Sunset Boulevard

Movie review by
Scott G. Mignola, Common Sense Media
Sunset Boulevard Movie Poster Image
A must for fans of ruthless black comedy.
  • NR
  • 1950
  • 110 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 5 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages
Violence

A few deadly shots fired. Much of the movie has an eerie, unsettlingly dreamlike quality to it. Tortured by her lost youth and fame, an aging, delusional actress turns to suicide.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie is one of the finest American films ever made, and a must for fans of ruthless black comedy. The humor is too sophisticated and the mood too dark to offer preteens much entertainment, but mature teens will appreciate this cinematic treasure. Some mature themes to discuss after viewing: suicide, fame, the desire to hold on to the past.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 14 year old Written byTsion July 20, 2009

A Brilliant Performance by Gloria Swanson...

SUNSET BOULEVARD is a cinematic treasure. The breathtaking performance by Gloria Swanson in the leading role elevates this engaging melodrama to a truly superi... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old December 13, 2010

great noir fim

very excellent example of noir film from the 1950's
Teen, 15 years old Written bywho3697cares December 26, 2008
Arguably Wilder's best film.

What's the story?

SUNSET BOULEVARD reveals the fickleness of movie fans and the cruelty of Hollywood. In her creepy rundown mansion on Sunset Boulevard, aging silent screen star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) dreams of reviving her long-gone film career. Enter screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden), who owes a lot of money. When the two meet, Gloria sees her opportunity and asks Joe to help her finish a script that will put her back in the spotlight. Young and handsome Joe merely sees a hefty paycheck, and the opportunist eventually becomes Norma's lover. Watching the farce unfold is Norma's chauffer Max (Erich von Stroheim).

Is it any good?

The performances do justice to the ruthlessly witty script. William Holden is a perfect deadpan to Gloria Swanson's Hollywood fright show. Erich von Stroheim is stoically tragic as the butler with an unthinkable secret. Nancy Olson is so sweetly ambitious as the love interest who gets tangled in their sticky web that you'll want to cry out to her, "Run! Run for your life!" All four received Academy Award nominations.

A monkey's funeral. Wind whistling through the organ pipes. Mansion doors stripped of their locks because of the suicide attempts. The details are all so wonderfully morbid; they melt together into a kind of hardboiled Hollywood gothic narrated by a dead man. While it's likely to scare little ones out of their pajama bottoms, a more mature teen and adult audience will find Sunset Boulevard a spectacular and hair-raising movie experience. In addition to being nominated for eleven Academy Awards (three of which it won, including Best Screenplay), writer-director Billy Wilder's film rated a twelve on the American Film Institute's list of America's 100 Greatest Movies.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the themes in this film that give a dark depiction of Hollywood and the entertainment industry.

Movie details

For kids who love classics

Our editors recommend

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

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 and learning potential.

Learn how we rate