a father must do when the police fail to see what his gut is telling him is true.

In contrast to Jackman's Keller is Howard's Franklin, a father who doesn't love his daughter any less but doesn't want to bloody his hands (though he's willing to stand by and watch). This thriller has lots of twists and turns for suspense fans, but its true artistry is in the sometimes-sickening character development, which reveals the depths to which people will go when their children's safety is on the line, when their faith is in tatters, and when all hope is nearly lost. The two-and-a-half-hour runtime isn't quite merited, but French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve has woven a gripping, if terrifying, tale that explores the heart and actions of a well-intentioned but extreme vigilante.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the popularity of revenge movies, particularly ones in which fathers take justice into their own hands to save their kids. Why do these movies speak to audiences? Do the ends ever justify the means?

  • What is Prisoners saying about morality and justice? How is Keller's vigilantism depicted? Is he intended to be a sympathetic character?

  • The two fathers are portrayed as foils: One is willing to do something illegal/immoral for the sake of finding his daughter, while the other doesn't want to cross any lines. Which one did you find more believable? Does the film "judge" either man?

  • Discuss the role of gender in the story. Which characters acted like stereotypical men or women? Which characters twisted the traditional associations with a particular gender?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 20, 2013
DVD/Streaming release date:December 17, 2013
Cast:Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard
Director:Denis Villeneuve
Studio:Warner Bros.
Run time:146 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:disturbing violent content including torture, and language throughout

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 17 years old Written bySean Broucek September 20, 2013

So Good, but not okay for kids.

Parents, this amazing, above engrossing drama with strong, lifelike performances and well crafted thrills, but this is not for anyone under the age of 18. Why? Intense brutal suspense and torture, along with strong language and smoking. Violence isn't very frequent, but when it occurs, it is very hard to watch. The overbearing emotional intensity and suspense just adds to the violence, making it almost unwatchable. It includes people, especially one innocent man, being knocked out, beaten up, lit on fire, forced to drink alcohol and sedatives, and them plot revolves around two kidnapped girls, which can be very upsetting to viewers. No sex, but some references to incest and rape. Langauge includes very frequent uses of f--k, s--t, c--t, c--k, and the middle finger gesture is used three or four times. In the end, this great movie is not for kids of any age. SUGGESTED MPAA RATING: Rated R For Intense Brutal Violent Content, Disturbing Images, Torture And Langauge Throughout Including Some Brief Sexual References.
Teen, 17 years old Written byJared Broome September 22, 2013

Amazing & Makes You Think

This is the first time I've seen a movie worthy of a review in the last year or so, and I made an account just to review this movie. The movie's first 10 minutes are really the only non-suspenseful minutes of the movie, and it leaves you holding your seat literally until the last minute. While this movie's plot can be very disturbing and is pretty emotional, especially to certain parents, stuff like this really happens, and Hugh Jackman does an excellent job with his role. He makes very tough decisions, and it really makes you question what you would do if you were in his situation. He also keeps his faith up and prays even when all signs say that his daughter and her friend may be dead. While I don't think this movie is good for all people (my mom said it would be too heavy for her), I do believe that it's an amazing movie for anyone that can handle a realistic mystery/thriller, and it's very thought provoking. I'm 17, and I saw it with people ranging from ages 15-32, and everyone I went with thoroughly enjoyed the whole movie. Also, while it's a dark movie, it doesn't leave you with a bad/sorrowful feeling afterwards. While the movie has very strong messages of faith, it also has a good bit of language (f--k is used repeatedly, some s--t's, a--hole's, and SOB 's, d--n, and one godd--n), and the violence/torture scenes are pretty realistic. A character is punched over and over in the mouth with bloody results, a man is boarded in a shower and you hear his screams as scolding hot water is turned on and he's not able to move, a man is about to be beaten with a hammer, but nothing happens, there is also a close up view of a man's face which is deformed and bloody with his eyes swollen shut. Another man's head is slammed into a metal table, and a character also sticks a gun in his mouth and commits suicide (blood splatters on the window behind him). In another scene a man is shot in the head (more of a graze to the head with some blood), and a woman is shot 3-4 times, a child is lethally injected and starts to foam from the mouth, but is quickly taken to a hospital. There is some drunkenness, and some forced drug use. Other violent scenes I haven't mentioned are less graphic than the one's I have. I think that the movie is fine for mature teens, and odds are that they hear the same language used everyday at school. The acting, from all characters in this movie, is phenomenal, and I am looking forward to watching again.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written byChristian Movie Buff September 26, 2013

Mind boggling, suspenseful, and incredibly intense

Wow, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I walked into the theater to see "Prisoners". I had no idea that I would be seeing the most physically and emotionally intense movie I have ever watched. Prisoners is a dark, mind blowing child abduction thriller with fantastic performances (specifically from Jackman and Gyllenhaal), riveting suspense, and deep/complex moral questions to discuss and think about after the film. Now you should be warned that on top this is disturbing violence and imagery and strong profane language. Most abduction thrillers like this will focus mostly on the revenge and action. In this case, though there are some intense revenge scenes, it really delves into how strongly one holds onto there faith, how inhuman they can become, and how they can renew that faith. I for one have never been okay with torture, but what they did in this movie was they portrayed it in a horrible, inhuman way, in appose to one just doing it to get what they and never think back on it. If you're a mature 16 year old or older, and you've prepared to handle a dark 2 1/2 hour movie about finding two little girls who have been kidnapped, and appreciated great film making, I say give this one a shot, but be prepared.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking