Shutter Island Movie Poster Image

Shutter Island

Twisty, disturbing Scorsese thriller too intense for most.
Popular with kidsParents recommend
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 138 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie deals with the limits of the human mind and the sheer amount of horror and torment it can take before it snaps. It also examines the extent to which humans are capable of violence and evil. Some characters may or may not have good intentions, but the movie deliberately blurs this behavior in the service of the story. Some conversation about belief in God.

Positive role models

The hero is not much of a role model. He has twin goals: One of them requires bravery and selflessness and the other, selfish revenge. But whether he achieves either of these goals is up for debate. He also exhibits violent and erratic behavior throughout and does not play well with others. (On the other hand, he does risk his life in one sequence to save his partner.) Other characters do not seem trustworthy or reliable either.

Violence

Quite a few disturbing flashbacks and nightmare sequences, with piles of dead bodies in the Dachau concentration camp, a failed suicide attempt (the victim lays twitching in a puddle of blood), drowned children, a woman's body burning, shooting victims, and more blood. One scene shows the mass slaughter of Nazi guards by American soldiers; their bodies are riddled with bullets as they collapse, one by one, in a line. There are also scary images, such as prisoners grabbing through prison bars at the hero.

Sex

No sex, but in a flashback sequence we see a little kissing between an affectionate married couple. Brief flash of unclothed male prisonors.

Language

The words "f--k" is heard about a dozen times; "s--t" a few times. We also hear "dick," "prick," "cock," "screw that," "dammit," "Jesus Christ," and "Goddamn it."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters smoke cigarettes often, and one character smokes a pipe. The main character once had a drinking problem, but now abstains from liquor. We see him drinking whisky in flashbacks. Other characters drink in a social way. The hospital uses various sedatives and other kinds of drugs on the patients. The hero takes aspirins and there is a suggestion that they might be laced with hallucinogens or other drugs. We see the effects of these drugs through the eyes of the hero.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Shutter Island is a very intense thriller, with some highly disturbing imagery, including drowned children, Nazi concentration camps, piles of corpses, blood, guns, dark prison corridors, and bizarre, scary nightmares and hallucinations. It contains strong, but not pervasive, foul language, smoking, and suggestions of various medical/experimental drugs. The movie's surprises and twists, while somewhat transparent, might appeal to older teens, if they can stomach the strong stuff. Younger kids and teens are strongly warned away.

What's the story?

In 1954, federal marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) arrive on Shutter Island, a treatment facility outside of Boston for the criminally insane, to search for an escaped murderess. Haunted by past images from Nazi concentration camps and visions of his dead wife (Michelle Williams), Teddy has another, more personal reason to visit the island. Unfortunately, he soon discovers that there might be far more sinister things going on, and that doctors Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and Naehring (Max von Sydow), may be involved in some kind of hideous experiment. But even if Teddy can find proof, will he ever get off the island?

Is it any good?

QUALITY

SHUTTER ISLAND is a great-looking, highly stylized, very intense thriller in the vein of Martin Scorsese's earlier Cape Fear (1991). The film was directed by the legendary Scorsese and adapted from a novel by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone). While Scorsese is very good at creating strong images and exploring powerful characters head-on, though, he's not particularly good at sneaking around, planting clues and red herrings, and springing surprise plot twists.

Experienced moviegoers will likely be two jumps ahead of the story, but that doesn't take away from the pure, exciting, physical experience of the movie itself. Individual moments and the performances of an excellent cast can take your breath away, regardless of the whole. As with many of Scorsese's movies, the imagery can be of a highly disturbing -- even nightmarish -- nature, and younger viewers are strongly warned away.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's violent nightmares, visions, and flashbacks. How did they affect you? Did they make you feel angry, edgy, or curious? Why do you think that was? Did you notice your behavior change after the movie?

  • Talk about the methods of Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), which include listening to and empathizing with his patients. How is this better than treating dangerous patients with drugs and locking them up? Is it easier, or more difficult, to listen?

  • According to the movie, the human brain has the capacity to block out memories of horrible or tragic events. What effect would this have? Would it make life easier, or more difficult?

  • The movie is set in 1954 and portrays a lot of era-accurate smoking? What has changed about how people think about smoking since the 1950s?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:February 19, 2010
DVD/Streaming release date:June 8, 2010
Cast:Ben Kingsley, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo
Director:Martin Scorsese
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Genre:Thriller
Run time:138 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:disturbing violent content, language and some nudity

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written bynickycetkovic July 23, 2011

Professional help! lol

Hello, I thing that this movie isn't scary for kids at all (believe me,I'm scared all the time lol).The kids should watch It,because It's exiting,and they really need to thing about the end. Bye!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Teen, 13 years old Written byBrandon4News June 11, 2010

Awesome Mind-Bending Adventure

This is not a Scorsese classic or close. This is still my second favorite film of 2010 so far behind Kick-Ass. While there is some strong violence and language along with some disturbing content and shadowed nudity, this is a mature psychological thriller with riveting tension and an excellent finish with a poignant message about man's endless desire to be thought of as "the good guy".
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Great messages
Teen, 13 years old Written bychallenger February 15, 2010

Perfect for the older teens, 15-16+ og age. Very iffy.

It's a violent and disturbing movie, but containes good role models and shows you that it's worth fighting for your life.