Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Shame Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Powerful drama about sex addiction is NOT for kids.
  • NC-17
  • 2011
  • 101 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 8 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The movie is mainly about sexual addiction and stays intently focused on that particular world. Although the main character begins to realize that he has a problem and takes baby steps toward solving it, the ending remains ambiguous.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character has a sexual addiction. As a result, he acts selfishly and treats others without care or respect. He does seem to realize that he has a problem, but he doesn't ask for help.


A character attempts suicide and is seen covered in blood. The main character gets into a fistfight in a bar after trying to pick up someone else's girlfriend. The fight itself isn't really shown, but the character's face is bloodied afterward.


Both male and female full-frontal nudity. Several graphic sex scenes, with thrusting, sound effects, and nudity, though much of the actual sex occurs off-screen and is mainly suggested. Some of the sex scenes play out roughly and with a kind of simmering anger. The main character has several partners, including prostitutes, women he picks up, and a man in a gay sex club. He watches porn on his computer (pornographic images are briefly shown) and compulsively masturbates. A secondary, married character cheats on his wife. Very strong sexual innuendo.


Frequent use of strong words including "f--k," "screw," "s--t," "t-ts," "d--k," "p---y," "a--hole," "bitch," "hell," "oh my God" (as an exclamation), and more.


Characters are seen drinking Red Bull more than once. A container of Trader Joe's orange juice is visible.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters seem to drink just about every night in bars, restaurants, and at home. The main character enjoys martinis, wine, and beer. Only the secondary characters appear to get drunk. The main character snorts cocaine in one scene.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the NC-17-rated Shame is all about sex addiction, and the movie is filled with nudity, destructive sexual behavior, strong simulated sex scenes, and innuendo. Some of the sex scenes play out a big roughly; there's also violence in the form of a bar fight (not entirely shown) and a bloody suicide attempt. Expect pretty frequent swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t"), plenty of drinking, and one scene in which the main character snorts cocaine.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bychristian2011 December 15, 2013

Film completely about sex addiction. For adults only. 18+

Shame is a highly provocative, poignant and dark psychological drama that excellently portrays the life, challenges, and obstacles of a sex addict. There's... Continue reading
Adult Written bydavispittman October 4, 2019

Fassbender is mesmerizing

Full disclosure: Michael Fassbender is one of my biggest celebrity crushes and favorite actors. But to be honest the crush comes first lol. My attraction to him... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bymbhky.16 April 12, 2021


My Baby loved it
Teen, 16 years old Written byusername342343 April 1, 2021

What's the story?

Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender) has a problem. He can't seem to control his addiction to sex. Women throw themselves at him, and he sleeps with him. He hires prostitutes, watches porn on his computer (even at work), and masturbates compulsively. He tries to keep this life secret, but things get complicated when Brandon upsets his boss' plans to pick up a girl in a bar. The boss also discovers a cache of porn on Brandon's computer hard drive. At the same time, Brandon's sister (Carey Mulligan) arrives and asks to stay with him. This new situation, coupled with Brandon's shame and self-loathing, leads to many sibling arguments. Can she help, or will Brandon need to hit rock bottom first?

Is it any good?

Despite SHAME's graphic content, director Steve McQueen (who also directed 2008's Hunger) presents the material in a respectful, artistic manner, favoring long takes and spare dialogue. This quiet, moody film focuses more on character behavior than plot or a conclusion. Rather than a stern treatise on the dangers of sexual addiction, McQueen's approach allows viewers to enter into the situation at their own pace and find their own emotional connection.

While the movie's erotic content stands out, McQueen creates many other, memorable scenes, such as Brandon weeping at his sister sings a slow, moving rendition of "New York, New York" in a nightclub, or a mesmerizing scene in which Brandon jogs down the streets of New York for long minutes, drowning out the noise with Glenn Gould on his headphones and trying to re-focus himself. In the two lead roles, Fassbender and Mulligan tread dangerous territory, and both succeed admirably.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's sexual content. What is sex addiction? Can it be treated? What are the real-life consequences of this kind of problem?

  • Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding relationships and sex, particularly when it comes to staying safe.

  • Where and how does the title Shame come into play?


Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

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