• Review Date: October 31, 2005
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1996
  • Running Time: 147 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Powerful story of child abuse. Not for kids.
  • Review Date: October 31, 2005
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1996
  • Running Time: 147 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Revenge is a theme throughout the film.


There are several homicides – two of them are justified in the context of the film.


The scenes dealing with sex in this film are very disturbing, as they address the sexual abuse and rape of children.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters drink and smoke, and a few have drug problems. However, these are acknowledged as debilitating, and several of the characters die as a result.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie deals with the sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children. Characters drink, smoke, do drugs, steal, have sex, rape children, commit murder, beat one another, and engage in other illegal activities including selling drugs and bribing police officers. Domestic abuse also figures significantly in the film. The main character's Catholic upbringing also figures largely in the plot, and morality in the film is extremely complex. Younger viewers will likely be confused by the concept of right and wrong as presented in the film. And the film is not easy viewing -- particularly for anyone who has endured abuse of any kind.

Parents say

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Kids say

What's the story?

One of a number of films obsessed with a loss of innocence, director Barry Levinson's SLEEPERS tells the tale of four boys from New York City's Hell's Kitchen. In the process of committing petty theft, the boys commit a prank that goes horribly wrong, severely injuring a man. As punishment, the kids are tossed into detention hall, where they are brutalized by the guards. Over a decade later, the two of the quartet who have turned to a life of crime encounter one of their former tormenters and have the opportunity for revenge.

Is it any good?


Sleepers is anything but easy viewing. The film focuses extensively on the sexual and physical abuse of the four boys. As the ringleader of the detention hall guards, Kevin Bacon is at his absolute creepiest. The young cast does quite well, particularly Joseph Perrino as the young Lorenzo "Shakes" Carcaterra. Other standouts include a rather restrained Robert De Niro as Father Bobby and Dustin Hoffman as has-been lawyer Danny Snyder. One exception to the general excellence of the cast is Minnie Driver, who appears woefully miscast as the adult Carol Martinez. Execution-wise, the film is fine. The soundtrack is engaging, and the imagery of 1960s New York is appropriately intoxicating. Something gets lost in the last half of the film, however, and the main characters become a bit less compelling -- the adult versions of the abused children are just not as interesting.

Due to thematic content and thematic issues, this film will be uncomfortable for most viewers -- even adults. That being said, the film is worth watching, and is part of a veritable genre of movies dealing with the destruction of childhood.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the concept of revenge. Why does the murder of Sean Nokes seem justified? Is it? Why are some of the characters able to move forward with their lives while others seem to be destroyed by their abuse? The issue of punishing juvenile offenders also comes into play. Is the punishment of the four main characters fair? Why or why not? How does the characters' socioeconomic position figure into this punishment, if at all?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 18, 1996
DVD release date:April 1, 1997
Cast:Billy Crudup, Kevin Bacon, Robert De Niro
Director:Barry Levinson
Studio:Warner Independent
Run time:147 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language, graphic violence and two scenes of strong sexual content

This review of Sleepers was written by

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About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 12 years old April 12, 2011

Upsetting and horrible

this movie was on TV not that long ago... its the worst movie ever, i couldnt watch it it made me so upset i couldnt sleep for like years! sooooo not for kids or anyone! its got horrible scenes D: I wish i never saw it! i felt sick for days and i kept thinking of what id seen in it and it made me feel worse, it took like like honestly 2 weeks or more to get over it! .. if this is coming on TV and ur kids ar around throw ur TV out the window!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written bydolphinlover9 April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
Teen, 16 years old Written byelissa.nelson98 May 3, 2015

Not for anyone emotional

Overall a good story, well done. However not a family film. The rape of children is brutal and hard to watch. Rape scenes are not explicitly shown but they don't need to be to get the message across. There is also not a ton of redemption at the end of the film. it ends by saying that the institution still denies that the rape and abuse that happened in the film was never real.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex


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