Shattered Glass Movie Poster Image

Shattered Glass



Journalistic scandal story best for older teens.
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2003
  • Running Time: 90 minutes

What parents need to know


Tense scenes, including a suicide threat.


Reference to prostitutes.


Some strong language.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Social drinking, smoking, reference to drug use.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie has some strong language and references to drug use and prostitutes. There are tense and upsetting scenes, including a suicide threat.

What's the story?

SHATTERED GLASS is the story of one of the biggest scandals in the history of journalism. In 1998, the editor of the tiny but prestigious New Republic found that star writer Stephen Glass had fabricated dozens of stories. The publication's youngest writer, Glass (Hayden Christensen) dazzles everyone with charming compliments and self-deprecation. We know from the beginning that Glass lied, and the movie has enough respect for the complexity of human motivation not to try to explain why. So, it is a story of how the lie was uncovered, but it is less a detective story or even a rise-and-fall hubris tale than a story about how, in the end, journalism really is about telling the truth. An editor for a small, far-from-prestigious website tosses Glass's story about a teenage hacker to Adam Penenberg (Steve Zahn), one of his reporters, asking why he didn't get that story himself. Penenberg begins to dig and finds out that only one fact in the Glass story checks out: "There does seem to be a state in the union named Nevada." Glass and Chuck Lane (Peter Sarsgaard), his editor, find out what it is like to be under the microscope instead of peering through it.

Is it any good?


Christensen does a decent job, though we are never as charmed by Glass as his colleagues at The New Republic. Although the movie's introduction makes it clear that Glass is a liar, screenwriter/director Billy Ray (Hart's War) manages to keep us unsettled by not always letting us know what is real and what is imagined by Glass.

Maybe it is just being forewarned that makes Glass seem less ingratiating than just grating. Ray has a good feel for the culture and atmosphere of the community of Washington journalists -- overworked, underpaid, and a little too smart and inbred. There are splendid performances by Sarsgaard, Zahn, and especially Hank Azaria as the late Michael Kelly.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why Glass lied and why people wanted to believe him.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 30, 2003
DVD/Streaming release date:March 23, 2004
Cast:Chloe Sevigny, Hayden Christensen, Peter Sarsgaard
Director:Billy Ray
Run time:90 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:language, sexual references and brief drug use

This review of Shattered Glass was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

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

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

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, 17 years old Written byBestPicture1996 June 27, 2013

As a journalist, it hits home

I watched this in a journalism camp for high schoolers, and that's probably the best age for your kids to see it. Along with strong language here and there kids need to see the gravity of falsifying a near entire body of work. "Shattered Glass" doesn't break new ground for movies, but it's a solid depiction of a man losing everything, and Saarsgard is impressive as Glass' boss.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Adult Written byJon Lovitz May 20, 2009


This movie was scary. But I think its fine for preteens and up, they can handle it.
Teen, 16 years old Written bySynchronicity May 31, 2010

When the glass is broken, the flames have already started. Should be viewed by pretty much everyone over 13

From the New Republic: "Ian Restil, a 15-year-old computer hacker who looks like an even more adolescent version of Bill Gates, is throwing a tantrum. "I want more money. I want a Miata. I want a trip to Disney World. I want X-Man comic [book] number one. I want a lifetime subscription to Playboy, and throw in Penthouse. Show me the money! Show me the money!"...Across the table, executives from a California software firm called Jukt Micronics are listening- and trying ever so delicately to oblige. "Excuse me, sir," one of the suits says, tentatively, to the pimply teenager. "Excuse me. Pardon me for interrupting you, sir. We can arrange more money for you..." Does this seem real? Prominent journalist Stephen Glass wrote it, so it certainly seems that way. And for the first half of this biopic about this journalist, everyone thinks so. However, nothing is as it seems. The staffers of Wired figure out that Glass is basically writing fiction or semi-fiction, as opposed to legitimate news. But Glass never admits to this - that is, until he's harshly pressed, in some of the most intense confrontations put to film. This film is, quite frankly, one of the best I've seen. The ensemble cast is full of well-known actors who have extremely believable roles, most notably Hayden Christensen (of Star Wars Episodes 2 and 3 fame), who pulls off Stephen Glass by being timid and crazy at the same time. In terms of content, the sheer intensity of Shattered Glass makes it earn its PG-13 rating, but it's fine for most teens 13 and over. There are some intense confrontations between Glass and his editor (among others) that stop just short of being violent. Also, there are a few mild sex and drug references, and what appears to be a gathering of people smoking marijuana and drinking liquor from a hotel vending machine. Profanity is common: an f-bomb is dropped, there are about 10 s-words, and other minor profanities are used a lot. However, the messages of Shattered Glass absolutely outweighs all of these things. A journalist must be ethical; he/she can't just make up sources on the spot. Doing things like this will cause a downward spiral that you basically can't get out of. Overall, whether you're a teen, an aspiring journalist, a veteran journalist, or a film buff, this should be REQUIRED VIEWING.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Great role models


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