Red State

  • Review Date: September 16, 2011
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 88 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Startlingly violent, intense Kevin Smith shocker.
  • Review Date: September 16, 2011
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 88 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie asks viewers to consider extreme hatred and intolerance performed in the name of righteousness -- as well as intolerance practiced by so-called "good guys." The movie offers no solutions or suggestions for these problems, but it does assume empathy and understanding on the part of its audience.

Positive role models

Most of the characters are deeply flawed and not people you'd want teens emulating in any way. Only one character, a cop, shows empathy and humanity during a tense and impossible situation.


Zealots capture, imprison, torture, and murder people whom they think are gay. Viewers see screaming victims, blood, and dead bodies. There are broken bones and exploding heads. The movie's climax is a brutal shootout in which several people are viciously shot and killed, many point blank. Children inside a church are shown to be in danger. A general attitude of hate and anger permeates the movie.


Little nudity, but very strong sexual situations: Three teen boys look at a sex "hook-up" site -- which is shown quickly and briefly on a smartphone -- and respond to an ad. They meet up with a middle-aged woman who has agreed to have a "foursome" with them (though the actual act doesn't happen). There's the suggestion of a man giving another man oral sex. Lots of strong sexual language and a crude drawing of female genitalia.


Strong, constant language (a hallmark of Kevin Smith movies), including countless uses of "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," "t-ts," "vagina," "d--k," "ass," "a--hole," "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation), "hell," "bitch," "anal," "sodomize," etc. Also derogatory slurs like "wetback" and "f----t."


Coca-Cola is mentioned twice, but both times in a highly unappetizing way. (It's unlikely that Coke paid for or approved of anything here.)

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Teens drink something alcoholic -- unseen, in a paper bag -- while driving. Later they drink beer. A local sheriff pours and drinks several whiskeys, getting drunk in the process.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this extremely violent thriller is full of potentially controversial/offensive social commentary about extreme right-wing religious radicals, gay bashing, the effect of the Patriot Act, and Internet porn. Though the movie's dark mood isn't typical for writer/director Kevin Smith (who usually makes edgy comedies), the content is everything you'd expect from the man behind Clerks, Dogma, and Chasing Amy: extremely strong, constant language and sexual innuendo. This time Smith ups the ante by adding brutal violence, including torture, imprisonment, murder, blood, gore, and many, many dead bodies. There's also teen drinking and a scene of an adult drinking to drunkenness.

Parents say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

Kids say

What's the story?

Somewhere in Middle America, three teens find an online ad for sex with a middle-aged woman (Melissa Leo). They drive out to the middle of nowhere to meet her, ready for the foursome she has planned. But instead, she drugs them, and they become the prisoners of Abin Cooper's 5 Points Trinity Church. Cooper (Michael Parks) and his followers firmly believe that homosexuals are "Satan's instrument on earth," which they believe gives them license to torment and kill anyone they suspect of being gay. Before long the police, commanded by Joseph Keenan (John Goodman), arrive, leading to a bloody shootout. Will the good guys survive? Are there any good guys?

Is it any good?


Writer/director Kevin Smith is known for his vulgar comedies about troubled slackers (Clerks, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, etc.), but for his 10th feature film, he strikes out in a radical new direction with a horrific thriller. Aside from RED STATE's rampant language and sex talk, it barely feels like a Smith movie -- unless you consider that religion in some form or another has crept into many of his films, most notably Dogma. He's clearly very angry at those he thinks justify hatred in the name of righteousness.

Even in his comedies, Smith has never been shy or held back on taboo topics; but here he turns his usual humor into a cynical rant, without a specific comment or a likeable hero. It's very effective and highly powerful, but the movie's main drawback is that it's so heavy and dark. This gruesome, brutal movie is going to be a tough sell to fans of Smith's comedies.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's extreme violence. What is its purpose? Is it necessary to the story? When does media violence cross the line? And who determines where that line falls?

  • Are there any examples of a healthy relationship in the movie? Are any of the characters role models?


  • How does this movie compare to Kevin Smith's other films? Does he have a consistent agenda? How would you define it?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 23, 2011
DVD release date:October 18, 2011
Cast:John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Michael Parks
Director:Kevin Smith
Run time:88 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:strong violence/disturbing content, some sexual content including brief nudity, and pervasive language

This review of Red State was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

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, 16 years old Written byLudorf May 13, 2012

Red State.

Gory, Vulgar, and all around scary with a message that we all know is true but it doesn't matter because thats like %3 of all christians I still like this movie and I'm 14. It was a good horror flick, and a good action movie.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 15 years old Written byChicken Whisperer December 2, 2011

A good, yet disturbing film

While Red State was a good film (in my eyes at least), it is not to be watched with children, as some of the content is heinous intentionally. The film shows a religous extremist family (similar to the WBC) that, hidden from the view of outsiders, murders "sinners" such as gay people and horny teens by trapping them through the internet. The family is shown as heinous, being led by Michael parks in a brilliant performance (Oscar worthy performance) The film shook me quite a bit, even though I've seen much more violent films, the subject matter, the things some characters go through made this a thoroughly disturbing film, with many things happening to characters you're rooting for, that almost never end well. The film does end on a positive note, with the villain getting his due (kind of.) Overall, Red State is a good film for adults that tackles social issues in an alright way.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Teen, 13 years old Written byJblick October 29, 2011


Wow, Kevin Smith pulled off a movie that's not a Comedy. Let alone three different acts and genres. Great Dialogue, Directing and amazing work by the DP. The only sexual content is in the first twenty minutes and very little is shown, It is mostly just discussed. Violence is all with firearms, but extreme. There is language, but why did you expect, its Kevin Smith. 4.5 out of 5. CSM should let you rate half stars.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Common Sense Kids Action