Promised Land

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Promised Land Movie Poster Image
Low-key "issues" drama has some strong language, drinking.
  • R
  • 2012
  • 106 minutes

Parents say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 1 review

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's message isn't entirely easy to nail down, but it will launch some good discussions. One theme is about the debate between farms staying true to their roots or giving in and accepting cash from a corporation. Another theme is about whether a person should remain loyal to the corporation for which he works -- or do the right thing.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Steve is highly imperfect, but he learns many lessons. He works for a huge company and believes he's doing the right thing, but eventually he learns that there may be other answers just as valid. Eventually he comes to a crossroads wherein he must decide between his job and telling the truth.


A brief fight in a bar; the character sustains some minor wounds to the face.


Two adults flirt and go on a date.


"F--k" is used many times. Other words include "suck it," "a--hole," "hell," "s--t," "hell," "a--hole," "damn," "oh my God," "goddamn," and more.


A Pepsi machine is shown. A pack of Trident gum is shown. The main character has a Hewlett-Packard (HP) computer.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The main character has a night of strong drinking (beer and shots) and wakes up, hung over, in a comical way. He keeps returning to the bar for more drinks throughout the movie, but a drinking problem isn't implied.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Promised Land is a drama about big companies and farming communities, big money, and environmental troubles that's rated R primarily for strong language (including several uses of "f--k"). It's told through two main characters: a well-meaning company man and a grass-roots activist, neither of whom are what they seem. It's a movie filled with issues and ideas, and it would make for good discussions with teens. In addition to the swearing, there's a scene with strong drinking (followed by a hangover), as well as one fight, some flirting, and a little product placement.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Teen, 13 years old Written byThe Cheap Seats June 20, 2013

What's Your Price?

Promised Land covers ground on an important and controversial topic (natural gas) which doesn't really appeal to teens and the future adults. The only peop... Continue reading

What's the story?

Two representatives from a big natural gas corporation -- Steve Butler (Matt Damon) and Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand) -- arrive in a small farming community offering to buy the rights to extract natural gas from the earth. The farmers, savaged by the poor economy, are torn between taking the cash and risking the damage that the drilling (known as "fracking") could do. Matters are complicated when a grass-roots activist, Dustin Noble (John Krasinski), shows up to oppose them. At the same time, Steve finds himself developing feelings for a local schoolteacher (Rosemarie DeWitt). Will Steve figure out the right thing to do?

Is it any good?

A unique group of talents came together for this issue movie. Acclaimed author Dave Eggers wrote the original story, and actors Damon and Krasinski wrote the screenplay. Gus Van Sant directed, 15 years after directing another Damon screenplay, Good Will Hunting. The result is pleasantly low-key and never seems preachy or angry. But PROMISED LAND also raises more issues than it can reasonably tackle.

Specifically, it brings up the complex question of what farmers are supposed to do in such a terrible economy; should they risk damaging the environment in exchange for financial security? Yet Promised Land turns its focus to Steve's personal journey and resolves that, leaving the farmers on their own. Van Sant gives this one a more cursory touch than usual, recalling Good Will Hunting and Finding Forrester. But the well-rounded characters -- especially McDormand's -- make it enjoyable along the way.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what the farmers should do. Should they take the money or look for a better solution? Is there a "right" answer to this problem?

  • What's the right thing for the main character, Steve Butler, to do? What does he learn over the course of Promised Land? Is he a role model?

  • How does the movie depict drinking? Why do the characters drink? Are there realistic consequences?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

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