Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Soundwave Movie Poster Image
Language, violence in teen-centered indie sci-fi story.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 98 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Movie is about choosing responsibility over "selling out" for profit. But eavesdropping and spying happen fairly regularly with little or no consequences.

Positive Role Models & Representations

While main character is brave and heroic, does his best to help his mentor, and chooses not to sell out, he also regularly eavesdrops on others. Plus, he created his invention for a purely selfish reason (to listen to his father's voice) rather than to help others.


Guns and shooting. Dead body with slit throat; blood shown. Teen chased by dangerous thugs. Jump from height. Threats. Teen contemplates suicide (via razor and jump from height).


Teens kiss. Brief shot of couple lying in bed together.


Several uses of "f--k," plus "s--t," "a--hole."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cigarette smoking. Scene set in a bar. Reference to alcohol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Soundwave is an indie sci-fi movie that centers on teen characters and an invention that can pick up and broadcast old sound waves. Violence includes guns and shooting, a dead body with a slit throat (blood shown), a teen contemplating suicide (a razor is shown), a teen being threatened and chased by dangerous thugs, and a teen jumping from a high place. Language includes several uses of "f--k" and a few uses of "s--t" and "a--hole." Teens kiss, and there's a quick image of a couple lying in bed. Cigarette smoking is shown, a scene is set in a bar, and there's a reference to alcohol. The movie overcomes its low budget effectively and has strong characters and performances.

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What's the story?

In SOUNDWAVE, orphaned teen Ben Boyles (Hunter Doohan) lives with his father's childhood friend, Antonio (Mike Beaver), and works in Antonio's electronics repair shop. Ben has built a device that lets him pick up old sound waves, listening to conversations that occurred hours before. He sometimes uses it to listen to the girl he loves, convenience store clerk Katie (Katie Owsley). When Ben learns that Antonio is about to be evicted, Ben agrees to use his device to help a shady cop, Detective Macy (Vince Nappo), solving crimes in exchange for cash. Soon Ben meets Katie and shares his invention with her, and circumstances start to look up. But when Macy introduces Ben to the sinister "John" (Paul Tassone), who wants to buy Ben's creation, things take a dark turn.

Is it any good?

A nifty, effective, low-budget sci-fi movie, this imaginative effort features decent acting, simple but clever visuals, and a likable teen superhero-type vibe, though it could have gone even deeper. Written and directed by Dylan K. Narang, Soundwave has enough plucky energy to overcome the shaky science behind Ben's machine. It's believable that sound waves continue to bounce around forever, but entering a date and a time into the device is a bit of a stretch. Happily, Narang is more interested in the repercussions of such a machine: how it might feel to those who use it.

When the machine is actually being used, Narang employs a great, cost-saving device: reducing the action to a series of stills with enhanced color, like comic book panels. The dialogue in Soundwave is naturalistic, and all the performers are game in portraying characters with painful pasts. As they try to connect with one another, these walking wounded souls are effortlessly appealing. Ben is especially touching, hiding behind his homemade headphones -- he's able to listen more easily than speak. But he's also streetwise, and he seems smart enough to know when trouble is coming. He might make a pretty good superhero.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Soundwave's violence. How did it make you feel? Does the fact that it's directed toward a teen boy make it more intense?

  • If you had Ben's invention, how would you use it? Why?

  • What's the problem with eavesdropping? Have you ever spied on anyone? Been spied on? How does it feel?

  • Why do you think Ben doesn't take the big money offer when he has the chance?

  • How is teen romance and/or sex depicted? What values are shown?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sci-fi

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