Straw Dogs

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Straw Dogs Movie Poster Image
Too much violence, not enough character in pointless remake.
  • R
  • 2011
  • 110 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 6 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The general message here is that the weak, passive main character must eventually "man up" and defend himself and his wife. This requires him to engage in all kinds of gruesome violence. His success is therefore an ironic and bitter achievement.

Positive Role Models & Representations

No role models here: The main character is passive and ineffectual and resorts to brutal violence to "regain his manhood"; his wife is shallow, petty, and manipulative; and the villains are murderers and rapists.


Extreme violence in the final third of the movie, with many characters dying in gruesome ways: nail gun to the hands, shotgun blast to the chest, bear trap to the neck. A woman is raped by two men. A man accidentally strangles and kills a teen girl. A man is hit by a car and breaks his arm; blood and bone are shown. Deer are shot and killed, and a dead cat is seen hung by its neck in a closet.


A married couple is shown kissing and flirting with each other, preparing to have sex (though it's not shown). A woman deliberately undresses by a window, though nothing is shown other than her belly button. Men ogle a woman's behind in tight running shorts. A woman is shown without a bra, her nipples visible through her top. A man slaps a waitress on the behind.


Very strong language throughout includes multiple uses of "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," "a--hole," "d--k," "goddamn," "ass," "damn," "hell," "for Christ's sake," and more.


The main character uses a Sony VAIO computer that's visible in several shots. Characters drink and mention Budweiser beer throughout.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters are constantly swilling beer (and sometimes whisky). They occasionally appear staggering drunk. One supporting character is shown to be upset when he can't continue drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this grim remake of the powerful 1971 Sam Peckinpah movie (which starred Dustin Hoffman) has very strong violence, including many gruesome murders, a brutal rape scene, and dead animals. While the original used its edgy content to explore character, the remake is much less subtle, which makes the violence seem intended to be thrilling rather than thought provoking. There aren't any positive messages or role models here; the main character is a passive, ineffectual man whose only way to regain his "manhood" is to defend himself and his wife through violence. There's also frequent strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "p---y," etc.), sexual situations (though no nudity), and lots of drinking (always Budweiser), including one character who's shown to have a drinking problem.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byBodie W. May 23, 2018

original was better

it was a good movie but stopped halfway cause it was kinda boring original was better and a classic
Adult Written bycallofduty5 July 25, 2012

Adults only..

This is a remake of Peckinpah's original classic from 1971. This remake was actually good, tough there are differences easily notable. But now for the expl... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byStevie111 October 1, 2013

Thrilling but Brutal

There is beating, shooting, stabbing, and even a rape all shown on screen, usually with blood everywhere. The language is also strong, but the movie's viol... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byPrincessCharmed797 January 21, 2013

Straw Dogs

This movie scared me to death. I live in a town just like this; minus the drunks, rape, and bad things. We're a small town with weird traditions. But, the... Continue reading

What's the story?

Actress Amy (Kate Bosworth) returns to her small Mississippi hometown with her Hollywood screenwriter husband, David Sumner (James Marsden), so he can work on his new script. They hire Amy's former boyfriend, Charlie (True Blood's Alexander Skarsgard), and his buddies to repair the barn roof ... and so begins a series of subtle psychological games designed to make David look foolish and weak. Eventually, a deadly incident leads up to a violent stand-off, in which David must take up arms to defend his wife and his home.

Is it any good?

Film critic-turned-director Rod Lurie unwisely tries to redo Sam Peckinpah with this incendiary tale. In Peckinpah's hands, the story (which was originally based on a 1969 novel by Gordon M. Williams) was an intensely psychological thriller about perceived masculinity. The remake avoids anything psychological -- or even emotional -- and turns it into a rather empty and soulless revenge thriller. This time the characters don't make much sense, and when they change or snap, it seems too sudden, rather than gradual.

Now we merely have a thoughtless, empty exploration of "what makes a man," all the way down to a bizarre and ill-advised montage mashup of a deer hunt and a rape. But the real point seems to be to see how many gruesome and bloody murders can be crammed into one film. It's vile and pointless. The only saving grace is a terrifying performance by James Woods as a backwoods, alcoholic hillbilly who's pathologically obsessed with defending his daughter's honor.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's violence. What is its purpose? Do you think it's necessary to the story? How does it compare to what you see in horror movies?

  • How does the movie address the idea of "manhood"? Is it a relevant concept? Does a guy have to act strong or do violent things to be considered a "man"?

  • Are there any good people in this movie?


Movie details

  • In theaters: September 16, 2011
  • On DVD or streaming: December 20, 2011
  • Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, James Marsden, Kate Bosworth
  • Director: Rod Lurie
  • Studio: Screen Gems
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Run time: 110 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: strong brutal violence including a sexual attack, menace, some sexual content, and pervasive language
  • Last updated: September 21, 2019

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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