Stranger Than Fiction

Movie review by
Jane Boursaw, Common Sense Media
Stranger Than Fiction Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Touching dramedy is heavy; some violence, cursing.
  • PG-13
  • 2006
  • 113 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 14 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 27 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Harold learns that there's more to life than doing the same thing (alone) day after day. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lead character is a creation of a chain-smoking novelist suffering writer's block. Initially presented as a drab IRS agent obsessed with numbers and efficiency, he learns to take more chances in life and starts doing the things he has always wanted to do in life, such as playing the guitar. 


The novelist is shown researching suicide by standing on the ledge of a building, imagines a death in which she drives off a bridge in order to swerve out of the way of hitting a boy on a bicycle. Character hit by a bus, presumed dead, later shown bandaged from head-to-toe in hospital while doctor describes his numerous injuries. Some images of animal violence in nature sequences on television. 


While meeting Ana for the first time, Harold's voice-over narration describes the beginnings of a sexual fantasy he has about her; he's snapped out of it when Ana catches him staring at her breasts. Two characters are shown making out on a living room couch, and then the next scene shows the couple in bed, post-sex. Brief nonsexual nudity of elderly men using locker room showers (buttocks). 


Occasional strong profanity, including "f--k" and "s--t." Also: "t-ts," "damn." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The novelist is a chain-smoker. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Stranger Than Fiction is a 2006 dramedy in which Will Ferrell plays a straitlaced IRS agent who starts to realize that his life is being narrated by a novelist suffering from writer's block. When the lead character first meets a woman (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) whose business he has been assigned to audit, the narrator goes into the beginnings of a sexual fantasy he's having about her that gets interrupted when the woman gets angry because he's staring at her breasts. Two characters are shown passionately kissing on a living room couch, and then the next scene shows them in bed after sex. Occasional strong profanity includes "f--k." The novelist is a chain-smoker. She's also obsessed with death: Her novels always end with the characters dying, and she's shown researching suicide by standing on the ledge of a tall building, and imagining herself driving off a bridge to avoid hitting a boy on a bicycle. A character is shown getting hit by a bus and is presumed dead. Overall, the movie explores the idea of living life to the fullest and not putting off the activities you've always wanted to try. 


Wondering if Stranger Than Fiction is OK for your kids?

Set preferences and get age-appropriate recommendations with Common Sense Media Plus. Join now

Continue reading Show less

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byWeston C. September 3, 2019

Adult Movie, stopped watching after 11 minutes beyond disappointed in CSM

My wife and I with our 2 month old thought this should be a fun movie with Will Ferrell in it and nothing bad. At about 11 minutes into the movie it swore three... Continue reading
Adult Written byCabahara Macoto August 5, 2018

Since when do churchgoers consider passionate sex with strangers 'for kids aged 12+'?

It is extremely embarrassing when a movie that suggests as a good way to find a partner to invite a man you don't know into your apartment and have sex wit... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byNewMedia10 May 27, 2020

New Media English 11

Hello, we are three students at OSS. We are here to talk about the characters, conflict and plot in the movie stranger than fiction. First to start off the movi... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old July 4, 2018

Very boring film has a violent accident scene; some language and nudity.

Stranger than fiction was SO boring. It was really dark and mature and had some very disturbing scenes. For sexual content and nudity there were bare butts in a... Continue reading

What's the story?

The overly organized life of IRS agent Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) turns upside down when he starts hearing the mysterious voice -- which he eventually learns belongs to Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson). The chain-smoking author is having trouble finishing her latest novel, which is about a guy named Harold Crick. And she can't figure out how to kill him off. As you might imagine, Harold seeks help. A psychiatrist (Linda Hunt) thinks medication is the answer. But a literary professor (Dustin Hoffman) has other ideas. He doesn't really believe Harold, but he advises him to figure out whether he's in a comedy or a tragedy. By this point, it's looking like the latter. Providing romantic (and somewhat unfriendly) tension is bakery owner Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who Harold is auditing. She hurls insults at him, and, in short, doesn't make his job any easier. Still, love blooms in odd places, and Harold finally has something to live for.

Is it any good?

STRANGER THAN FICTION is equal parts drama, comedy, and tragedy; it's a smart movie and a touching reminder that life is unpredictable and messy. But that's OK. We still need to live and not be afraid to experience new things. Some of the movie's best scenes are those of Harold branching out in the world. It's moving, but it's unlikely to appeal to kids who are looking for the kind of silly comedy that Ferrell is known for. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the meaning of life. This movie is all about living life to the fullest and not sitting carefully on the sidelines while everyone else has all the fun. On the flip side, how can you have fun and experience new things while staying safe?

  • How does the movie show the transformation of Harold from a straitlaced bureaucrat obsessed with numbers and efficiency to someone who serenades his lover with his guitar? Did this transformation seem believable? How did his search for the "voice in his head" play into these changes?

  • In one scene, Professor Hilbert tells Harold that his life is either being written as a tragedy or a comedy, and that "In tragedy, you die, and in comedy, you get hitched." What are your thoughts on this quote? What are some examples of plays, movies, and television shows that might back up this assertion? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

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

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

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

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate