Road to Perdition

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Road to Perdition Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Oscar-winning father-son drama has cursing, violence.
  • R
  • 2002
  • 117 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 10 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

In spite of the line of work the father is in, explores the bond between a father and son. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

No positive role models. The father is a mobster, and while it's shown that he became a mobster for the sake of providing for his family and out of loyalty to the mentor who took him in, he's still a henchman sent to collect on debts owed to his boss. 


Gun violence. Characters shot and killed with guns and machine guns, often at point-blank range. A mother and young son are shot and killed in a home invasion. Tween boy shown in the middle of a fistfight with another tween boy inside a classroom. Talk of rape. 


Some talk about sex; antagonist stays with a prostitute. 


Frequent profanity. "F--k" said by adults and one of the tween characters. "S--t," "p---y," "d--k," "ass," "hell."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes. Tween boy smokes from a pipe. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Road to Perdition is an Oscar-winning 2002 drama in which a tween son in the 1930s discovers that his father is a mobster hit man, and then must flee his home with him. There is a lot of mob-movie violence. Characters are shot and killed with guns and machine guns, often at point-blank range. The tween boy is shown in the middle of a fistfight with another tween boy; this happens shortly after the boy discovers what his father does for a living by spying on a murder in which his father is an accomplice. Regular profanity, including "f--k," is used by both adults and the tween boy. Other profanity includes "s--t," "p---y," "d--k," "ass," and "hell." Cigarette and pipe smoking is shown, including pipe smoking by the tween boy. Some talk about sex is heard; antagonist stays with a prostitute. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 1, 8, 9, and 14-year-old Written bythejokerspencil January 29, 2009

Powerful,Beautiful, Best Movie Ever

I loved this movie it was so incredible I can watch it over and over and over again it is one of those movies that will dazzle. Bueatiful music and fantastic ac... Continue reading
Adult Written byGordan Freeman April 9, 2008

beautifuly photographed

I'm just going to say that the cinamotogrophy alone is worth the price of admission (rental now).
Kid, 11 years old June 9, 2021

Great Father-Son Drama

this movie is really good. it has positive messages. it is a mafia movie and shows how bad the mafia is but mature tweens can handle it.
Teen, 17 years old Written byMJ33 February 6, 2021

More like a 3.5

Road to Perdition is a violent story about a man and his son. Gunfights are almost nonstop, and you see a fair amount of blood throughout. There is some drinkin... Continue reading

What's the story?

ROAD TO PERDITION centers on Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks), a tough hit man in 1931 Chicago, whose loyalty and sense of duty keep him working for John Rooney (Paul Newman), a friendly but firm Irish mob boss. Rooney treats Sullivan like a son. Sullivan keeps his family out of his work, but when his curious son Michael Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin) sees something he isn't supposed to see, Rooney's jealous and paranoid son Connor (Daniel Craig) tries to make sure he doesn't talk by killing Sullivan's wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and youngest son (Liam Aiken), missing Michael Jr. With his surviving son, Sullivan sets out on a road trip as he seeks vengeance on Connor and tries to avoid his former affiliates. Along the way, he robs banks while his son drives the getaway car. To make matters worse, there is a sadistic, despicable man who photographs murder scenes (Jude Law) on Sullivan's trail, and he's willing to assist the murder process to get a good shot. Adventures ensue, and the Sullivans meet many people and go many places with mixed results until the film's inevitable conclusion.

Is it any good?

Road to Perdition is a powerful, beautifully made film about fathers and sons and sin and redemption. It overcomes minor flaws through beautiful directing and first-class performances. The story is interesting, with the father-son relationships and David Self's adapted screenplay being both realistic and intriguing.

However, some important factors, such as more about Jude Law's character and some essential aspects of Sullivan and Rooney's relationship are ignored, as this ambitious film is scared of being overlong, an oft-criticized quality of epic dramas like The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. It leaves the viewer to decide, but if it had just gone out on a limb there, the film could've been saved from having some baffling moments at its conclusion.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Mafia-themed movies. How does this move compare to others in the genre? What do you see as the appeal of movies like these? 

  • This movie was based on a novel. What do you think the challenges would be in adapting a novel into a movie? 

  • How does this movie explore the theme of the relationship between fathers and sons? 

Movie details

  • In theaters: July 12, 2002
  • On DVD or streaming: February 25, 2003
  • Cast: Jude Law, Paul Newman, Tom Hanks
  • Director: Sam Mendes
  • Studio: DreamWorks
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 117 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: violence, language, and sexual situations
  • Last updated: June 9, 2021

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