A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Mixed messages; the characters profit hugely as the economy crumbles, but their story also shows how It's tough to be the first person to realize something important, because everyone else will be convinced you're mistaken or crazy. It's also hard to stand by your position in the face of consistent opposition; it's all too easy to start to doubt yourself.
Positive Role Models
Although they bet against the housing market and reap huge gains as the economy crumbles, the main characters are portrayed as smart enough to realize that something is dangerously amiss in the global financial system, confident enough to place huge bets on their idea, and tough enough to defend a position that was initially losing money, with everyone telling them they're fools.
Violence & Scariness
Heated exchanges between people who are losing lots of money. References to personal loss, including via suicide.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A few scenes that take place in strip clubs feature topless/half-dressed women.
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Frequent swearing throughout, mainly "f--k," "a--hole," and "s--t."
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Products & Purchases
Many well-established financial companies are mentioned, including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Countrywide, Bank of America, JPMorgan, and more, with a special focus on Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. Mac and Dell computers, BlackBerry and Nokia mobile devices, Bloomberg terminals. Discussion of the high-end restaurant Nobu. Caesar's Palace.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Several scenes are set in bars, restaurants, and nightclubs where people are drinking. Some sequences show people celebrating big financial deals with liquor.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Big Short is based on the bestselling book by Michael Lewis. It follows the story of several investors (played by Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt) who were among the first to spot warning signs in the real estate market that triggered the global financial meltdown of 2008. By betting against the housing market, they managed to reap huge gains as the economy crumbled, leaving millions out of work and homeless -- which might make some viewers feel pretty conflicted about rooting for them. There's some raucous drinking, plenty of strong language (mainly "f--k" and "s--t"), and glimpses of topless strippers/exotic dancers in this finance-themed dramedy, which is best suited for adults and older teens. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The Big Short is a flashy, quick-witted, and, yes, entertaining film about the housing and banking collapse. But it might just be a little too entertaining, a little too funny for a film that's so sobering. You laugh at all the asides -- and they are funny, though perhaps not all of them were necessary -- and then feel terrible for laughing. (Though we really did enjoy the celebrity-cameo-filled footnotes that explained the dizzying banking and investment maneuvers and products that basically undid the economy.)
Then again, nervous laughter may just be an appropriate response to a movie about how a small group of outsiders identified a weakness in a system high on arrogance and avarice -- a system that, unfortunately, had such weight that, when it toppled, it took so many innocent and not-so-innocent souls with it. Ultimately, The Big Short is whip smart, supported by a script that manages to educate while it amuses. And then there's the powerhouse cast, led by a brilliant Bale as a doctor-turned-hedge-fund-manager who has an ease with numbers and an unease with people.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.