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Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Sanctum Movie Poster Image
Shallow adventure movie about deep caves.
  • R
  • 2011
  • 109 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 11 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 15 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The movie's major theme involves the struggle to overcome the odds and survive. The characters must learn to work together and solve new problems at every turn. The secondary theme involves an emotionally distant father and his son finding a connection. But not everyone learns a lesson here ... or even survives.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Frank -- the older, experienced explorer -- has learned to shut off his emotions, putting raw survival ahead of everything else. He's a good man to have in an emergency but not the best person if you want someone to trust or talk with. But over the course of the film, he remembers what it's like to be human and to empathize with others.


Characters die in horrible ways, from bashing their heads on rocks to drowning. Viewers see bloated corpses and blood, and characters make gurgling sounds as they choke on blood. One character catches on fire. Characters also fight and squabble every so often, and there's one knockdown brawl with fatalities.


One character brings his girlfriend to the caves; she wears revealing clothing from time to time. Also a small amount of sexual innuendo.


Heavy language includes many uses of both "f--k" and "s--t." Also "ass" "a--hole," "c--k," "damn," "goddamn," "oh my God," "hell," and more. One character raises a middle finger.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A minor character is briefly seen smoking. A major character brings a bottle of hard liquor down into the cave; characters occasionally drink from it during the movie's first third, but no one gets drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this intense 3-D adventure movie set in the world of cave diving was produced (though not written or directed) by James Cameron and feels very much like a smaller-scale version of one of his epics -- like Titanic and Avatar -- and is just as focused on spectacle. There's plenty of heavy language (including many uses of "f--k" and "s--t"), and the violence includes fighting and blood, plus gruesome drownings and dead bodies -- all of which is amplified by the 3-D. You can also expect some drinking and smoking and a little innuendo.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bywallyk2334 February 4, 2011

Great thriller for teens and up

I took my 13 year old nephew to see this movie not realizing it was rated R! We both really enjoyed the movie and were absolutely on the edge of our seats for... Continue reading
Parent of a 6 and 8 year old Written bySoftball mom February 24, 2011

Watch it at home.

It was long, intense and sad. A triumphant ending would have saved this movie. It fell flat.
Teen, 13 years old Written bytaylorswift2122 February 5, 2011
this film is o.k for mature teens one crude joke and thats it. very violent dead bodies might scare tweens but other than that it is fine.
Teen, 13 years old Written byAdamY March 6, 2011
It was kind of gross some girl gets scalped and people die in some pretty bad ways that is the only things that bother me other then that it pretty good if you... Continue reading

What's the story?

A group of cave divers prepares to explore one of the world's biggest caves, perhaps becoming the first humans to discover a new underwater passage to the sea. Among them are expert caver Frank (Richard Roxburgh); his estranged son, Josh (Rhys Wakefield); and Carl (Ioan Gruffudd), the weekend-adventurer/millionaire paying for the whole expedition. Unfortunately, a typhoon hits harder and faster than expected, stranding the five explorers inside and slowly filling the caves with water. Now they have no choice but to find their secret passage or die trying.

Is it any good?

Produced by James Cameron, SANCTUM feels very much like it was entirely sculpted, shaped, and finalized by the self-proclaimed "King of the World." It includes his style of storytelling -- for example, a 3-D computer demonstration of the entire cave system -- and his brand of pretty shallow characters, as well as an obsession with spectacle. And, indeed, the cave photography here is impressive -- but that's not enough to make the movie work.

Most of the film's suspense depends on a real, natural human fear of drowning; but Buried and 127 Hours play on similar fears to much better effect, with stronger characters and performances to boot. Sometimes it's possible, as with Cameron's own Avatar, to overlook a movie's lack of human elements and enjoy the hugeness of the event as a pure cinematic rollercoaster ride, but Sanctum feels like too little, too late.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's violence. Is it thrilling or disturbing? How does the movie achieve that reaction?

  • Is this movie more or less scary than similar films that have clear "bad guys" -- or even monsters -- to confront? Why?

  • Is it necessary for people (like the character of Frank) to shut down their emotions in order to be expert explorers and survivors?

Movie details

For kids who love adventure

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