Struck by Lightning

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Struck by Lightning Movie Poster Image
Edgy high school comedy from Glee star has some iffy stuff.
  • NR
  • 2013
  • 84 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 6 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive messages

Aside from the key blackmail aspect of the story, there are actually several positive messages: asserting your independence in high school, being confident in your ambition, and doing what you need to do to succeed beyond high school. 

Positive role models & representations

Even though Carson is smart and ambitious, he also alienates his classmates and doesn't think twice about blackmailing his rivals to do what he wants. Still, he makes it clear that he's not going to suppress his opinions or go with the crowd just because it's what people expect. He's opinionated and broader-minded than anyone else in the movie. Malerie is a loyal, unconditional best friend to Carson. She always looks on the up side of things.


The movie begins and ends with the death of the main character, who is -- as the title makes clear -- struck by lightning. His dead body is briefly shown.


Two high-school guys are caught fooling around in a bathroom stall (they're shown fixing their rumpled clothes), and the captain of the cheerleading team has sex with the coach of the football team (they're in an office and start kissing passionately on top of a desk). A guy mentions that he has never seen a particular sci-fi film because he "sleeps with girls" instead, and a woman and a young pregnant pharmacist discuss contraception and premarital pregnancy.


Occasional use of "s--t," "a--hole," and "bitch," plus insults used against a couple of overweight and unpopular kids. Carson himself also insults the popular kids and their intelligence and small-town mindsets.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

Carson's mother is drunk a lot and is shown drinking alcohol on a regular basis (usually wine); she's also a prescription-drug addict. Carson is on anti-depressants.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Struck by Lightning is a high school dramedy that will appeal to many tweens and teens thanks to star Chris Colfer (Glee), who also wrote the screenplay (which he also adapted into a book) and produced. As the title suggests, the protagonist is literally struck by lightning and tells his story from beyond the grave. Other than that, there's not much violence, but there is some sexuality (two teen guys are secretly fooling around in the boys' bathroom, and a cheerleader is having an affair with the football coach), language ("s--t," "a--hole," etc.), and substance use (a mother is addicted to alcohol and prescription drugs). The themes could spur conversation about life in (and after) high school, not following the herd, and finding your voice in the crowd.

User Reviews

Adult Written byAmericanplaya217 March 16, 2013


the movie is about standing in what you believe in and not falling into the wrong crowd. It's also about not hiding behind certain people to maintain your... Continue reading
Adult Written byMadisonE May 31, 2015

A Movie Every High Schooler NEEDS To See

This became one of those movies that I've heard about but didn't really find a desire to see. It never was that big and even though it was I was in th... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byAwesomemustache June 4, 2013

struck by lightning

this movie is good just not for kids. in the movie his moms an alcoholic and always drinking. then when he is blackmailing the other students there is A LOT of... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byshadowgirl1234 January 11, 2013

Love it!!!!!

I absolutely love this movie! It is brilliantly written by Chris Colfer and has a good message at the end. It's a little sad but in a good way. I would def... Continue reading

What's the story?

In the very first scene, audiences learn that Carson Phillips (Chris Colfer) has been STRUCK BY LIGHTNING and killed. The dead 17-year-old narrator proceeds to explain that he lived in the small town of Clover, Calif. (population: less than 10,000). In flashback, Carson is shown as the editor of the high school newspaper, with big dreams to attend Northwestern's journalism school, write for The New Yorker, and even win a Nobel Prize. When his inept guidance counselor (Angela Kinsey) suggests that he start a literary magazine to up his admissions chances, Carson and his only friend, Malerie (Rebel Wilson), start blackmailing a group of well-known students with scandalous secrets in order to staff their new venture. In the movie's main subplot, the pregnant local pharmacist (Christina Hendricks) discovers she's engaged to Carson's estranged father (Dermot Mulroney), who's still not technically divorced from Carson's alcoholic mom (Allison Janney).

Is it any good?

Colfer is clearly a talented young man; not only is he fabulous performer, but he's also a gifted writer with lots of stories to tell. He penned the children's book The Land of Stories, and also wrote the screenplay for Struck by Lightning (which he started when he was in high school and has since adapted into a book). Basically a misfit's revenge tale, this black comedy explores issues of identity and ambition that most teens will be able to relate to, even if the execution is at times formulaic and derivative of every other high school comedy on film.

What's original is that Colfer's Carson is genuinely uninterested in becoming one of the cool people; he just wants a one-way ticket to his dreams (college, independence, success). Carson's not even a very likable protagonist, but he's surrounded with entertaining supporting characters, like Wilson as his charming sidekick and Modern Family star Sarah Hyland as the popular cheerwitch. Of all the adult characters, the best is Carson's ailing grandma (Polly Bergen), who reminds him of the stories he told as a little kid about a boy who could fly.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Struck by Lightning features a posthumous narrator. Does knowing a character is dead right from the beginning ruin the movie for you?

  • Do stereotypical cliques continue to dominate high school environments in real life as they do in the movie?

  • How does Carson's death affect those around him, even the people who didn't like him or treat him well when he was alive?

  • Are the teen characters realistic? What about their choices/behavior?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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