Struck by Lightning Movie Poster Image

Struck by Lightning



Edgy high school comedy from Glee star has some iffy stuff.
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 84 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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.

Not applicable
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.

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:January 11, 2013
DVD/Streaming release date:May 21, 2013
Cast:Chris Colfer, Christina Hendricks, Rebel Wilson
Director:Brian Dannelly
Studio:Tribeca Productions
Topics:Book characters, High school
Run time:84 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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What parents and kids say

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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 sexual content and sex related stuff. they also cuss quite a bit. there is one scene where is yelling and cussing that goes on for a little while. over all I think the movie is pretty good if the right age group watches it.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
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 definitely recommend watching this.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
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 image or become someone your not. I agree withe the plot line, its full of good role models and at the end of the line it has a positive message to the whole stoy line. The movie has some slow parts but very good ending. There is a lot of cursing but not cursing that any teenager wouldn't use or hear at school. The mother is an addict, being addicted of a prescription drugs and marijuana, there is a scene where the mother is smoking a blunt and puts it out befor her kid sees her, you can tell its marijuana because of the way she is holding it. There is talk of sex but no scene of sex.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking